So… you want to start a grocery budget but have no idea where to even start. I was there just 6 short years ago when we were in a large amount of debt, so I completely understand how you are feeling. The first step in budgeting is that you need to set a realistic amount for the budget to stick; this takes some time and a lot of messing up! It took me about 2 months to find the right amount of money to allocate towards grocery shopping every week, but then I was able to stick to that amount week after week because it was the correct amount.
1.) Take a look at what you have been spending over the last 3 months; average that out so you can see what you have been spending. This can be a WOW moment for you, it was for us. We realized we were spending around $150 per week AND eating out twice a week. That means that we were spending at least $800 per month on food (we were only a family of 3 when we first started this.)
2.) Once you have your average amount, withdraw that amount out in cash next week. Why do I recommend cash? Because it is the easiest way to commit to only spending that amount. This may mean that you have to start meal planning and using coupons, but the goal is to spend NO MORE than this amount. This will help you practice discipline. Do this for a month.
3.) After that month is over and you have successfully stuck to your weekly budget, the next step is to create a 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 budget system. This means that 1/3 of the budget is for fresh produce, meats and dairy items; 1/3 of the budget is for other items that you need for the week like cereal, pasta, peanut butter etc. The final 1/3 of the budget is to be allocated towards loss leaders and stock up sales to help you gradually build a small stockpile. Once you do this for 6 weeks (the end of 1 sale cycle), you should have a pretty decent stockpile to help cut that grocery budget down significantly every week.
4.) Cut your budget down by at least 25% per week. Now that you have a small stockpile of foods that you and your family typically eat, you don't have to rely on buying everything out of pocket each week; and you can concentrate on the healthier foods and items that are on sale that week. This helps your budget in 2 ways: 1) you don't have to rely on the store prices every week and 2) you can meal-plan around the items in your stockpile instead of randomly choosing the meals for that week.
If you still need help, you can always download my free meal planning workbook.
This should take 3 months from start to finish. Once you get to the last week you should have a significantly reduced grocery budget AND a small stockpile of food to choose from every week. I hope this helps you! We followed these steps 6 years ago and it helped me get in control of my grocery shopping!
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