Now, let me share what has worked and what hasn’t work, so you don’t waste your time on what doesn’t work.
Counting each and every dollar and penny sucks. You really don’t have to go to that level of detail. You’ll waste your time and be miserable. I hated using this strategy. Did it work? well yeah but it was time consuming and annoying. I embraced technology and ditched this one. I use my check card. I pay debit. I check my account from my phone before going to buy food. I have a list of what I’m going to buy. I use my phone calculator to keep track of what I’m buying – so I don’t go over and know if I’m under.
I hardly ever eat a snack before I go buy groceries. In fact, most of the time I’m starving and with my kids. I just exercise self control and it works. I usually find a cheap snack that I can devour after I’m done. I go with my kids and yes they usually want to buy more crap but I just say no. Most of the time, I buy them gum – under $2.00 and it keeps them happy, then well worth it.
Setting a very minimalistic budget where you know you will be hungry is not realistic or enjoyable. Please remember we live in the USA, food is not that expensive. And there are so many options in supermarkets. Find the one that works for you. For example, to keep my budget in check I shop at Aldi’s. This is the one that works for my family and my budget.
Remember, you pretty much know what your family consumes every week. So keep your receipt from one week, study it and set a goal close to that expense. It will come out about the same every week. If you see that you are spending money on things you don’t use or consume, then just scratch it off.
I don’t prepare my menus in advance like not anymore. I used to but I stopped. I realized that while it was effective, I was miserable. Some days I change my mind and I feel like cooking something different. Besides, I end up cooking more or less the same things every week. I know my tastes and what my family likes and consumes better than anyone. I have a rough idea that for example, one week, I’ll make tacos, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken and mashed potatoes because I didn’t do them the week before, so I know more or less what to buy. I just have an idea of the things that I want to cook for that week. And most of the time, I come up with other ideas while at the store, I just fit them into my budget.
I don’t cook on Fridays, I always order pizza so I know how much I will spend every Friday for dinner. My kids eat junk food once or twice a week, so I plug that expense into my budget – this usually happens on the weekend, when we are on the go and I can’t think of packing lunches to take with me – That sounds really great on paper, but it’s not practical.
Most of the time, I cook dinner on weekends. But I have devised menus that are affordable but yummy – my all time favorite, oven baked chicken from the store with pasta – Boiling pasta and pre-cooked baked chicken is super fast for a Sunday. I don’t have a problem with hot dogs and chips on Saturday, again they are cheap, fun and fast.
Many times my wonderful husband volunteers to cook on weekends, so I just tell him what’s available so he can invent to his heart’s desire.
You see, you just need to really study what works for your family. Think about what you cook every week, how many times you buy junk food because it’s a good choice depending on your time and commitments. Just study these things, and come up a realistic grocery list and eating out budget. You can still save money and enjoy the art of eating.