After one full week of working with a food budget, I feel proud of our personal success. I feel more knowledgeable about how to make this work in the future. We were each able to eat 21 well-balanced meals according to MyPlate, and still had nine dollars left for emergencies. I have to admit that without all the planning and time spent on preparation, we would have been extremely unsuccessful. Even with many hours of prep, we still had a lot to learn over the week.
I think that it’s been an adjustment for our lifestyle, and we’ve had days when we were definitely hungry. Even with purchasing cheaper cuts of meat, more canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, and skipping amenities all together, we found it challenging to make it to the end of the week.
Here are a few lessons learned and tips for success:
- Cash down: Typically I take my debit card with me for shopping. This week I had to try something different. I went into the store with the exact cash I could use for my purchase and instead of counting up, I counted down as I placed each item in my cart.
- Go generic: When I shopped for items, I compared every brand on the shelf. I typically went with the generic version and saved a ton of money. The food didn’t taste any different than the typical brands I pay a little more for. Great lesson learned here.
- Price per ounce: When looking at the items, I learned to check and see how much I was paying per ounce of the item. This allowed me to save in terms of stretching every dollar and getting extra servings.
- Pay attention to expiration dates: Some of the foods I almost purchased were on really good sales. As I investigated more, I found that they had a sell by date within a week or an expiration date quickly approaching. I recommend at least two weeks out from the purchase date so that you can carry items over to the next week if you don’t eat them.
- Double up: Aim to purchase an item that can be used in two meals. I purchased rice and noodles that were used one other time during the week for another meal. This allowed me to purchase a larger amount, which was cheaper than extra items for separate meals.
- Serving size: Pay attention to the serving size, and how many servings are in each packet. “Going over” can not only sabotage your budget planning, it could also leave you hungry at the end of the week.
I recommend setting a food budget for anyone. While it does take an investment of time, you will find that your week is more organized, and you can maximize every penny in ways you never thought you could!
Missed part of the series? Look below for all the resources you need to eat healthy while on a budget.