1. The Budget
As you may [or may not] know, I have been struggling with my food budget…it is frickin’ hard to figure out how much you should spend on food. It is by far what I spend the most money on each month (as long as that month is not tuition month 🙂 ), and it is hard to evaluate whether or not you need to cut back if you don’t have a standard. I used to just kind of go with the flow and set an arbitrary amount, but that is definitely not working out in my favor! Bf suggested a budget of $7/day, or around $210 a month was reasonable…but that seemed pretty steep to me. So, I asked the pf world! The results of the poll are in:
31.58% of You Agreed!
And so there was a clear winner of $125-$150…much less than $210!!! MonroeonaBudget came up with a fantastic idea that allowed me to make an even more informed decision based on statistics specific to my age group and gender. She suggested I look at the USDA’s Food Plans (which elaborate on the cost of food spent at home). I looked at the trend from 2010-2011 (for months provided), and it appears that the cost is anywhere from $5-$10 higher for 2011 than 2010. This would give a projected budget of about $160 for food during October (for an 18-50 female).
2. The Timeline
Okay, so now that we have established a single person should spend anywhere from $125-$160 (according to the USDA & PF’rs), how often should you go shopping to maximize your $$$? Well, 365 Ways to be Frugal says once a week at most. It is really dependent upon what you buy/use. If you are buying things that are perishable, of course you will have to shop more often…but that’s a bad thing. Think about this: every time you go grocery shopping, you may go with a list, but you may see something that wasn’t, but that you want or need. Maybe it’s just a soft drink, or maybe it’s a really cute bowl set…but it’s money you didn’t plan to spend, and perhaps that you didn’t want to spend…
Schedule that special day...
3. The Purchases
To help with 1 and 2, buy sustainable items. One of the things that kept my trips down was buying powdered milk. It’s one of the things that will go perishable the fastest. Powdered milk lasts forever, tastes as good, and is cheaper per unit!!! Frozen veggies are great as well! Just go with a plan in mind; that will also cut down on the amount of “extras” you will have in your cart!!! I know it’s often said, but it is for a reason!!! If you don’t have a plan, especially for meals, then you won’t know what to buy and you’ll either end up with A) things that don’t go together at all or B ) “Almost Meals” [you know, like tacos without the seasoning, or dip without the chips]. Be sure to get “lazy day” meals, like cans of soup, and things to snack on. Keep a list by your fridge/cabinets, and as you run out of something/throw out packaging, write down what you’re out of so that shopping is easier and you don’t have to make 2 trips.
That’s pretty much my spiel of what I learned about setting a food budget for one person, how often to go, and what to buy! Happy spending [& Happy eating!]