The number one way to save money is by budgeting out your income. The easiest way to do this is by keeping track of your bills, starting with the ones you can’t live without. Now a days, these consist of Rent/Mortgage, Health Care, Insurance, Utilities (electric, water, waste and disposal, etc.), Car Payment, and then there’s one of the most important ones- food. After all of your other important/ static expenses are covered, the best investment you can and should make is to ensure you have enough money to eat in a healthy fashion. This article will show a basic outline for why budgeting around healthy food and living is important along with a budgeting tool that I myself use to keep track of our expenses.
Having a healthy lifestyle revolves around the food; to put it simply you are what you eat. Regardless of how much you exercise you do, if you’re not eating healthy food the positive changes just won’t happen as desired. In order to ensure you have enough money for the right types of food, it’s important to manage your expenses. Unhealthy habits add up in the long run, which result in diseases and the ever more expensive medical bills to match. Regardless of age, budgeting for a healthy lifestyle will save you time, money, but most importantly open your eyes to the frivolous spending that we’ve all done at some point in time, thus becoming a more efficient being. There are many tricks to get even more out of your dollar, like buying in bulk, properly storing food, planning meals and even prepping for more leftovers work for example- but those all start with budgeting.
All of the above listed bills are somewhat set in stone, and any changes that occur are usually only by a small amount. Affordability is one of the top factors that keeps people from eating healthy, but why? There are plenty of excuses that we all use.; from being too tired from work or lack of planning ahead resulting in last-minute purchases lead to frivolous spending. Those purchases of pre-prepared meals, fast food, and eating out add up to big amounts in the long run. On top of that, none of those choices is as healthy to eat as making things from scratch. The biggest excuse we use to spend money on ready to eat meals is time; which leads to another big factor, eating out. I know when my significant other and I moved into our own place we didn’t have much cookware or food ready after long days at work, and the result was us eating out a lot. After the first few weeks we noticed ourselves gaining weight and burning through our paychecks little by little. Once we started budgeting out our income, we realized how much money we were losing, and decided put more effort into grocery shopping in order to make more meals for ourselves.
I know quite a few friends who have issues with grocery shopping; I know my girlfriend and I had an issue with it in the beginning. We noticed the difficulties even more when purchasing fruits and veggies, simply not knowing what to do with them meal wise and sooner than we knew it they would be spoiled. Though storage and usage of groceries is an issue, I believe the leading cause is that people just don’t think you can eat healthy at an affordable budget, which is just wrong. The only thing that makes eating unaffordable is what we chose to prioritize over our health and nutrition. From buying more clothes than necessary, to going out and partying all the time, to our vices and desires, there are plenty of outlets for us to spend money in our world of instant gratification- but isn’t our health and well-being the best investment of our spending? Budgeting money for your food means you need to prioritize on what’s important, instant gratification in pre-packaged food/fast food or making healthy meals from scratch. There are plenty of options when it comes to making food, however far too many people get discouraged or overwhelmed with cooking, let alone grocery shopping. Now meals are simple if you have proper instruction on what to do, but the real trick comes with grocery shopping to maximize the variety in meals.
Yes, I agree, it is cheaper/quicker to buy the 99 cent box of pasta than the flour and eggs to make it in short term. But when it comes to per meal, using the 3 cups of flour and 3 eggs to make pasta for 4-6 people is a lot more affordable in the long run, even if you buy pasta in bulk and store it you’re going to be saving money. But when cooking, a 5 lb bag of unbleached white flour averages at $4.95, organic large eggs are $3.99; this all means the total cost of your pasta from scratch is around 75 cents (flour) + 67 cents (eggs) = $1.42 per batch of pasta. And you still have 3/4 of your box of eggs and 85/100th of your bag of flour left. All of this becomes even cheaper when you buy in bulk. Yes it takes around 40 minutes to make the pasta, but 30 minutes of that is allowing the pasta to rest. It takes the same time to cook as box pasta, and unlike the box, there’s only 2 ingredients- flour and eggs. For a tomato sauce, instead of buying a Prego-like sauce which is loaded with an absurd amount of salt and sugar in it. Instead, just buy tomato paste, onions, garlic, and some tomatoes; that’s literally all you need for a tomato sauce, the rest is chopping and letting the tomatoes cooking down, which all can be done while the pasta dough would rest. If I feel like having some for later, I’ll simply buy a little extra and freeze the cooled sauce in jars in my freezer. So if I plan for pasta that night, I’ll let it thaw the night before or thaw it day of. That is but one example of many options that come from a few basic ingredients. Those leftover ingredients can make many different types of dough and dishes, all which will be flavorful, leave you full, and bring a stronger sense of fulfillment into your routine.
The important thing to take away from making food from scratch or as much as possible is that our entire system of food is designed to make you think you’re getting your money’s worth. But the only true way to get your money’s worth per ingredient purchased is to make your own meal from scratch using raw ingredients. Now I don’t have time to make pasta or bread all of the time. But as with life there isn’t always time to prep everything from scratch, I know I don’t, but even when you do need to make those purchases you can always buy items on sale, or buy in bulk, or even shop at specialty stores that offer great deals for everyday items. Stores like WinCo Foods are great because they offer great selection at cheap and affordable prices, they offer bulk items and you don’t need a membership to shop there; and they’re employee owned and operated. When smart shopping and spending is combined with storing food properly and planning meals in advanced you can save hundreds of dollars and hours of time having meals ready to go. When the shelf life increases, the trips to the store occur less, and the result is less money and time spent on small outings at the store.
I created a budgeting excel sheet to help everyone with their expenses. The basic structure can be used to create your own document or you can use and edit this one. The most important thing is actually entering in your expenses. We use this version to help with our own budgeting so we can nourish our bodies the best we can and keep track of every dollar spent. Using tools like this help us remain accountable with our income and keep us in check to remain in our budget. There’s nothing quite as impacting than seeing your expenses all totaled up for you and graphed out. This is a great tool for all types of people at any stage in life to use, just be sure to show others where you got it from. This sheet continues to allow us to improve our efficiency money-wise and I hope this can help you as well. When you see the numbers, good or bad, it creates a better sense of how to manage your money and what areas you’re losing the most in.
When you’ve gotten static bills out-of-the-way, i.e. rent/mortgage/car payment/utilities/health care/insurance, you can begin to budget how much money you should be and want to be spending as a whole. With this in mind, we limit how much we go out to eat, shop, and save money for trips or any big expenses we know we’ll have; overall it helps us plan out our future and keeps any spending associated with bad habits in check. The biggest thing is differentiating wants from needs; when it comes to food, nourishing our bodies is of the utmost importance. But the art of efficient budgeting doesn’t stop at money and food, time is a luxury in which we all should invest wisely. Budgeting for Time is the next step to make life even more efficient.