One of my big year end ‘to do’s’ is to look over and refab my budget. So over my Christmas break, I locked myself in the office with my computer and checkbook! I enter my totals into an excel spreadsheet each month, but at the end of the year I average them all out and figure out what needs to be changed, budgetwise.
And this year I found my food budget needs some work!
While I was able to keep my food costs on budget most months, some months I went over. And I never had a month under. And with those overages, it averaged out to be almost $25.00 more per month! Plus I hadn’t been able to save for our yearly grassfed beef purchase!
So I decided that this year I need to buckle down and keep track of how much I spend a bit better! Previously (the year before last) I had 3 envelopes for my grocery money. One for the farm, one for the health food store/farmers market, and one for the grocery store. This system obviously worked as I spent much less that year and had money set aside for larger, bulk purchases! So I’ll definitely be going back to that system starting next month!
The thinking behind using cash in envelopes like this is archaic, yet simple. You see, I’ve always used the cash system in our budget. For me this is the easiest way to save money! You can’t spend more money than you have. (well, I guess you can as I actually did! Some bulk purchases are just easier to pay with a debit card. *sheepish grin*) But when you start purchasing food from many different suppliers, it gets harder and harder to keep track of where every penny is going. I buy milk, eggs, and some produce from a local farm, produce from the farmers markets (in the summer!) odds and ends from our health food store (whatever I can’t get at the farm and health food store) bulk food purchases from another store, and the leftovers at the supermarket.
No wonder I lost track!
My budget for food is $300.00 for our family of four. Two adults (one still nursing a baby) a three year old, and a nine month old. The minimum I spend at the farm each month comes to about $60.00 per month, so this amount goes into one envelope and I only take money out of here for what I buy at the farm. This way I know I’ll always have enough, especially since it’s my top priority “real food”.
I’ve put another $50.oo aside, split into 2 envelopes. Half for my bi monthly bulk food purchase, and half for our yearly beef purchase.
For now, the remainder I’ll be spending between the health food store and local supermarket. Come summer I’ll figure out specifically how much I’m allowing myself to spend at the farmers markets. Because I always tend to spend to much there! I kind of go into a daze looking at all the fresh produce and homemade goodies!
Another thing I did this year was sit down and prioritized my food purchases. It’s something Ann Sergeant mentioned in her session on food and budget at the Wise Traditions Conference. At the time I thought “why I do that of course!”, but the problem was I kept the list in my head.
Hmmm, let’s put it on paper shall we?
So I sat down and really made a list of what my priorities are.
Must Haves (the real food I will not give up!)
- Grassfed, organic, raw milk
- Free range eggs
- Local honey and maple syrup
- Grassfed beef
- Organic butter
After that, there are plenty of things I’d like to fit into our budget (and hopefully will most months) but I think we’ll have to take some short cuts or go without if the money isn’t there.
I’ve also fallen off the menu planning wagon a bit and have been rather disorganized all around. This needs to change now! I tend to spend much more when I don’t write a weekly menu plan sine we eat out more often and/or throw away more food since it’s gone bad.
So, here’s my few simple tips to saving money on groceries:
- Figure out your budget, pay cash, and stick with it! (unless you’d be starving of course)
- Prioritize your purchases
- Plan your weekly menus
Next I’ll get into how to actually save money on food!
What do you think? Anything else I should be doing?
And what are your dietary must haves?