Food is the most important thing you can buy with your money.
Well, that was dramatic, wasn’t it? But it’s true. Besides oxygen and water, food is the most basic survival need. Now, most of us are blessed in that we don’t wonder where our next meal is coming from or if we can afford it.
In fact, we may be a little too blessed if you know what I mean. Yes, as Americans we are the richest 1% of people in the HISTORY of the world. Yay!
SO WHY DO I ALWAYS FEEL BROKE?
Girl, I hear you. We’re feeling broke because money is flying out the window faster that we can make it. One of the best ways to get control of your money is the zero-based budget I teach in my coaching and online community Budget Bootcamp.
Once we get that going we can quickly start to make progress by taming the food budget. Your food budget is typically one of your largest expenses, and rightfully so. But! My my philosophy is that you should be:
Saving money & saving calories
You know fitness and nutrition are one of my top passions, so that is something I say nearly EVERY coaching session. Here are 5 ways that you can save money and save calories
1. STOP EATING OUT. (DUH)
Please don’t get me started. You know that fast food is no longer fast nor cheap. You know that it’s WAY overpriced and WAY over calories. Maybe you don’t know that family dinners are correlated with kiddos eating healthier–not only as a child but as when they leave home too. They’re less likely to be obese now and in the future. Maybe you don’t know that even a salad (dressing) is typically loaded with calories and preservatives that will stall any efforts you are making toward weight loss by PRESERVING water and fat in your body. So, if you can stop eating out you will save 1. time 2. money 3. calories 4. clothing costs. Here are some of my healthy eating staples.
2. MEAL PLAN
Okay, this one is pretty obvious too, right? Well, I’ve been preaching it so long that I feel like it is. But it may not be. What I mean here is plan EVERY MEAL that your family will eat. Then plan what items you’ll need to make those meals happen. Then make a list and ONLY buy that stuff. Likewise, figure out what household things you need each month and buy only those things. For example, we need 2 dishwasher soaps and 1 shaving cream a month. We need shampoo and laundry soap every 2 months. Once you’ve figured out what you need, take the time to see where the shopping is the cheapest. Pick your top 10 items and check each store for prices. Which store wins? Shop there!
3. NIX THE CRAP!
This one will be the most unpopular of all. Stop buying junk food. Completely and totally. Yep. You don’t need it and neither does your family. You don’t need it because it’s obviously bad for you but it’s also a HUGE grocery budget buster. If your family wants ice cream, budget to go out as a family once a month. If you want to have family pizza night, we can talk about that. But the overall chips, crackers, cookies, sodas and whatever else. GONE. The truth is no one is going to go without. There are parties and lunches and cookouts and football games. JUNK ABOUNDS. Therefore, you don’t need to bring it in your home. Again, this will save you time (less time in the store!), calories and money. WINNING. This is especially true because junk food doesn’t provide nutrition so you have to replace those calories anyway.
4. CLOSE THE KITCHEN!
This one isn’t going to be hard if you follow #3. Closing the kitchen means we don’t eat all day. We eat at meal times and maybe a snack here or there. Do you know what NOT having junk food does? It makes people suddenly less hungry, like this:
- Kid: Mom, I’m hungry.
- Mom: You can have carrots or almonds.
- Kid: Nevermind.
You KNOW that’s not how the conversation goes if you or the kids have chips, ice cream or whatever else available. Closing the kitchen means you’re not always a human vending machine. It also means dishes can be done and the kitchen clean sometimes. It means digestive systems get a break and folks might actually eat their veggies at dinner because they were HUNGRY. Not wasting food / being a good steward of food is a great way to save money on your groceries.
5. USE CASH
Okay, I’m going to be totally honest with you. I buy my bulk of groceries on the 1st of the month and then pull out the remainder of my cash to put in a food envelope for the rest of the month. That usually amounts to $40 a week or so because we do eat quite a lot of fresh produce. When you go into a store with only a $20 bill you think differently, you think strategically. Not having the swipe back up forces you to be serious. Studies have show you also spend 12-18% more when you swipe instead of pull out cash.
How can you systemize? What can make your grocery life easier and stress-free? My entire food/household goods life comes and goes each month in 3 stages:
- My meat comes from a monthly co-op because I am fortunate to be able to afford that. Because of that I can 100% expect to have the meat I need each month without thinking. Before I’d get all of my meat on the first of the month shopping, looking for discounts and deals.
- At the first of the month I order everything we’re going to need at Walmart. I’ve tried finding folks that are cheaper but I can’t. And the convenience is 100% worth it for me. I have a set spreadsheet that shows me what I need to order each month as far as peanut butter and ketchup and laundry soap and hair gel. I order it, pick it up on the 1st and don’t look back. Check out this video for a walkthrough of exactly how I do it.
- Each week after church my husband drops me off at the front door of the grocery store and I take my $20 or $40 and grab fresh produce, dairy, eggs or whatever I need to supplement our food. It takes about 20 minutes.
That’s it! I don’t go to the store several times a week. I will say it takes a bit to get used to. But then it’s amazing because I always, ALWAYS have what I need because it was planned that way. So, what sort of system can you set up so that things are automated and the grocery store no longer rules your life?
7. BACK UP PLAN
Sometimes your best intentions and even your best plans may NOT happen. That’s where a back up plan comes in. A back up plan helps us when things get crazy. It helps us stick to our budget with food because we don’t have to rely on fast food. At any given time, I have items on hand to make our “back up meals.” You need to determine your back up meals and make sure you buy for them each month.
Here are 2 example back up plans in case dinner just escaped you:
- No cook salad. Yes, it’s boring, but it’s doable! Part of your monthly shopping should ALWAYS include things like EVOO, dijon honey, olives, avocado/cheese, the best deli meat you can afford and fresh veggies like lettuce and tomatoes. So fast! (Here’s a from scratch salad dressing recipe) You can put it in a wrap to make it different. And, if you have some turkey bacon on hand, swap a slice or two of deli meat for it!
- Breakfast for dinner. Again, you’ll have these ingredients on hand because you make it a priority to get ingredients for breakfast on your monthly shopping trip. And breakfast is usually pretty healthy. For example, if I’m really in a dinner bind, I throw a few eggs, spinach and tomatoes in the skillet. Tada! The kids might get the same with some pancakes added in! Fast & cheap & easy. Almost like fast food. 😉
So, what back up plans would work for you & your family?
8. GET BUY IN!
My kids decide what they want their lunches to be each week. They eat a healthy version of a lunchable so they get to write out their choice for fruit, veggie, protein, fat & carb. Because they PICK, they are really good at eating it all not complaining. Likewise, they have a few nights a week they pick dinner like Pizza movie night and pasta night. =D My husband also chooses some of the meals. Getting buy in means folks will actually eat the food you buy and make. THAT is what is going to save money. So, ask them for their input. Let them help you make a plan that way you’re all more likely to stick to it.
9. MEAL PREP
Each Sunday my kiddos make their lunches and my husband grills our dinner + the meat for his lunches (I have shake for lunch, even though I hate that it sounds like a Slimfast commercial–It’s just how I get my vitamins). I’m not going to belabor this point because as a certified personal trainer wit my nutrition specialization, I’ve been belaboring it for years. Here is a link for help. And another one. And another one. And one about the kids. See what I mean?
Okay, but honestly I don’t expect you to get all of this on your own. It’s hard. And like any new skill, you could use a coach to get better. I’m your huckleberry. Fill out the form together and let’s work together for a session, two or more.