How I gained control of our food budget after a tumultuous move.
Two months ago my family was in the middle of a big move. From one house to another, with a five-week lay-over in a two bedroom mobile home. Due to unforeseen circumstances, our landlord needed to move into his house (the one we were occupying) and the house that we found to rent was not available for two months! We were devastated having to pack up during the holidays and move our household during the rainy cold and flu season. During each one of our moves we all got sick—and for a family of six, it can take anywhere from two to four weeks for the bugs to make the rounds! None the less, we made it through our transition, and once the coughing, fevers, and runny noses stopped—we were home! The move was rough for our health and our sanity, but it was absolutely devastating for our grocery budget!
We went from spending $200-$300 per week on food to $500-$600!
When I looked at our bank account after we moved into our new house, my jaw dropped! I couldn’t believe how carelessly we had been spending money on food. Sure, a family has got to eat—and a family of six is not cheap to feed, especially on the remote California coast, but still…
Something had to be done--and fast!
I started wracking my brain trying to find a solution to cut costs and curb our spending.
First, I needed to find out what the heck we were buying that was ruining our food budget.
I asked my husband, who conveniently is the manager at the Co-Op that we do most of our shopping, if he could print out an itemized list of what we were buying based on our co-op member number. Thankfully he could. To my surprise, the item that we had spent the most money on in the last month was organic apples!!! What the heck! Followed by chocolate…. I don’t know who was eating that much chocolate because it definitely wasn’t me (cough)… And then it was just a bunch of snack type foods, like chips, Protein bars, pretzels—where were the staples like, bread, eggs, meats, etc.? Apparently, we had blown our wad on snacks—and apples—and chocolate.
Second, I needed a plan.
I scoured the web looking for ideas—among the golden nuggets were:
make a budget, meal plan, buy cheap, buy in bulk,
and my personal favorite idea (which is actually just a budgeting idea from Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich), was to:
spend more on what you love and less on what you don’t.
I immediately implemented a two week meal plan, devised a plan to ration snack/fun food and made a commitment to buy the meat from the least expensive store in my area so that I could have more money to buy my beloved organic produce from the CO-OP.
I figured out which foods we ate a lot of that we could order by the case from the CO-OP, like bread, goat cheese, eggs, soy creamer, pasta sauce, etc.… you get the picture. I also made a commitment to buy certain items in bulk from the bulk bins, which are usually cheaper than buying their prepackaged counterparts. This plan allowed me to spend more money on the things my family and I enjoyed most, like organic apples and less money on the things that really didn’t change no matter where I purchased them!
I also decided to cut my chocolate habit way, way, down…practically gone now, which has been great for my budget and my backside! I don’t even want to tell you how much chocolate I was eating. I’m kind of ashamed…
Anyhoo, here is a list of the changes I made to our budget and our habits, in a nutshell:
- Figured out what we were buying/eating
- Implemented a Two-Week Meal Plan (all homemade meals).
- Rationed snacks/fun foods to one treat/person/day—(chips, fruit juices, soda, jerky, cookies, chocolate, protein bars, granola bars, etc.…)
- Bought meat at the cheaper store
- Bought organic food from the CO-OP
- Bought in bulk wherever possible and special ordered cases of things.
- Gave up my HUGE chocolate habit in favor of a much smaller, and healthier, one!
After implementing this plan, we were able to stay within our budget and no one went hungry.
We reduced our food spending by 75%, and stayed within our budget!
The kids did have a bit of a hard time adjusting to the new eating plan, with only being allowed to eat one fun food a day—better for our budget and better for their little bodies.
It can be really hard to eat healthy and stick within your budget while moving. Moving can take a toll on your health AND your wealth—as we came to find out—the hard way! All it took to wrangle in our food spending, was a little bit of detective work, planning, and execution.
What are some ways that you have improved your family’s food spending habits to keep within your grocery budget?
Do you budget? Do you meal plan?