It’s been a rough couple of years for the family budget!
- A pandemic– which closed many businesses and led to job losses and supply chain issues.
- Post-pandemic—which caused an increase in demand, but with a decreased supply, led to higher prices of everything, resulting in inflation.
- A war—which has increased gas prices astronomically and therefore also increased prices of everything, including food.
In a budget, you have necessary fixed expenses, like rent or mortgage, loan payments, insurance and utilities. And you have variable costs like entertainment, clothes and food. During cost-cutting times, entertainment and clothes budgets are usually the first to go. Generally, after that, the only thing left to cut back on is food. Cutting the food budget sometimes means cutting the quality of food you buy, which could lead to eating less nutritious food.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, because there are ways to cut food costs without sacrificing on quality or nutrition.
- Cut Food Waste. According to the USDA, 30-40% of the US food supply is wasted! This waste happens at both the industry and consumer level. Unfortunately, food waste ends up in landfills and due to extra methane production from rotting food, this adds to climate change. You can do your part to cut food waste by:
- Keep track of what’s in the fridge. A lot of food waste happens when we buy something we already have. Or have grand expectations of the amount of food the family will eat. Before things look to be at the end of their edible life, freeze them or if it’s raw, cook, then freeze.
- Plan your meals with leftovers in mind. More than anything, planning meals saves money in impulse and convenience food purchases and prevents food waste, which also helps save money. Check out my meal prep tips here.
- Use everything. Those small portions of veggies leftover that are less than a portion? Freeze them until you have enough and make a mixed veggie soup. Same with fruit; many fruits freeze well so instead of letting it rot, chop and freeze for fruit salad or smoothies. Use stale bread to make a breakfast casserole, croutons or bread pudding. Find lots of recipes to prevent food waste here:
- Shop smart. Always use a list. Purchase your food online; that means fewer impulse buys, you can check the labels and there are no kids (or husbands) putting random items in the cart. Oh, and don’t shop hungry!
- Turn to plants. Beans and lentils, (as well as eggs) are very nutritious and affordable protein sources. Find tips on fitting in fruits and veggies on a budget here.
- Pair beans or lentils with rice and a veggie and you have a super nutritious and cheap meal.
- Start a winter garden. These veggies thrive in the winter in Central Texas: spinach, lettuce, Swish chard, kale, beets, carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and peas
- Make burger patties using beans.
- Make a vegetarian or almost vegetarian chili. Freeze what you don’t eat for later.
- Shop from what’s on sale. Those sale fliers you get in the mail every Wednesday? You can use them to buy specific foods on sale at certain stores. This is best to use for protein foods, which are the most expensive food group.
Eating well on a budget requires a little more planning, which can take time! Get the whole family involved to teach kids how to budget too.