A year ago I talked about some new things I learned about grocery budgeting, especially how my budget was comparing to the national averages. As I remembered that post, I realized my grocery budgeting has changed a bit in the past year, haha. Why? Because LIFE has changed in the past year!
Life changes MAKE YOUR BUDGETS FLUCTUATE
I was making more meals back in the spring of 2015. Come summer time things got CRAZY again. Not only was I tackling a full schedule of block classes all summer long, but we also had so many different family events, holiday celebrations, and even out of town stuff. So this means a few things: we were too busy sometimes to make a nice meal, I didn’t go to the store as often, we ate out on outings more, and sometimes we get home at awkward times and the only choice is to go buy our meals. Obviously having a more busy schedule can take away time from hitting up the grocery store, can leave your kitchen options scarce, and the frequency of eating out tends to go up more.
I also discovered that when life hands me lemons, I go get a bunch of treats to eat instead! :) We all have our comfort foods we go to when we are feeling down, right? I don’t know about you guys but I tend to have less self-control at the grocery store when life has got me down.
Emotionally-soothing foods are also really great and kind of necessary when you are sick or recovering from surgeries. Last year I had 3 surgeries and procedures that had something to do with my mouth/throat, so what I ate was very important. We spent more money on certain foods but seemed to also pay less for other foods because I wasn’t eating normal meals as much.
Then Trevor got a new job where he eats breakfast and lunch there five days a week! SCORE! This of course helped our grocery expenses go down. However, I was eating out much more at school for how long I was there each day and for the quick convenience. It was nice to not worry as much about making meals. However…
Eating out quickly adds up
Yes it does. I was shocked at how much we were spending on eating out when I thought I was being kind of frugal with the meals I paid for. We even did well on our usual guideline of trying not to eat out at a sit-down restaurant more than once a week. I can’t imagine how that changes for couples who tend to eat at sit-down restaurants multiple times a week.
If eating out more often is the best option for you right now, I suggest creating a strategy. Yes, as if you are a starving college student, lol. If we want Buffalo Wild Wings, we try going on Thursday nights because their wings are 69 cents each, which is about $10 cheaper from other nights. Another one is Red Lobster, who has a 4-course for $16.99 Mondays through Thursdays. This option fills you up, and almost guarantees leftovers even. Basically, we try and get the most bang for our buck.
Do the math though
While I think most of the time it is cheaper to buy the ingredients for a meal at the store and make it yourself, other times it may not be cheaper. For example: stir fry dishes. I figured out the cost was the same (if not slightly cheaper) if I bought stir fry bowls at the Teriyaki Grill nearby. Why go to the trouble of making it myself at the same price, if I could have someone else make it with better quality in mind, too?! It’s the same thing with steak dinners. Steak can be expensive at restaurants but it can also be expensive buying the meat at the store. With all the sides that come included at a restaurant, sometimes it was cheaper to have a steak dinner out than made in our house without a nice grill :) Just run the equation that considers the cost of ingredients + the time to make it. Sometimes it ends up being better to go out, and sometimes it’s better to make it at home.
Final Food for thought
One day when life is a little more routine and consistent (and when we don’t have so many food allergies to avoid!! ugh!), I think I’ll be able to have grocery budgeting and meal planning down pat. We can have a set schedule of meals we like, and always be stocked with those ingredients, and even find ways to cut down on the costs. That was actually how it was for us when we were first married, so I wish I could get back to that point!
I wish that my eating habits could be as simple as having a dinner plan made out for me every week like what some recipe websites offer. It would be nice not to make that decision every day. However, I also realize it could be worse! Some people have a much harder time finding meals that work with their food restrictions. Some people have to watch every penny they spend and can’t afford to go over their budget even just one month. That’s tough and I have been there before! So seriously, just do the plans that work best for your life circumstances. Think about theses aspects I mentioned above, but just do what you think is best for your family!