How to create a functional grocery budget

Your grocery budget probably needs a little revamping like mine does, and so I came up with a few tips for creating what I believe, is a functional grocery budget. This method of dividing up your expenses will help you to make sure you aren’t overspending, and of course, help you to make the most of your money.

3 Steps to creating a grocery budget:

  1. Track your grocery spending.  Track your spending over a couple of months and come up with an average. Or look at your receipts from the last couple of months to figure out an average. You will want to look at what you are spending at the grocery store and restaurants. It will be a big help to have these separated so you can see where you need to cut down your spending most.
  2. Set your grocery budget – Because you now know the average amount you spend at the grocery store and restaurants each month, you can set your goal for your grocery budget. For example, if you’ve discovered you spend on average $800 a month, you might want to set your goal at $700 by cutting down on restaurants and prepackaged grocery store food. I don’t recommend drastically trimming your grocery budget right this instant. Give yourself some slack and don’t put pressure on yourself to come up with an impossible-to-stick-with number.  You’ll get discouraged and may end up giving up.
  3. Make your grocery list with your new grocery budget in mind. Having a plan for your grocery budget is how you are going to succeed. Pick recipes and ingredients that are simple. Plan for leftovers to stretch the budget.

In addition, here are some practical tips to help you stay within your newly created grocery budget:

Don’t forget to budget for all meals and snacks, not just dinner.

Many menu plans include only 1 meal a day – the evening meal. This doesn’t help you to create a shopping list or functional grocery budget when it doesn’t provide for breakfast, lunch or snacks. You need to focus not just on the menu plans that give you low budgets for one meal a day, but also plan for your breakfasts,  lunches and snacks.

Don't miss these top tips for Creating A Functional Grocery Budget. These are great ideas to give your family great meals at a reasonable price!

Make healthy foods a priority.

One thing often seen in a grocery budget is not enough room for healthy foods. If you are sacrificing your health to save a few dollars each month, it isn’t worth it. Feeding your family great nutrient-dense meals and snacks isn’t an option – it is a necessity. Consider the 40/30/30 rule when shopping for groceries. 40% of your grocery budget is fruits and vegetables. 30% of your grocery budget is lean meats and dairy. 30% of your grocery budget are things like dry beans, rice, spices and other items to fill in gaps in the menu plan.

Use coupons only on items you need.

While I’m a fan of coupon use, when it comes to your grocery budget it is important to not get carried away. The thrill of the coupon hunt can quickly become a reason to spend more money for the sake of the “deal”. Make sure you are couponing for items that truly are needed and the best deal possible. Just because there is a coupon available doesn’t mean that they should be used.

Plan meals that can be used multiple ways.

Not only do you want to plan low-cost meals, but you want to plan for things that will provide you with leftovers for lunches or a second evening meal. You may also want to look for meats and protein sources that are versatile. Things like a roast or hamburger can be used in multiple recipes making them easier to buy in bulk packages and stretch further. A roast cooked on Monday can have leftovers used in a quick beef and vegetable soup, stew or even tacos or chili. A whole chicken can be shredded and added to soups, casseroles, salads and sandwiches. Using every bit of the cheaper cuts of meat throughout your weekly menu plan can easily make your grocery budget manageable.

Follow your local sale cycles to stockpile as needed.

Sometimes it’s beneficial to buy extra of select items when they are at their lowest prices. This could be vegetables and fruit in the summer months to freeze for later, or could be canned goods in winter months. Watch your local stores’ sale cycles and stock up accordingly to provide your family with food at the best prices possible year round.

These tips for creating a functional grocery budget are just the beginning. To really do well you also need to take into consideration your area, sale cycles and your family needs. A functional grocery budget is one that provides your family with great meals while staying within the expense plan you can afford.