22 March 2014

Thriving on a budget

Since I lasted posted, a lot of people have been asking me about if I'm really living on $30 a week for groceries. Sure $30 doesn't sound like much, but it is entirely possible to not just live off of, but thrive on thirty dollars a week, so I figure today's post will be dedicated toward how to manage your grocery spending.

First off, I think it is important to say you need to be realistic. Different people have different eating habits. For instance, I don't eat meat, so I am able to save a lot of money in that department. I'm also a small person, so I probably eat less than people who are normal height (unless you put nachos in my face, then I'm going to eat an alarming amount). Different people also have different amounts of time that they can feasibly devote to cooking, and also like cooking (and doing dishes) to different degrees. If you hate cooking prep or just want to cut down on clean up time, then make sure you factor in the cost of these prepared foods into your budget.

Second, it is wise to start by making a small cut to your current spending. Early last year, I would fluctuate up to forty dollars a week on how much I spent weekly on groceries. Once I was aware of this, I tried a budget set around roughly the average of how much I was spending then. Later on, I lowered this budget to $40 a week. Shortly after, I realized that I was routinely under my $40 price point, so I lowered it to $30. If I had started with my original spending and immediately imposed a $30 budget there is no way I would have been successful and so I think it's really important you do what you need to do to make sure you don't feel unhappy with your food options.

Third, when reducing your grocery costs consider what is in season or locally sourced. These products tend to be cheaper, and if it's locally you're sourced, you're doing the environment a favor, too. In the winter in the northeast, I realize it can be difficult to stay fully stocked on fresh fruits and veggies, because nothing is in season near you. I suggest then that you look at whether there are fruits and vegetables that keep well and that you can buy in bulk at your local grocery store. For example, Wegmans has a terrific deal on family packs of granny smith apples. While these apples are not the gigantic apples I used to feast on, they are crisp and juicy, and at $2.99 for 3 pounds, they are a steal! In addition, do some sleuthing around your freezer section. Your store might offer flash frozen, unseasoned vegetable or fruit medleys. These are often cheaper than what you would buy fresh and they are extremely versatile! {Never}homemaker recently reviewed how the frozen vegetables from Wegmans help her stay on track with healthy eating, but her post also highlights how affordable and handy they are! I try to always have a few bags of the different Asian medleys on hand, so that at night I can throw together a vegetable and tofu stir-fry in just a matter of minutes.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, be in the habit of planning out your meals. I don't mean that you should be planning in the sense that you should be watching your nutritional content intake, but you should have recipes picked out for the next week. This will help you stay within your budget by making sure you don't make a thousand elaborate meals within the span of one week and at the same time it will limit how much time you spend wandering up and down the aisles, throwing whatever looks good into your cart. Perhaps most exciting for me, planning out my meals gives me the chance of trying out new recipes on a weekly basis!

Do you have any tips for staying on track with grocery shopping? Chime in! Otherwise, be sure to enjoy your weekend. I'll be back with a round-up of recipes I've tried out recently and loved as lunches to bring into work!

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