Recently, my husband and I decided to sit down and do a family budget tune-up. We are those people who think they’ve got a good hold of their finances, but upon closer look realize we kind of suck with money. In an effort to cut back on monthly expenses and throw our savings a much needed lifeline, we knew we had to really analyze where our money was going. So, we painstakingly dove headfirst into our bank and credit card statements to figure it all out. (I recommend downloading the Mint app to help set a budget and keep track of spending.)
Where the hell is all our money going?
A few heated discussions later and we had finally identified where a big chunk of our money was going each month: food. I would have never guessed that we spent a combined $1400 on food in the last 30 days- for two people. Can I get a “wtf?!” Clearly, my morning Starbucks runs and his fast food lunch breaks really add up. I was shocked, a little angry, and completely embarrassed that I hadn’t realized how bad our spending habits had gotten. Clearly, something had to change.
How To Save Money On Food
We made a pact to say “bye, Felicia” to Starbucks, fast food, and other frivolous food spending. We’d make our coffee, breakfasts, lunches, and dinners at home.
To do that, I knew we needed to approach our grocery store trips with more precision. Usually, I just jot down a few staples I know we need and then grab whatever else looks appealing as I wander aimlessly down the aisles. I’ll get home, put the groceries away and wonder what the hell I bought for X amount of dollars. The pantry and fridge will still feel empty and my husband will offer to pick up dinner because “we have no food”. Well, not anymore. This time, I had a plan.
To save money on food, I started with meal planning. With some help from good old Pinterest, I made a list of meals for every night of the upcoming week. I wrote down the basic ingredients needed for each recipe, and noted which ingredients we already had. I also wrote down the basics needed for breakfast and lunch.
Detailed Shopping List
Grocery shopping with a toddler in tow is like playing Russian roulette. You never know when that little pistol is going to go off, so you don’t have time to decipher sloppy shopping lists.
To make my life easier and my shopping trip less stressful, I decided to break my shopping list down into categories. Remember those ingredients I needed for meal planning? Now they would be nicely itemized with similar ingredients so I didn’t have to go up and down the same aisles over and over again.
I posted the meal plan on the fridge as a guide for the rest of the week, or better yet, to serve as motivation to stick to our pact.
Efficient Shopping To Save Money On Food
Yes, resisting Starbucks when I’m feeling too exhausted to muster up the strength to brew coffee at home takes willpower. So does avoiding the dozens of drive-throughs on your way home after a long day of work. And let’s be honest, it hurts the pride a little to have to skip a fancy dinner date with friends. Being budget-conscious sucks sometimes, but if you don’t want to resort to surviving off Top Ramen one day, it’s necessary to save money on food.
Having a plan can make your spending diet a little less painful. After figuring all of this out, I was pumped to give this a shot, and I felt confident that we could actually make a budget stick this time.
Make weekly meal planning a family tradition. Gather around the table and take turns suggesting new dishes to try. Vote on what kind of cuisine you’ll whip up next; Mexican, Italian, or Chinese. If that’s too many cooks in the kitchen, make meal planning your thing. Sit down with your list over a cup of coffee on Sunday morning.
Having a detailed shopping list in hand will help you stay on track at the store. You’ll know exactly what you need, and what you don’t. Ultimately, this one little hack should make it easy to save money on food.
As organized as I was in that moment, my lists were still sloppy and ugly. I thought, if I can make a pretty worksheet for meal planning and shopping, it will help me stay motivated and keep me on track. Best of all, I can share it with all of you!
CLICK HERE TO GET MY FREE ULTIMATE WEEKLY MEAL PLAN AND SHOPPING LIST!
I really hope this printable helps you save money on food like it’s helped me. Staying on a budget is hard work, but pretty worksheets make it a little bit fun and a lot more tolerable.