In 2009 my husband and I were newlyweds and we were struggling. I had been having a hard time finding consistant work and no matter what we did every month we seemed to fall short. So like many people we started using the credit card to fill in the gaps, but before long the card balance grew to an out of control amount and we started feeling like we were never going to get be free of dept. Can anyone relate? So we sat down and looked at our monthly expenses to see where sacrifices could be made. Certain bills like rent and car payments are already set so there was no changing that and we already didn’t have cable. But while writing out our month expenses we noticed something our food bill was a little out of control, but not only that it was so out of control we couldn’t give an actual amount for how much we spent. There were too many 5 dollars here 2 dollars there to account for the total amount. But even the amount we could measure just didn’t seem right, how could two adults actual go through over 1,600 a month on food? If you don’t already budget your food expenses really well give yourself a scare and actually write out your month expenses and see if you end up like we did. We were mortified. But it adds up so quickly.
On average in a month we spent:
$1000 at the grocery store
$200 on lunches during the week (we weren’t making our lunches for work and even though we tried to stick to cheap things like subway it was still a lot)
$40 Buying drinks at work
$400 Dinning out
And this was just a rough estimate because it didn’t take into account those nights where we fancied a snack and ran out to the corner shop, or the times we stopped at the gas station and bough a drink each. After looking at the numbers on paper we both decided that we wanted to take dramatic efforts to reduce our spending. We completely gave up soda, limited eating out to twice a month, made lunches for the week and started cooking more meals from scratch rather then buying pre-made meals. We even started making up our own drinks to take to work or if we were going on a drive ice tea. And it was at this point in my life that I really started to come into my own as a cook. I began researching and reading more about cooking. I tried experimenting more and making dishes that I had never tried before. Those first few months were a bit rough because we seemed to have more failures in the kitchen then successes and the night would often end with me in tears and Chris getting us a take-away. But very quickly I began to realize that I could do more in the kitchen then I ever thought possible and it wasn’t long until we started preferring eating at home. And to top it all off we lost 30 lbs between the two of us in 6 months.
Now years later we are still sticking to the changes in our budget and have been debt free for over a year, the year being 2012. Our monthly budget for 3 people is around £300 ($480). Some of the changes that we made might be extreme for some, other then tea and coffee we don’t drink anything other then water and after so many years of doing it we prefer it that way. I tried a soda the other day and I have to say I am not really a fan any more. We stick to drinking alcohol only on weekends and even then try to limit it to one bottle of wine between us. We don’t eat meat every day and I have learned different tricks with bulking and cutting meat small so I use a smaller amount per meal. i.e for just a standard meal I would only use one chicken breast to feed the three of us. Not all of these changes will work for every family, I have one friend that told me if she didn’t serve meat at every meal her husband would flip. But even if you only make one or two changes in your food budget I promise you it can make a big difference, we are living proof.
It is my hope to help share with you some of the things I do to keep in budget, one of which being my weekly meal planning. Right now the method that I use isn’t very organized, well it is organized to me. But probably wouldn’t make sense to anyone else. So over the next month I am going to try to build a more organized plan that I will be able to share with you to help make your life just that little bit easier.
Weekly Meal Planner (coming soon)
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