Earlier this week, I discovered that every month the USDA publishes a table for what families should spend on food if they are on one of four financial “plans”: liberal, moderate-cost, low-cost, and thrifty. I was floored when I discovered that on this so-called thrifty plan for a household of 2 adults between the ages of 19 and 50 that we should be spending around $90.40 per week! Seriously, I was shocked! We spend about that on food in the typical month. And, if it were just me in the house, I should expect to pay about $38.60 per week on the thrifty plan. That is about double what we pay for the two of us. (If you want to know what they suggest for you and your family, check out the October 2014 table here). I think I am simply confused on what they consider “thrifty.”
Photo credit: SodanieChea / Foter / CC BY
With a little planning (I am talking about 15 minutes per week here!), anyone can maintain a monthly food budget of at most half of what the USDA predicts for “thrifty” families.
Make a grocery list and stick to it.
Even if you just write on the list when you run out of something, sticking to a list should help keep your grocery run within budget, although I would always suggest making a meal plan. Many people find that they see something that looks good while they are in the grocery store and add many extra items to their cart. Sticking to your list could save you an average of $10 or more every grocery run.
Limit your shopping to once per week.
The less you shop the more time you have in your busy life. Plus, shopping less means picking up fewer extra items every week. If you forget something, use the items already in your pantry and get creative.
Put your freezer to good use.
Even with careful planning, we often find that we don’t use the entire stalk of celery we bought in a week or other fresh vegetables. In these cases especially, the freezer is your best friend. Before the vegetables go bad, chop them up and stick them in a freezer bag in your freezer and you can use them for soups or stirfrys in the coming weeks.
Shop your pantry first.
If you check what you have in your pantry first, it is less likely that you will buy that item again in the store. Not doubling up means savings. It is really that simple. Plus, if you make a meal plan based on what is in your pantry, you might only need a couple of items from the store.
Make your meal plan from the items on sale and what you have in your pantry.
When people hear, “make a meal plan,” they think it will take a lot of time. The truth is you do it throughout the week anyway when you ask yourself “what am I going to make for dinner tonight?” Consider everything in your pantry and the weekly circular and write down what meals you want that week. It is really that simple.
What do you do that doesn’t take that much time but saves big on your grocery bill? What category of spender do you fall into on the USDA’s chart?