While my children were younger, we operated as a single income household. It sounds like bananas in this economy, and it’s as hard as it sounds, but it’s the reality for many families in the US Having a budget to stick to is essential when you’re living on one income as a family or when you’re trying to stretch your budget. hard-earned money, which many of us are making right now, kids or no kids.
Inflation is at an all time high and the Federal Reserve is trying to prevent it by raising interest rates. But Americans still live in financial difficulties; most of us are feeling that pressure.
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we spend an average of $412 a month on groceries in 2020, with an average of 2.5 people per consumption unit. That’s about $164 per person per month in a household.
Americans spend more on food each year, and inflation is the main cause of it. The share of disposable personal income spent on food in the US in 2021 increased to 10.3%, compared to 9.4% in 2020. Food prices also increased 10.8% between April 2021 and April 2022, the highest percentage increase since 1981.
How to create a grocery budget
You and your family need food to eat, so grocery shopping is a must. However, if you don’t budget for household expenses, including groceries, chances are you’re paying too much for them.
Step 1: Budget for groceries
We have all heard the phrase ignorance is bliss. But is it, really? The times of ignoring your bank account balance must end. You don’t want to keep experiencing mini-heart attack moments, the ones you spend wondering if you’ll be able to afford what’s in your cart.
A budget is a simple thing to do to make sure you never let your expenses exceed your income. But why doesn’t it seem easy? The truth is, there are many reasons most people in the US struggle with budgeting: it’s tedious, it takes mental energy, it doesn’t seem as important as other tasks at the time, and more. There’s also embarrassment associated with budgeting, especially if you know you’ve already made financial mistakes.
Sitting down to make a budget can seem like a daunting task. But once you’ve done that, you’ll walk away feeling accomplished and more at peace most of the time. You can go the old school route and use Standing out spreadsheets for budgeting, or you can try one of these apps:
It is about establishing what you enter on payday and how much you spend. A good way to do this is to look at your credit or debit card statements for several full months and write down how much you spent in each category: recurring expenses, groceries, gas, utilities, insurance, clothing, takeout, etc. Then add up the categories and compare the total to your income. This will give you an idea of how much you can afford to spend in each category, with some money left over for incidentals.
When you know how much to spend, that little voice in your head will alert you when you’re going over budget.
Step 2: Make a list and stick to it
Many buyers fall prey to temptation, even if we don’t want to admit it. It’s easy to grab a pack of Oreos on impulse, knowing full well you didn’t budget for it. Part of curbing that temptation is trying to remove as much of it as possible.
Whether you’re making dinner every night or planning every meal for the week, a shopping list is a great way to remind yourself of what you need and help you stay on budget.
When you shop online, it’s much easier to skip the cookie aisle. You make a list, search for each item on that list, add the items to your cart, and then pay. There are no sweets on the checkout line. No kids screaming for overpriced character gummies. There’s no useless “as seen on TV” to entice you. You brake momentum, so you don’t pay for it when you withdraw.
When I run out of something at home, I just add it to the cart in the grocery store app on my phone and keep adding as the week goes on until I’m ready to check out. Some good apps for making shopping lists are Todoist, cozy, AnyList, Flip, DeliciousOr you can use the notes app you already have on your phone.
Step 3 – Use online tools to save money
Online shopping helps you choose the lowest price on an item. When you search for pasta sauce online, for example, you can sort the results in ascending order, with the lowest-priced items appearing first.
Also, you can take advantage of any sale and featured categories. Just like physical stores, online grocery stores also have deals on take out products. Clearance items are sometimes not available online, but most stores will allow you to shop through their featured sales or discounts.
We all have some favorite brands that we don’t compromise on. But I like to save money where I can, so I’ll go for the cheapest option for all other items.
Step 4: Loyalty cards and coupons
Many grocery stores have a loyalty program that offers members or cardholders better discounts, particularly local stores. And since getting a loyalty card is free, all you have to do is register on the website or the next time you visit the store.
Coupons are also available online, with manufacturer coupons and store coupons available on the store’s website or on sites and apps like Flip, IbottaY coupons.comfor instance.
With inflation, it’s no surprise that 21% of shoppers are using coupons more than in the past. Any way you can save a dollar adds up in the end, so break out that virtual coupon book and go shopping.
Frequently asked questions
Meal planning involves sitting down and planning your meals for the coming week, then writing down the ingredients for each meal on your shopping list. It’s helpful in avoiding eating out and can also be a great way to eat healthier.
Meal planning can also help your wallet tremendously. Planning your meals around your grocery budget keeps your shopping list organized and concise. It also helps you know exactly what to buy and what to eat each day.
It’s not always easy, and you may not have time to cook elaborate meals every day. But it’s also possible to plan quick or inexpensive meals that will leave you with leftovers.
Whether you like using meal kits or not, you may have heard that they have a reputation for being overpriced. But with inflation causing store prices to rise unsteadily but aggressively, many meal kits are priced quite affordably.
I’ve used meal kits for our family of five, and the only drawback I’ve found is the time it takes to cook. With two working parents, three children under the age of five, and a puppy, time is at a premium in my house.
The truth is, you can find reasonably priced meal kits like EveryPlate and Dinnerly. So if you’re interested in trying out a meal kit after you’ve done your budget, see if it fits.
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If you want to save as much as you can, avoid eating out. Going out for a meal for our family of five can cost up to half of our weekly grocery budget. Of course, life is hectic and we can’t make a home cooked meal every day, three times a day, so sometimes we go out to eat. But we try to avoid it as much as possible or only do it on weekends.
Because a restaurant must pay employees and overhead in addition to food costs, you can be sure that you will always spend more when eating out compared to eating at home, especially with a family. If you’re a person with no dietary restrictions, you might argue this isn’t accurate, thanks to all the dollar menus at fast food restaurants. But when considering healthy meals, eating out will always cost more than cooking at home.