Thursday, May 21, 2015

How to Eat Well on a Budget

I've been feeding my family on a budget for a few years now, so of course I'm a total expert. Here's a tutorial so you can do exactly what I do. 

Step 1: Make grand plans for your budget. Vow to spend only two dollars a day, or some other impossibly low amount. 

Step 2: Get started with the cash system and take out, in cash, all the money you're going to spend on food for the month. Vow that once the cash is gone, you will spend no more. (Notice how there's a lot of vows? Don't worry; with my system, your word to yourself means nothing!) 

Step 3: Start finding recipes that you JUST HAVE TO MAKE that also just so happen to have ingredients other than rice and beans. Feel okay about it because, after all, you have a huge wad of cash burning a hole in your pocket! 

Step 4: Spend a little more money than you planned to in the first week. Oops. Promise yourself you'll make up for it by spending even less in the coming weeks. 

Step 5: Everyone in your family will get sick, or some similar catastrophe that you didn't plan for will happen, and you'll suddenly start spending a ton of money on pre-made meals (using the credit card) and not caring. 

Step 6: Recover from the incident and make some kind of effort to balance out the budget again now that you have blown it and used the credit card instead of your food cash. Do weird things like treating your husband like a banker and forking over cash to "pay back" what you spent on the credit card. 

Step 7: Forget the cash when you go to the grocery store a couple more times. Finally realize that this stupid cash thing is never going to work and that you've probably gone over the budget already, although you have no way of knowing since you haven't been meticulously adding up receipts like you planned to do. 

Step 8: Halfway through the next month, finally sit down with your mountain of receipts and add up what you spent on food last month. Feel guilty that you didn't stick to your budget. Then feel better once you realize that despite blowing your insane budget, you actually managed to spend a reasonable amount on food and you haven't, in fact, used up your entire savings in one month like you were afraid you would. Give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it. 


  1. Another laugh-out-loud post! Love you, Emily!

  2. I tend to go over my food budget and scramble to rationalize my purchases, too. (For example, is Ken's protein powder really food? It's awfully artificial and processed... maybe I can buy it with a different budget category! The doctor told him to drink it, so it's a medical expense, right?) But I think the point of having a budget isn't to rigidly assign every dollar to a category and take all the flexibility out of your purchases. I think the main goal is to make you plan, be aware of what you spend, and moderate your impulses. If at the end of the month you think your spending was reasonable, you're doing a good job.

    As a side note, I keep reading the "tip" that growing your own food helps to cut down on costs. This is not true unless you're a good enough gardener that you can keep your plants alive without spending a fortune on gardening aids. I think I might reach that skill level in about 20 years.