When it comes to creating a budget, there are many factors to take into consideration. From monthly bills to one-time expenses, it’s important to plan for both the expected and the unexpected. Although you may not have full control over every expense, you can take control of one of the biggest spending categories — food and groceries. Spending money on food and groceries may be necessary each month, but through proper budgeting, planning and smart shopping, it doesn’t have to be your biggest expense. Some ways to keep your fridge and your wallet full are to: Track your spending One of the first things you can do when trying to save money on groceries is to determine how much you typically spend (each week, month or year). Use your receipts and/or credit/debit card statements to calculate spending totals. After that, you can break down your spending into categories, such as: main dishes, snacks, beverages, household supplies, etc. This will give you the most accurate idea of where your money goes each month. After you’ve seen your spending history, you can decide where to decrease costs and/or reallocate spending in certain categories. For example, if you find that snacks account for 50 percent of your budget, you may want to consider cutting down on the amount purchased each month, look for deals, or come up with different ways to save money, such as creating your own snack packs with bulk foods instead of purchasing pre-packaged items. Plan meals and snacks To make the most of your groceries, make a list of meals you’d like to eat each week before going to the store. Knowing and writing down what you’ll need prior to making purchases can help prevent spending on unnecessary items. Whether you plan for every meal or choose a few large meals per week with the intention of eating leftovers for some meals, you will get a better idea of how much you’re about to spend and if it will fit in your budget. Properly storing and repurposing leftovers can also be helpful when it comes to saving money. All too often, we put our leftover food in the refrigerator without a second thought. Although we may intend to eat any remaining food over the next couple of days, it’s easy to get tired of a repeated meal or forget about it altogether. Investing in freezer bags and reusable containers can ultimately help you avoid wasting food and also save you time and money in the long run. On top of saving money, another perk to planning meals is that it can help you make healthier decisions. By having meals and snacks predetermined for each day, there is less of a chance that you will make unhealthy impulse buys and/or order takeout during the week. It may be convenient to pick up a pizza on the way home or to buy snacks at your employer’s cafeteria, but your personal health and grocery budget will benefit if you steer clear of these items as often as possible. Beware of sales and coupons It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of saving money on groceries and other items, especially when it comes to the abundance of in-store sales and coupons available. The thing to keep in mind, however, is that while it may be great to see the total savings on your receipt, it may not be worth your while to purchase certain products. You may go to the store with a list, but notice sale tags on a number of products you wouldn’t typically purchase. Although the sales may be enticing, spontaneously adding items to your grocery list (despite decreased prices) can have a negative impact on your budget and lead to a stockpile of items you may not want or need. It also may be tempting to purchase items in high quantities to save a few dollars. Take “10 for $10” deals for example. It may seem like a great deal to get 10 avocados for $10, but the deal may not seem as great in the event that you’re unable to eat them before they go bad. If you choose to make such a bulk purchase, you may want to consider choosing nonperishable food or other grocery items that you will use on a regular basis. When it comes to grocery spending, basic rules of budgeting apply. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you should prepare to spend, but do so within your means. The more aware you are of how much money you spend and what you spend it on, the better off you’ll be in the long run. April Clobes is the Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer at MSU Federal Credit Union. MSUFCU’s headquarters are at 3777 West Road East Lansing, MI 48823. Contact April at firstname.lastname@example.org or (517) 333-2254.
April Clobes is Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer for MSU Federal Credit Union in East Lansing. She can be contacted by e-mail or by calling (517) 333-2254.