Managing Food Expenses | Money Management | Exodus Lending - Exodus Lending

Managing Food Expenses

By Kaitlyn Szabo May 11, 2022

We all have to eat, right? For many of us, food can be a source of great joy because it can nourish our bodies and souls, connect us to our culture and families, and create space for us to get creative or grow outside our comfort zones. But food can also be a source of stress and anxiety, especially if you or a loved one has struggled with disordered eating or little to no access to food.

Whenever we talk about budgeting strategies around food, we must first recognize that – like so many things – this is complicated and a lot more goes into our choices than cost. Because of this, infused throughout this guide to planning food expenses more intentionally is the key ingredient of self-compassion. We hope this will help you feel more empowered in whatever choices you make. 

Prep Time: Assess Your Current Habits and Needs

While many budgets will differentiate these categories, for our purposes, we’re going to group items like groceries, meal kits, dining out at restaurants, and getting delivery or take-out as a general category called food expenses

Therefore, to determine your household’s food expense needs, we suggest first doing an honest assessment of your current situation (or a grocery audit, as one blog calls it). 

Firstly, ask yourself these questions to determine the who, what, where, and how behind your food expenses right now.

  1. Who are the people in need of food? You may be partially or wholly responsible for feeding yourself, a partner and kids, extended family, or other community members or social groups.
  2. What do they need and like to eat? Picky eaters or not, people have unique taste preferences, dietary restrictions, and financial constraints that influence what they can or want to eat.
  3. Where do we get our food? Your household probably has a variety of food sources like a preferred grocery store (or two), favorite restaurant, or go-to delivery spot. 
  4. How much are we currently spending? If possible, review bank statements, delivery apps, and receipts from the last month or so to understand your general habits.

Get Cookin’: Making a Budget “Recipe” That Works for You

Before we move forward, we have one more question for you. Are these spending habits aligned with your eating preferences, budgeting goals, capacity, or other aspirations? If they are, that’s great! 

But if not, try one or more of these strategies to restructure, revamp, or reimagine your food budget.

  • Make a realistic grocery shopping list. 
    • Order the items on the list based on the grocery store’s layout to reduce impulse spending.
    • Build it around meals, emphasizing ones that use sale items or products you already own. 
  • Get creative in the kitchen.
  • Set yourself up for success.
    • Buy pre-cut produce or get some meals from a delivery service. (Why? Because while the cost may be higher, sometimes these “short-cuts” make cooking and eating more accessible and less time-intensive.)
    • Don’t deprive yourself. If you love to eat out, then plan one to two nights of dining out in your budget. 

Local Resource: Hunger Solutions has an excellent resource database to help Minnesotans find food shelves, free meals, discount grocers, and community food distributions near you.

Money Management E-Newsletter: April 2022