If you are struggling to keep your grocery budget under control and last-minute restaurant runs are sapping funds and adding to your bottom line in more ways than one, then I have some tips, which will make your life easier.
Keeping kids fed (and happy about the food they are eating) is absolutely a challenge. Keeping them full is sometimes an all day task – especially when they become teenagers.
I recently responded to a common question. Perhaps, you are facing similar frustrations.
Here’s the scenario
A family of four is spending $1600 a month on food. About half of it is on actual products from the store. The remainder is all of their restaurant meals. The husband and wife are both working long hours and have gotten into the habit of using on-line options for having groceries delivered and regularly ordering food through Uber Eats.
Does this sound familiar?
If it does, don’t feel bad. It does to most of us. In fact, statistically, the average family of four in America spends nearly the same amount eating out as they do on food cooked at home.
If being average is leaving you feeling deflated about the amount you fork over for food, then let me give you five really quick strategies for making your grocery money-saving goals successful. Soon, your family will be on the same page and functioning together like a well-oiled machine.
1. Set A Realistic Goal
Don’t look at the amount you spend on groceries, freak out, and make drastic cuts. First of all, your family can’t survive on PB & J sandwiches and plain, white rice all month long. Well, they can, but it won’t be pretty. The goal is not to wind up with a mutiny on “Day 5”.
A good first step is to set some concrete (and realistic) goals.
Begin by lowering the entire budget by a specific percentage. Pick either ten or fifteen percent. If you are spending $1000 a month on groceries, that would mean writing down (and committing to) spending $900 the next month. That’s a very reachable goal.
2. Track what you spend
Setting a goal is useless unless you track your progress and how much you are spending every day. Although some people believe that this will be time-consuming, in reality I spend about ten or fifteen minutes a day tracking every penny we spend. At the end of the month, putting the total for each category into a spreadsheet takes another thirty minutes.
We use Dave Ramsey’s free on-line budgeting tool, Every Dollar. There is a paid version, but we have found this to be unnecessary.
Then, my husband and I schedule a meeting sometime during the first week of each month to talk about the budget, our goals, and any changes we need to make. We also resolve budgeting conflicts during this meeting. This generally takes no more than forty-five minutes.
As you can see, keeping an eye on your expenses (including those which involve food) need not take a lot of time or effort. However, the “pay off” can be big as you see yourself make headway toward paying off debt or other goals.
3. Get the whole family involved
Every lasting and meaningful change must involve every person in the family. By making each member feel wanted and needed, they will take ownership in the process, working with you to get to the end goal (and the reward).
It’s awfully hard to make progress on any goal without a team backing you up. So, in the quest for lowering the grocery budget, it’s all hands on deck. This is a great opportunity for you to discuss grocery store prices, using coupons, finding deals, and meal planning with your kids.
My boys handle our family budget for six months before graduating from high school and this has been a game-changer for them! Simply realizing how much things cost, has allowed them to make responsible, well-thought-out decisions in their own lives as they have become young adults.
It’s a great idea to consider giving your teen more responsibility. Let him/her be in charge of the grocery budget for an entire month. No fair going over the upper limit and they need to show you their grocery shopping list and menu plan before you head out to the market. Then, cook with them or let them prepare dinner a couple of nights a week.
It will teach them new skills and give you a much needed break. My boys love to cook dinner because the rule is that when they cook, I do the dishes. This way, they also get a reprieve from their regular chore of washing and drying the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen.
4) Cook together as a family
Make your children feel involved and needed (because they are!).
Even if your children are pre-schoolers, they can help set the table, put salad in a bowl, mix things, etc. They would enjoy sitting with you one night a week and Googling recipes (based on ingredients you already have in the house).
Older children can chop, prep, and make side dishes while you concentrate on the main dish.
Menu plan, meal prep, and bulk cook – together!
In 6 hours, my son and I can cook enough food to feed our family of six for several days. If you can’t carve out that much time, schedule two, mini-cooking sessions.
5) Pledge to eat out just once a month
I just heard a collective gasp, but this is seriously the first step you should make. On the surface this sounds like a punishment. If your family is average, you are hitting up restaurant food multiple times a week. Yet, by making the act of consuming food together outside the home into a reward, you are making it into a goal – something to look forward to – a treat.
Many people count their eating out budget as a portion of their general food budget. When you do this, you massively inflate that portion of your budget. By simply choosing to eat at home, you can bring the total down quickly to a more reasonable amount.
Create a sense of anticipation for that “eating out night”. I created a chart whenever we had a family goal. Let the kids color in a square (or apply stickers) each day that you eat at home. They will be able to see that magical “eating out day” on the chart and know when it is coming up.
By slicing and dicing eating out down to once a month, you will automatically begin eating more of what you have in the house. You will also save a huge amount of money, which you can put toward paying off debt or meeting other goals.