Cook Fast, Live Young: Setting a Food Budget and Sticking to it
The first rule of food budgeting is: be realistic! If you create a budget you can't meet, then you'll end up getting frustrated and giving up.
Start by evaluating what you are currently spending on food, and then set a goal for lowering it. You can start small -- maybe 10 to 15% less – and then you can up the amount when you've got the hang of that.
Here are a few ways to find those savings and to create a budget that works for you.
Cut down on eating out
. Better yet? Stop doing it altogether. For the price of one meal at a restaurant, you can often feed a family of four if you cook for yourself at home. But again, be realistic. If you will be eating out, create a separate budget for those meals. Consider taking out a certain amount of cash each week and putting it in a special compartment of your wallet or purse. Set the rule: once that cash runs out, you can only eat in.
. Take a peek at all the weekly ads for your local grocery stores, and build your meals around those items. And even though you have a budget, don't be afraid to stock up on items that will last a while in your pantry or freezer if the price is right. Just make sure that in the future, you follow the next tip…
Make use of what you have
. Don't just use the items that are on sale to build a meal around. Look at what you already have in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. That way more items will be used before the expiration date and you'll have less to buy when you go to the store.
Cut down on alcohol
. When you're analyzing your food budget, look at how much goes toward beer, wine, and other booze. Even if you're not a frequent drinker, it may be a bigger part of your budget than you realize--especially if you order alcohol at restaurants and bars. You can save money by drinking less or drinking at home instead.
Once you get the hang of it, make it a game! It can be fun to challenge yourself to meet super low goals even if it's just for a week or two. Can you cut your budget back to only $80 a week? What about $50? See where you can find savings and what deals you can uncover.
Juliana Weiss-Roessler has ten years of professional writing and editing experience. For four years, she managed the web content for the star of an Emmy-nominated reality series. Currently, she is an editor for the geek girl e-zine PinkRaygun.com, a contributor to the career blog at Resumark.com, and owner of the food blog CookFastLiveYoung.blogspot.com. Follow her @cookfast on Twitter and learn more about her work at WeissRoessler.com.