I will always be honest with you: BUDGET is not a bad word. Don’t believe me? Read on and I will convince you that a budget is the best way to give yourself permission to spend your hard-earned cash.
Last week I gave you a bunch of ways to hack your meal plan to fit your budget. This week I will teach you how to create a budget that can work for you & your family. Dave Ramsey teaches a lot of this stuff in The Total Money Makeover, and I highly encourage you to pick up a copy if you can.
Step 1: take care of your “4 walls”
You need to understand that your “4 walls,” i.e. food, clothing, housing, and transportation are the first priorities in crafting your budget. Before you sit down with a paper & pencil or an app (I personally like EveryDollar), consider what you think you might need in each of these categories. These first four are so much more important than debt, fun money, or even your Internet connection. We will just talk about food for the purposes of this blog. But, I would LOVE to hear from you if you want to talk more about budgeting in general (meghan dot elkins at gmail).
Step 2: add up what you’ve spent on food in the last month and also add up what you’ve spent at restaurants
Our goal is to spend more in a grocery store than in a restaurant. If you want to go further into the analysis, add up the previous month, too. Averages are a good place to start when creating your first budget. I will warn you, adding your purchases up will be nauseating and uncomfortable. Like a new workout plan or eating lifestyle… get comfortable being uncomfortable. #sorrynotsorry
Step 3: pick a number, any number, and then stick to that number
A budget is worthless if you don’t stick to it! I love my budget because I love to spend money. You read that right. I love spending money, but I love my budget because I have given myself permission to actually spend it. Once all the money is gone, though, I’m out of luck and I get to wait on my next paycheck to have more fun.
How do I stick to my food budget? I like cash envelopes. Many people cringe at carrying around a lot of money, so you might need two sets of envelopes: one for home and one for around town. Take out the cash you need and leave the rest at home; you will never blow your budget if you use cash. Once the dolla dolla bills y’all are gone, you’re done.
Final note about the “number” you set for your food budget… it’s probably going to take you 3 months to figure out the right amount. Don’t get discouraged.
Step 4: plan for the month, but focus on the week
It is super easy to go crazy with all the budget talks. It’s easy to get lost in the big picture. But just like MacroEd, focusing on the day-to-day hitting your numbers is the key to success. I’m not saying you should never think about losing 50 pounds or having money left in your food budget at the end of the month. I’m saying you should remember your goals each time you have a Reese’s egg or buy an industrial tub of mayo. I’m saying you should celebrate your goals each time you go to your scheduled workout or put the Halo Top back on the shelf. Just focus on each individual week. You’re going to rock it.
Week 3 recap + Price Per Serving (PPS):
I have a lot of food in my house, so this week I chose only 3 meals. My budget loves me. I was super pumped to see if I could snag ribs on my measly budget. I took $33 into the store and wanted to spend $25. The total came in right under the mark!
- 8 servings Mexican Lasagna (aka, Mexican Pizza!)
- 4 servings Pork Chops
- 4 servings Ribs (haha, more like 2 because… Ribs)
- PPS: $1.54
As an aside, I kept the $8 change for dinner at a restaurant for Trivia Night! Thank goodness today is payday… I have no more money in my food budget.