After housing and transportation, food expenses are the largest expense in our budget. Of course, I’m sure this is common for most families. However, as a family working towards financial independence, any expenses that we can possibly reduce are on the proverbial chopping block.
I regularly listen to a podcast called ChooseFI. It’s about making small-ish changes to one’s life in order to achieve financial independence and (possibly) retire early. One of the hosts (you can read about him here), regularly talks about how his family of four spends less than $2 per person per meal. I think we get close to this with a lot of our meals, but definitely not all of them.
Aside from the “peer” pressure provided by a podcast, I’m always concerned with the research. Every month, the USDA creates a report that shows the average costs of food at home for individuals and families across four levels – thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost, and liberal. In April 2018 (the most recently available), a family of two averages between $384 and $765 per month. This includes all meals – even eating out. Without giving an actual number because I’m a bit embarrassed, let’s just say that this is an area that Mr. Smith and I need to focus on reducing.
How did we do in August?
Our big secret to actually sticking to our budget included meal planning and sticking to it. Yes, I know how simple this sounds. The other thing we did was increase how often we use the crockpot and I bought a new cookbook to go with our new resolve.
Since most recipes make a ton of food for just two (or sometimes three) people, we would eat the crockpot meal on the first day and then a few days later as a pre-yoga meal. I would freeze half of the recipe from the first night. Essentially getting four meals over two weeks out of one cooking adventure. So far, I have made pork posole and coq au vin from this cookbook and both were fantastic right out the crockpot AND right out of the freeze. In other words, I thank past Amanda each time I pull a meal out of the freezer.
Our typical meal plan for the past couple of months has been:
Monday: Something from the crockpot or freezer
Wednesday: Out for our date
Thursday: A repeat of Monday
Saturday and Sunday vary quite a bit since we like to adventure.
This plan is working for us nicely and it will be interesting to see if we can keep it up during the school year.
- Track all of our food spending
- Take pictures of our grocery trips