Stretching Your Dollar - Setting a Food Budget

Monday, February 20, 2012 AnnMarie Brown 23 Comments

Week Two in this series -

I wrote an article on stretching a dollar - not your budget. In the article, I mentioned setting a food budget. Setting a food budget is one of the steps in stretching your dollar and it is often one of the first things people turn to cut back on when it comes to saving money and stretching their budget. 

When trying to set a budget stretching your dollar with you food budget is very important.

First things first, sit back and think how much it costs to feed your family every month. If you really have no clue a good place to start would be to save your receipts and write down everything you spend on food yes that includes your daily trips to Tim Hortons and that quick lunch you picked up yesterday. All food purchases. EVERYTHING!  Multiply that number by 4 and this will tell you about what it costs to feed your family for a month.

Second... make a list of the staples you need to purchase each month. I do realize this can vary every month if you are picking up items as they come on sale but a basic list will do. Figure out how much it costs to purchase these staples every month. When you subtract that from the amount you spend every month that will leave you with what is left to buy fresh produce and dairy products you pick up during this time.

Before you head out to do shopping always take inventory of what you have on hand. Be sure to keep staple foods on hand those are the foods that have good storage life and can be stocked up on when they go on sale. Some items I consider staples for my house are: pasta, rice, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, dry beans, peanut butter, lentils, dry milk, etc.

Look through the sale flyers for the week to see what is on sale this is the time when you might also get menu ideas to go along with the flyers. Remember if you see something you are almost out of that now is the perfect time to stock up on it if it is on sale and even better if you have a coupon to add to the savings.

Time to dust off your cookbooks or start cruising the internet for some new recipes your family might enjoy. I love adding one new recipe every week for my family to try. It keeps our menu fresh and more times than not the recipe turns out to be something we add to our menu from time to time.

I write down in my daytimer our meals for the week when I plan them on the Sunday evening and I also usually add a blog post of from the Meme Menu Planning Monday... you can find tons of inspiration there for your menu planning each week also.

Now that you have your menu plan or while you are making your plan have a list of paper handy to add items you need to buy so that you can make the menu you have planned out for the week.

Always remember that your shopping list is your plan when it comes to shopping for groceries... and it is your job to stick to the plan. I know it is hard but in the long run, it is really worth it. Grocery stores work hard trying to get you to purchase foods that were not at all in your budget. That is their job it is your job not to add them to your shopping cart as you are shopping.

Stretching Your Dollar

Ways that the grocery store sometimes gets you is by featuring a product on sale you automatically pick that product up to add to your cart but there could be a smaller quantity or a larger one that is cheaper per unit and that makes it cheaper than the one on sale. So be sure to always check your unit price. It has saved me more than once over the years.

We have some dietary issues and restrictions in our house so I have learned to read the labels a lot. More than I want to admit but it is for the well-being of a family member so reading a label is more than worth it in my opinion. If are you trying to switch some products over from name brand to generic sometimes it is good to fill the box up the brand name box with generic and just see if your family finds a difference in the taste. The whole mind over matter game ... more times than not you will find no difference but I do admit I have certain items that I am brand loyal.

A big tip I find helps in my household is to shop alone and after I have eaten that way I am not persuaded by a hungry person while I shop.

Be flexible with your list to a certain degree if you come across an unadvertised sale when you get to the store add it to your food plan if it is a good price and something you will use. You have to allow for a certain bit of flexibility when you are out shopping.

Many people have saved hundreds of dollars a year by:
- Planning meals ahead
- Making a food budget
- Shopping wisely by using a shopping list, comparing prices, and looking at labels

Time for you to hit the store with your new found tips and strategies. Please be sure to come back and let me know how you made out or if you already shop this way and have any other tips please leave me a comment so I can add to this post later.

How do you go about setting a food budget?

You can find the first post in this series here:
Week One - Stretching your dollar - not your budget


  1. These are some great tips! Especially shopping alone & not while hungry. What a difference that can make!

  2. Great tips. I try to plan but often it does not work out for me. I need to stop shopping while hungry. Thanks for adding my new button too :)

  3. I always try to shop alone. It's definately less expensive than when I take hubby. Good advice and tips!

  4. Hubby and I set the same food buddget every week, on rare ocasion we exceed it but, for the most part we don't. We also made a dining plan and it worked so well. We stayed within budget and had meals planned all week. Beautiful Great tips though!

  5. It always seems that I do good for a few months and then have an off month...glad I usually get back on track!
    Thanks for the tips.

  6. Great tips! I wish we could stick to a budget but DH does the shopping and likes his "sales." LOL!

  7. Great tips! I wish we could adhere to a budget, but we're the same as Insane Mamacita with Hubby liking his "sales"! I tend to do really well at first, but fall off track. The good thing is we don't spend much in groceries to begin with. We have a farm and much of our meat and produce come from our farm. I freeze/can/preserve fruit and veg from the summer to last us in the winter. We don't eat much in the way of processed foods, so our grocery bill is pretty low.

  8. Awesome tips! We've been meaning to set a budget and stick to it, I know it would help a lot.

    As for shopping, I love going by myself, no kids, no hubby, just me. I try and get everything I need for the week on Sunday mornings or Monday mornings depending on how our weekend is.

  9. Great tips thanks. I always spend less on groceries when I plan my dinners.

  10. Brilliant tips. I really need to incorporate some of this. I'm usually pretty good to planning out meals, and stocking up on sale staples... but a grocery budget? I don't even know how much we spend in a month really. That's bad, right?

  11. @Deanna T.

    I really wish I didn't have to keep track of how much we spent in a month but reality is we do... but now that I have to... not sure if I will go back to not knowing... I enjoy the challenge of the budget.

  12. our meal-planning needs some serious help here! sooo not good at it!

  13. Tough to stick to a budget with a daycare but my wife and I are vigilant about meal planning. We definitely want to make sure we don't tempt ourselves into going the fast food route all the time.

    Thanks for the tips!

  14. @OrangeHeroMama

    with your dietary restrictions now a meal plan would be a benefit and trust me it makes life easier.

    I know with us being gluten free it really helps a lot.

  15. @Canadian Dad

    I run a daycare also sticking to a budget although isn't easy it is vital for me.

    Can't tell you the last time I had fast food... maybe sometimes last year.

  16. I run a budget by sticking to the basics when I shop,no snacks or sodas
    Lynn M

  17. I totally agree with shopping alone. It's so hard with a hungry other person along.

  18. Wow thanks for posting these stretching your dollar articles....I'm soaking it all in it so helpful

  19. I always make sure we are sticking to the budget or other things can not get paid! I like to use the sites that match up the sale items to the coupons available at the time to maximize savings. It helps so much.

  20. I stick to my grocery list, unless I find something that's a very good price, and it does help. Also shopping by myself saves a lot.

  21. I love to plan my meals, look for coupons, and create meals around good deals that week. Great article!

  22. Love this :) I really just buy bulk staples (rice, quinoa, coffee) and then purchase based on what I can afford/whats on sale. I make sure I go to the grocery store after I've eaten a bit and then I don't splurge, but also I make sure that I'm getting things that I enjoy so I don't feel let down by my meals. I've always felt like that's the biggest issue with eating frugal, going overboard and then giving up because it's to restrictive!

    1. I think by getting things you enjoy it definitely helps then you are enjoying what you eat. Helps ease the fact that you are living frugally. We try to make meals we LOVE and try new recipes every week to add to our collection. It is more fun for us that way.