So far budgeting has been the hardest thing for us to sit down and do. I was a very meticulous budgeter before I got married. It's our goal this week to sit down and punch out a budget with short-term and long-term goals so we can start September on the right track. I've discovered mint.com which will be a great resource (and they have an Android app so I can track our finances on my phone).
The worst part of the budget for me is groceries. Things like insurance payments and utilities are pretty predictable. We know how much income we'll have. And saying something like "We'll spend $200 on groceries this month" isn't hard; sticking to that is hard. When I lived alone (and ate cereal for most meals) I could easily get by on $60-$80/month. Lord help us if we have sons because we eat a lot more now. I'm buying meat and Nate will not sit by and let me munch on popcorn for dinner.
Another part of budgeting for food that's hard is that I don't want to send Nate to work with peanut butter and jelly for lunch. I also don't want to send him with nothing because lunch at Chipotle is at least $8. (Do you know how many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you could make for $8?) I feel like I have sort of a grip on dinners (meat + veggies + side) but we have been slacking on breakfast and lunch which has meant eating out too much.
The other day I used my free birthday lunch at work (even though my birthday is in February) and got a turkey wrap, Sun Chips, diet soda, and candy bar. If I had chosen fruit instead of the candy bar, it would be the ideal lunch. (I'm trying to cut back on diet soda but after a hard morning at work it just makes everything better.) So I'm thinking, Why couldn't I have the things to make a wrap, baggie of chips, apple/banana/orange, and maybe a mini size candy bar for lunch every day? I could make that at home for less than it costs to buy at the cafe. I used to make rice and bean burritos and freeze them and they'd thaw by lunchtime and be very filling. For Nate we'll add chicken and get it as close to a Chipotle burrito as possible, but frozen is the way to go because I don't usually feel like preparing a meal after dinner and things tend to go bad in our fridge rather regularly.
We have a Sam's Club card and that sparked my idea of buying bulk. (We haven't yet considered where we will store it. First things first.) We are really big on snacks around here, especially with Nate being in class all day twice a week. Snacks are great. So I made a list of possible things available at Sam's Club for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. I almost went to Sam's Club today, but it got me thinking ... What does this cost at Aldi and Kroger? I know buying bulk always sounds best but I've heard it's not always best. So I was a nerd and went to Aldi and Kroger to pick up a few things and do a little research.
Kroger generally comes up with the highest prices, especially for produce. I even used the cheapest prices I could find, store brands. 32 cans of diet Coke at Kroger cost $13.44. The same 32 cans at Sam's Club cost $9.92. A lot of the differences in prices are just cents, but when you're budgeting, everything adds up.
Nate relieved me today when he said, "I don't mind the occasional hot pocket or Healthy Choice frozen meal. You don't have to make everything from scratch." "Thank you!" I want to feed Nate healthy food, so all this time I felt like cutting corners would make me a bad wife.
What are your tips for saving money on meals? What do you eat for lunch? How often do you eat out? If you don't have kids, how much do you spend on food each month? How often do you go to the store? Help a girl out! Leave a comment. :-)