I get hundreds of questions every week between emails, social media, blog comments, and just being asked in-person. Answering them is one of my FAVORITE things about doing what I do! I love taking what I know and being able to help make it personally apply to Y-O-U. One common feedback in the survey you took was that you wanted more opportunities to hear me answer Freebs' questions, so we are bringing back Ask Me Monday!! (And I realize today isn't Monday, but because of the holiday yesterday I decided to throw rules out the window.)
First up is a great question about grocery shopping and sticking with a grocery budget, a pain point we are all too familiar with! Have questions of your own? Leave a blog comment or drop your question in my question form and maybe yours will be featured next Monday!
Now, onto the question of the day from a fellow Freeb, Taryn:
“I am having the hardest time staying on my grocery/food budget. How much do you budget every month for that? Does your food/grocery budget include date nights, and eating out? I feel like we don't eat out very much, I only go shopping every 2 weeks maybe, and I do the Deals to Meals type shopping, and get amazing deals; and yet I still can't seem to stay under $500. There are only 4 of us (for now) in the family. We are a young family, it should be no problem to stay on budget for that. Thanks for your help!” -Taryn
Thanks for your question Taryn, it's a good one! I get asked REGULARLY about groceries, grocery budgets, food, meal planning, and all things EATING. What can I say, it's a hot-button issue for many of us! Aside from our mortgage, often times our highest bill each month is our groceries. I have so many different tips I'm happy to share! For this particular question I'll break down the different parts to cover each one in detail to make sure I don't miss anything. For more info and help see my “How I grocery shop” page, and my FOOD POSTS as well.
Let's start at the top, shall we?
This is explained in detail in my envelope budget system post. But the standard I've always suggested is $100 per person in your family, per month, (starting at $300). And of course, I recommend to break that down by week, NOT by month. Whether it's a newborn, a teenager, or an adult – each living person in your house gets that same $100.
To some that may seem like plenty. To others, you may have just broken out in hives and a cold sweat. Before you run and grab your pitchforks and start shaking your fists at me, just know that I've been blogging about this for YEARS and when people legitimately take my advice into consideration and do the work it takes to grocery shop and meal plan the frugal way, $100 per person is not only doable, it's reasonable. (Unless you live in Hawaii. Holy crud that place is expensive!)
But I will say this, if it's NOT reasonable for whatever reason (you live in Hawaii, you have very particular health issues in the family, you live out in the boonies and only have one – very expensive – store within 50 miles of you…) then that's ok! Do your best to START with the $100 per person per month standard, try it for 3 MONTHS (yes, three m-o-n-t-h-s), and if that doesn't work, slowly add a LITTLE more to your budget each week to make it more reasonable.
I break this down in great detail in my Budget Boot Camp program (use the code FCFBLOG to get an extra 10% off, code ending soon!). But I prefer to keep things simple. I know people use cash envelopes that have 50 different spending categories each month. I tried it several times and it was just too much to track! Instead, I break my weekly spending into two – just two! – categories. Find the category you spend the most money in for #1, and for #2…well…that includes everything else! So my two categories are 1) Grocery 2) Other.
Here's what my GROCERY budget includes (as also explained in THIS POST):
- Consumables – things you use regularly and need to replenish; things you would typically find at a local grocery store. (ie: Food, shampoo, dog food, lotion, baby wipes/diapers, shaving cream, ziplock baggies, basic kitchen utensils & baking items, cleaning supplies, milk, basic cold remedy medicine, makeup and other toiletries, etc.)
Here's what OTHER budget includes:
Regular, non-grocery spending that is somewhat typical week-to-week. Not bills or utilities, not grocery, and not home repairs or emergencies. (ie: Home decor needs, clothing, haircuts, babysitting money, getting the car cleaned, school pictures, eating out, gifts for birthdays/showers, etc.)
Your list very well could look different! It's based on YOUR typical, week-to-week spending. My husband, for example, doesn't do the grocery shopping for our family. So his two budgets are 1) Entertainment (including date nights and family activities) and 2) Other.
So to answer your question – no, grocery doesn't include eating out. That comes from my OTHER budget. But Bubba is the one that tracks our date night budget in his “Entertainment” category, so that's where money from our date nights comes out of.
See my DIVIDING UP SPENDING RESPONSIBILITIES post for more tips on dividing up spending responsibilities! And I know I sound like a broken record, but I cover this in updated, incredibly detailed, fun-to-watch detail in my Budget Boot Camp program for people who want individual help with this.
The last part of the question is the hardest. Without seeing the types of meals you are cooking, and how you are doing your shopping…here are a few tips.
- Make frugal meals. Save “fancy” meals (that include expensive meats and finer ingredients) for Sundays, rather than making them throughout the week.
- Don't waste a thing! Use, use again, then reuse again leftovers! Don't let anything go to waste. There are millions of ways to repurpose them into new meals if you're sick of eating the same thing day in and day out.
- Buy extra when on sale, and freeze! If something is on sale, don't just buy one…buy several and store it! Pantry, freezer, keep it on-hand so you aren't paying full-price when you need something.
- Try a different store! You might be shopping somewhere that doesn't have the best deals each week. I use Deals to Meals to find the best deals for the week, or you can just look at the ads that come in your mail. Find the store with the best deals and shop there!
- Make extra and freeze it. If you're cooking something, double and freeze it so you have an inexpensive freezer meal for a crazy day when take-out looks appealing.
- Make sure your grocery budget is ONLY for groceries – don't include eating out. That might be draining your budget!
Hope that helps, thanks for chiming in, Taryn!
Got questions? Drop them in our Q&A form and maybe yours will be featured on Ask Me Monday as well!
Have a great week, Freebs! 🙂