One of the first things you learn when becoming frugal is to analyze your spending habits and figure out where you can immediately make savings. For us, that was the food budget, which was as far from frugal as a family could be.
Unfortunately, becoming frugal with food when you have two young kids is a challenging task, especially when every aisle in the grocery store screams “buy me!”
Thanks to a handy website called Mint, which pulls your bank data and categorizes it, I found out that we had been spending on average $1,365 per month on groceries in the past nine months.
That’s not all. We had also spent an average of $884 per month on fast food and restaurants in that same period. Wow. Let’s lay that out in chart form so that we can bask even more in its grossness.
|Spent where:||Average per month:|
|Lunches / Fast Food / Restaurants||$884|
Yeah, that’s a lot of money spent on food. Not a single month under $1,500 and several at or above $2,000 spent. If you want a case study on not being frugal, this would be it. A shining example even. It’s time to finally become frugal with food.
A frugal, real food meal plan
Something clearly needs to change, so I start by mapping out a weekly real food meal plan. Up to this point, we had been deciding what’s for dinner based on our whims each particular night. That often ended up being pizza or McDonalds or sometimes a restaurant. Not good.
You’ll probably notice that I mentioned “real food” meal plan. This was important to my family because we are often eating frozen dinners when not chowing down on fast food. I wanted this change to help not only our pocket book but also help our health. Thus the “real food” part.
With this goal in mind, we set forth to create a weekly meal plan. It was surprisingly difficult at first, but after researching frugal recipes, we finally settled on our first week of dinners.
Monday: Fettucine Alfredo (Box of fettuccine noodles, half a stick of butter, and some parmesan cheese)
Tuesday: Baked chicken (price was half off because the expiration date was the day after purchase – we froze it), Mashed Potatoes, and Corn
Wednesday: Burritos (Bean, beef, peppers, cheese, sour cream)
Thursday: Roast beef with chopped up green beans and carrots
Friday: Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
Saturday: Leftovers from throughout the week
Sunday: Parents cook, and we leave with leftovers. Score!
Ok, it admittedly wasn’t the most nutritious meal plan ever created, but I maintain that it was healthier than eating french fries and burgers from Ronald McDonald.
Snacks throughout the week included popcorn, baby carrots, cheese sticks, apples, oranges, bananas, peanut butter, and apple sauce.
We saved a lot of money on food
I think we can call our first week of frugal fooding a success.
Total food cost for the week? $79.
That includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Not bad. If we can stay under $80 each week, our entire food budget for the year will round out to around $4,160. That amount would have lasted us less than 8 weeks in our pre-frugal days.