It’s the New Year and we’re full of hopeful resolutions. Two of the most common of those are eating healthy and saving money. I’m here to try to tackle them both at once and help you be as successful as we have been in eating healthy on a budget.
We weren’t always this way, you know. Back in college my husband and I were frozen chicken nugget eating fiends, who had no problem having mac and cheese with each meal, or just eating a loaf of fresh baked French bread for dinner. We were processed food filled to the gills and we didn’t care. As for money? Well, we didn’t have much to begin with on a college student’s wages, so saving wasn’t really a priority. We were living by the seat of our pants, so to speak.
A series of health issues caused us to reevaluate our food choices and new responsibilities made us look at how we were spending our money after school was finished. Still, it took us a few years to really get to where we are today: At healthy weights, eating real foods, and not spending all our money doing it.
In this first part of my series on “Eating Healthy on a Budget,” I wanted to address the budget side. I’m not a financial expert, so I’m speaking merely from experience.
As of a couple years ago, we’ve been following the Dave Ramsey program. I don’t have time to completely outline his money philosophies, but he’s worth a look. Following his program we have come completely out of debt (we have no car payments, no school loans, nothing) and have saved a good amount for retirement. We’ve been able to take trips to places like Australia, all because we saved. We haven’t used our credit cards this whole time; we only use cash. I like to share our success because it worked for us, and it can work for you.
So how does this work? Each month we sit down to make a monthly budget, making sure we know where every single penny goes. We put money into bills, into savings, and into spending. After all the money is allotted, we withdraw the cash we need for the month and no more. This goes into separate envelopes labeled Groceries, Fun, Baby, Pets, etc.
I budget $100 a week on groceries, and typically spend less than this. This is for two adults and a toddler, so your family’s budget needs could be different. If you’re first starting out, it would be better to allot more money and have leftovers than not have enough. $100 a week makes for $400-500 a month on groceries. We don’t mind spending this amount because we choose to eat at home more than we eat out. It’s healthier anyway!
And then what do you do? You go shopping! In the next part I’ll explain what to buy, but for now I’ll leave you with a few tips:
1. Stick to your budget. If you go over $100, well, put something back that you don’t absolutely need.
2. Make a weekly or monthly meal plan. This helps prevent spur-of-the-moment food purchases.
3. Eat what you have. By the time I go grocery shopping again, our fridge and pantry are practically empty. I make sure only to buy what we need for the week.
There you have it, a quick rundown on how to budget. I could talk about this for hours, but space is limited, so please if you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll try to answer them. Budgeting has been the easiest part for us so far. Next up, I will talk about eating healthy!