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How To Create A Realistic Grocery Budget (When You’re Trying To Save Money)
Does the thought of creating a grocery budget make you want to pull your hair out? Do you constantly wonder how much money you should be budgeting for food?
When creating a grocery budget there is no magic formula that will apply to every single person, family and situation. If you look around you will notice there are so many different opinions on what is appropriate to spend on food each month and I know from personal experience
This can drive you crazy!
While estimates are a nice guideline to follow the truth is your grocery budget is unique to your family.
With a little practice, patience, and intentionality you can create a grocery budget that will not only serve your family’s needs but will actually save you money.
And that’s exactly what we want right?
Here Are 4 Things To Consider When Creating A Grocery Budget
One huge factor why it’s hard for some people to stick to their grocery budget long term is that they have unrealistic expectations and get burnt out trying to figure it all out in the process.
Here are a few things to consider when determining what a realistic grocery budget looks like for you.
If you live in California you can’t compare your food costs to someone who lives in the Midwest. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.
And coming from someone who lives in California I’ve lamented over this for years.
How can some people get so much food for the same price I’m nearly starving over? It all comes down to one thing, location location location.
Special Diets/Food Restrictions
If you follow a certain meal plan or have dietary restrictions this can play a huge role in your grocery costs. Typically these things can increase a food budget and should be factored in.
Someone who eats boxed mac and cheese 5 nights a week is going to spend a whole lot less than someone with a vegan whole foods diet.
Now, this isn’t to say you should eat junk food every night but you must consider this when working out your grocery budget.
Where You Shop
All grocery stores are not created equal and some places are just flat out more expensive to shop at. Shopping at Whole foods isn’t going to be like shopping at Walmart. Your grocery costs can increase exponentially just by where you choose to spend your money.
Time Of Year
Just like your heating/cooling costs go up during certain times of the year so can your grocery budget. Holidays, special occasions and even the summer (if you have kids home from school) can increase your budget.
How Much Should I Budget For Groceries?
Now that we have considered the things that could affect our grocery budget it’s time to figure out what our unique to us food cost number should be.
Here are a few ways we can determine this.
Track Your Spending For A Month
The first month I created a grocery budget I had no clue what I was typically spending at the store.
If I “had” the money I used it and there really was no rhyme or reason when it came to what I was spending on food.
As embarrassing as that was the best place to start when you don’t know where to start is to just track what you are currently spending at the store for an entire month.
Don’t analyze anything just yet. Just spend how you would normally spend
Keep track of what you are spending. You can save receipts, keep a written log in a notebook/planner, or you can enter it electronically on a budgeting site such as Every Dollar.
Evaluate Your Spending
Once the month is up it’s time to take a look at what you spent. This is the exciting part because we now know what we are actually spending not just a guess but actual proof.
If you spent $1,000 that month on groceries you know that you can survive on that number at the very least. But we don’t want to stop there just yet because I bet we can bring that number quite a bit.
Keep in mind getting this right takes some time and patience. It’s all about trial and error.
Lower Your Grocery Budget Slowly
The best way to start bringing down your monthly grocery spending is to simply lower your budget slightly every month. Lowering your grocery budget by $100 a month will help you gauge if it’s sustainable or not without going too crazy all at once.
Many times we realize if we allow ourselves to spend a certain amount we will keep spending that amount even if we really don’t need to.
By pushing ourselves slightly every month we can easily see what’s doable. The more intentional we become about our grocery spending the more money we will actually save.
Bonus Tips For Successful Grocery Budgeting
Use cash, especially in the beginning. This will help keep you accountable. It’s impossible to overspend with cash. You only have what you have.
After you have evaluated your spending for a month continue to budget that amount for groceries until you feel comfortable, even when you are experimenting with lowered amounts. This will help lessen worry especially when you are unsure what is doable or not.
If you have leftover money from your grocery budget at the end of the month roll it over to the next month. If you have months that end up being more expensive you have the cash already there.
If couponing isn’t your thing don’t stress. There are so many other ways to lower your grocery budget outside of just using coupons.
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