Like most things in life, food costs money. Because food is a necessity, this can make it hard to keep up with grocery costs. And if you don’t have much money to spare, knowing how much to budget for food can be tricky.
There are also several factors that make proper budgeting difficult. Varying food costs, different income levels, and trying to keep up with bills all pile on top of each other, and at times fitting food costs into your budget can seem impossible.
Luckily, this handy guide has got you covered. While figuring out how much money you can spend on your food is hard, you can use the methods in this article to work out what you should be spending on food each month.
Not only that, but we’ll take you through some different methods to budget your food so you can stay on top of your finances without having to be stingy with your meals.
So let’s get started, and see how best to budget your food costs depending on your income.
Why Budgeting Is Important
First of all, let’s take a look at why making a budget is important. There are several reasons why you should budget, from improving your financial stability to helping you save up money on the side.
Budgeting is one of the best ways to keep track of your spending. The unfortunate truth is that money can be tight, and any small thing can have a big impact on what you have to spend.
Trying to balance expenses on top of bills can leave little to no room for necessities like food, without having to worry about unexpected costs blindsiding you.
Having a budget takes some of the pressure off of managing your money. Knowing how much you can spend on food will make sure you get what you need while being able to factor in ‘rainy day’ savings.
Making sure you have enough money is obviously important, and you don’t want to make unnecessary sacrifices because of poor budgeting.
If you want to start building up some savings or splash out on a luxury, managing the cost of your food is key. Avoiding excess spending is a great way to start putting money aside, and by keeping an eye on what you’re buying you can set money aside for savings.
Whether you’re saving up for something big, or just want a bit of extra cash to splash out on yourself, sticking to a disciplined budget will make the journey much easier.
Food is a constant need, so you need to factor food costs into your regular expenses. Having a budget for food alongside regular expenses like living costs and fuel ensures you factor in these costs before you can even think about using any other disposable income.
There are ways to save money on food, but you don’t have to skip meals or cut back on nutrients. So don’t worry about missing out on great meals, and use some of these great tricks for budgeting for food.
Budgeting For Food
So now you know why budgeting for food is important, let’s take a look at how you can do it. There are plenty of ways to manage your spending when it comes to buying food, ranging from a few basic changes to clear organization of your costs.
None of these require cutting back on nutrition, and you can keep eating great meals while still keeping money aside.
Budgeting for food doesn’t have to mean completely overhauling your diet. There are a few simple changes you can make which will help you improve your spending straight away.
Some easy ways to budget are by managing your finances. Something as small as making a clear shopping list can make a big difference – if you know what you need to get during a grocery trip, you’re less likely to make any unnecessary purchases.
Ordering food is also an easy way to get through your food budget quickly. Try to avoid ordering meals, as the cost of these builds up over time.
Cooking food at home saves a lot of money in the long run, and you can treat yourself to the occasional take-out with some of the money you save.
You could also pre-plan meals. Having a good idea of your menu in advance means you can keep track of how much your meals will cost by day, week, and month.
This also works well with buying ingredients in bulk. You can make batches of each meal and use them as your schedule goes.
There are other great ways to reduce costs that don’t necessarily need to be planned.
Raw ingredients can be expensive, so finding good value is very handy. Deals and discounts go a long way, especially for buying in bulk. This is typically much cheaper, and you end up with a lot of ingredients that you can use to batch cook and store for a later date.
Many different recipes use similar ingredient lists. If you have some favorite ingredients, try to find different things to make with them. Not only will you save by using the same cheap ingredients, but you can keep things varied and discover different types of cooking.
While buying ingredients to cook per meal can be more expensive than buying pre-made food, bulk-buying groups of versatile ingredients will keep costs low and your cuisine varied.
Home cooking is definitely cheaper in the long run, and you can end up saving a lot with proper planning.
How Much Should I Be Spending On Food?
Depending on your income and your expenses, it can be tricky to figure out how much you should be spending per month on food. Because food is a necessity and can be expensive depending on your diet, it’s all too easy to feel like you’re overspending.
Prices also vary based on your area, so some things (like housing costs) may be cheaper or more expensive. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you need to budget for food costs.
According to nationwide statistics from 2019, the average American spends around 10% of their disposable income on food.
This means that 10% of the money left over from bills and other living costs would go towards a person’s food budget. However, not everyone has the same disposable income, but food prices stay the same.
If your disposable income is lower than average, you’ll probably need to dedicate more of it to your food budget. Still, with proper management of your money and good planning for your grocery shopping, you can keep only as much money as necessary for all the groceries you need.
There are some situations where a percentage of your disposable income won’t really match up with how much you should budget – depending on your total income and any other expenses you need to pay (for instance, rent or mortgage payments, or fuel costs for traveling to work).
For this, it may be easier to look at the weekly cost instead of an unwieldy fraction.
The average adult in the USA has around $3000 of disposable income per month and will spend between $250-$300 of this on groceries. However, if your disposable income is much lower than this, the same spending habit isn’t sustainable.
Spending $250 every month if your disposable income is only $1000 ends up using a quarter of your total. Meanwhile, only using 10% leaves you using just $25 per week. This definitely isn’t sustainable, especially when the cost of food will stay the same.
If you’re just buying groceries for yourself, you shouldn’t be spending more than 20% maximum of your total disposable income. But instead of looking at the percentage of your budget, try to calculate the minimum you can spend on groceries and stick to that range.
You may want to try some grocery trips while staying beneath a certain amount. Not only will this help you figure out the best ways to save according to your budget, but factoring in some savings alongside this will help you make the best budget for you that lets you get all the food you need while also being able to keep some money in your savings.
Low-income families can use these methods to help manage their spending – for instance, a family of 4 can have a budget of 30% for monthly food expenses.
The suggested monthly budget for a family of 4 would be ~$900 on food. However, this can be cut to less than $600 per month if you pay attention to spending and take advantage of any deals or offers that come up.
Working out food costs on a tight budget can be difficult. But by sticking to a manageable amount, you can make sure you get by with everything you need (plus some extra cash for emergencies and luxuries).
Best Methods Of Budgeting For Food
A combination of good planning and managing your money is the best way of budgeting for food. By using easy lifestyle changes like having a clear shopping list in addition to more significant structural changes like having a meal plan, you can stay on top of the money you spend and still have leftover money to put aside for whatever you want.
There are also plenty of benefits to taking advantage of any possible deals. This will make things even easier in the long run – little things add up, and even saving a few dollars per shopping trip means more money to put into your savings.
When possible, batch-cook and freeze meals that follow a pre-planned schedule. Mixing things up will keep your menu interesting, and you get more value from buying in bulk.
Getting larger amounts of ingredients often makes them much better value, just as long as you have the storage space and know you’ll get through them before they go off.
Versatile ingredients make this even more worthwhile, as you can use them in a variety of meals to avoid your diet feeling repetitive – this is great for breaking things up if you can get some of the ingredients discounted.
Tips And Tricks For Saving On Food
While structured and disciplined budgeting is one of the best ways to monitor your total spending and start saving extra money, there are also a few handy hacks you can use to reduce costs even more.
As mentioned before, it’s always a good idea to take advantage of any deals, discounts, and special offers you come across. While things going on sale may feel random, you can actually predict when some things will be discounted.
A lot of fresh produce will be cheaper towards the end of the day. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are poor quality or starting to go off; fresh ingredients will often have a reduced price if they’ve been on display all day regardless of how long they have left before they spoil.
Keep an eye out if you’re doing your grocery shopping later on in the day for cheaper ingredients. This makes going to the store on the way home from work have even more benefits than just being convenient.
Many stores also have a specific day each week where new products are delivered and the older groceries go on sale to help with the turnover. Pay attention to the store’s shelf rotations and you can easily figure out when you can get your groceries for cheap.
From there, you can plan your shopping trips accordingly to get the best value for your money.
So now you know some easy ways to help you budget your food, as well as how much money you should set aside for food shopping each month.
By using these methods you can not only save money on your overall monthly costs, but also keep track of how much extra money you have leftover.
Properly budgeting your food will make sure you can get all the food you need without having to cut anything out of your diet.
Not only that, but you will have more structure and financial stability when it comes to food shopping. This will help you avoid making any unnecessary purchases, as you’ll know what to put your money towards.
Not having to worry about your food budget is incredibly freeing. And because you don’t have to completely change your entire diet, you can still enjoy your favorite foods without any fear of going over your allowance.
So whether you need to organize your spending to balance all your expenses, or just need some help managing your finances for the first time, now you know what to do to properly budget for food.
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