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Budget Living: Adjusting Your Food Budget Goals

Posted By Jessica Fisher On December 5, 2008 @ 12:06 pm In Budget Living | 9 Comments

[4]As moms, we wear a lot of different hats. It’s not enough to feed, clothe, and love on our children, but we also need to “stay in the black” and teach fiscal responsibility to our children. Let neither us nor our children be the ones who need to be “bailed out.”

Yet, budgeting is not as easy as some people say. For years we struggled with the percentages that a popular financial group recommended. Their ratios just didn’t fit our lifestyle or small business ownership. It wasn’t until I heard Dave Ramsey [5] say you needed to create a new budget every month that budgeting actually became a thing to be grasped.

Now, every month FishPapa and I sit down together with the bills and the bank statements and, as Dave says, “give every dollar a name.” After rents, mortgages and utilities are paid, we figure out what other expenses will arise during the coming month. We write those down and commit to not spending the money on anything else. We’re not always perfect at predicting this but the more we do it, the better we get.

Some expenses are non-negotiable. Car insurance costs what it costs. However, the food allowance is one that I can “monkey with,” thanks to weekly sales and creative cooking.

Last week, a reader asked,

I only want to spend 62.50 per week on groceries but today was 112.09. I feel bad, like I failed but I bought doubles and triples of things on sale (sausage, cran.sauce, brown sugar, vanilla etc. and ingredients to take to 2 homes this holiday. Still I feel bad. Maybe I should change my goal to under 80 or something what do you think?

How many times have I had buyer’s remorse after overspending even though they were good deals! And why?

Because I exceeded my budget.

Here are some things to think about when making a food budget.

1. What is realistic? This is going to vary from family to family based on tastes, dietary needs, regional availability and how much time you have to coupon or shop sales. So, be realistic. For our family we used to spend $800/month shopping mostly at SuperWalmart and over the last year we’ve whittled it down to get close to $400, shopping heavily with coupons, CVS and sales. Some months we make it. Some months we don’t. Since we rarely eat out, I consider this pretty good. For an idea of what it should cost to feed your family, based on ages of family members, check out this chart [6] from the USDA. Savvy shoppers should be able to beat the “thrifty plan.” But, again, figure out what is a comfortable guideline for your family. You’re not feeding my family.

2. Once you have a realistic plan, find the best way to measure it. My husband is paid once a month, so for me, it’s easiest to think of my food budget in monthly terms. I allow myself $400 for the month, breaking it down to $100 a week to spend. If I go over because I really did stock up on some great deals, then I spend less in the coming weeks to offset the excess. Since I’m stockpiling, I shouldn’t need to buy those things in the near future anyway. If I spend less than the week’s allowance, I carry that over.

3. Be willing to suck it up if you go over. If you go over or you hit your limit before the time frame has elapsed, well, just deal with it. Chances are you won’t starve. You may have to get really creative in the kitchen until your next pay period rolls around. It is usually a good experience for me when that happens. A tough love kind of thing that teaches me self-discipline. It helps me clear out the pantry and look for ways to use things up.

[7]4. Reassess often. If you really don’t have anything left in the cupboards, then you do need to reassess your budget and your spending habits.

For more ideas on frugal living, visit Crystal’s blog [8] every Friday.

Do you have words of wisdom for this reader’s question? Another related question? Just want to say hi? See ya in the comments section!

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[5] Dave Ramsey: http://daveramsey.com/

[6] this chart: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2008/CostofFoodSep08.pdf

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[8] Crystal’s blog: http://biblicalwomanhoodblog.blogspot.com/

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