Food – it is expensive. For most families, the food budget is either the 2nd or third largest expenses (with housing and transportation.) Over the years, I’ve figured out that spending more at the grocery store results in lower overall food costs for my family. Some of you will immediately know what I’m talking about, and others will be confused. Let me explain.
In most families, there are a couple of things that throw the food budget out of whack. The first is when the family succumbs to the desire to go to a restaurant or order take-out because they are too tired to prepare the food that they’ve purchased. The second is when food is thrown away because it isn’t consumed before it goes bad. The third is when someone has a craving for something that is great at restaurants – like chicken wings, or nachos, or cheeseburgers. The fourth is when you stop by the grocery store for one thing and end up throwing extra junk in your cart along the way. (I just watched my sister do this today – we stopped for diapers and next thing I knew, she was buying an $6 bag of M&Ms.)
Oddly, one solution to these problems it to spend more on your groceries. Eliminating the desire to eat at restaurants or get carry-out will slash your overall food bill dramatically, and a well-thought out shopping plan will reduce the amount of food wasted and the need to make those daily stops at the store.
As an example, I like buffalo wings. A lot. A really, really, really, really lot. A popular chain restaurant near me sells 10 wings for $10.79. I can get frozen prepared wings at a cost of $4 to $5 for a similar quantity. The frozen ones aren’t as good, but they are fine for squashing a craving while still saving a bundle. This doesn’t mean that I won’t ever again order a buffalo wing in a restaurant, but it does seriously decrease the frequency of my restaurant wing-flings. In my case, I haven’t ordered wings in a restaurant in years. That’s a lot of wing savings.
The same principle applies to having food that you want to eat available in your house (even if it isn’t craving material.) Yes, in a perfect world, I’d spend my days creating vegetable-and-lean-protein intensive meals without anything questionable or processed. The reality is that, sometimes, a box of macaroni and cheese and some prepared chicken is a lot healthier and cheaper than the “let’s go out to eat” alternative. While my family strives to eat well, we do keep a stash of fast and easy meals on hand for those days where no one has the time or energy to do actual cooking.
If you feel like your family is spending too much money on its overall food budget, look critically at what you’re buying right now. It’s quite possible that a little planned splurging at the grocery store will result in lower food costs overall.