The part about budgeting.

Who’s sick of hearing about all this meal planning crap!? ME. I promise at some point I’ll go back to talking about way cooler things. ->Insert all kinds of internal thoughts like “what are cool people even talking about these days?” and “I guess now that I’ve said that I will actually have to come up with topics of discussion that are considered cool.” and “It’s only a matter of time before my three readers are ready to move on with their lives.”<- #bloggerlife

Okay so nerd alert, today is all about budgeting. Am I a budgeting expert? No. Can I set up a food budget? Kind of. Can I stick to said budget? That’s a firm no. BUT I feel like in theory, all of these things will work for the average person who has a little bit more self-control and self-discipline than I do. Spoiler alert: that’s all of you reading this.

If you’re expecting me to tell you exactly how much feeding your family of 5 should cost per week, I hate to break it to ya but I’m not your girl. I really don’t even know how much it costs to feed my family of 4 because one week my kids could eat 3 rotisserie chickens and 12lbs of grapes a day, and the next week survive on 3 goldfish crackers. One of the reasons I’m doing this is so I can figure out a realistic number for us, so for the sake of this example I’m just going to go with an arbitrary $100 a week. Math is hard and that just seems like a good number. Another disclaimer here is that this has the potential to sound wayyy more complicated than it is, so if your brain hurts reading this, I give you permission to just go eat some ice cream.

Just like we’re looking at a year-long view of meals, I’m looking at a year-long view of the budget.  So come January 2018, I’m starting off with a (hypothetical) budget of $5200 for groceries.  STOP FREAKING OUT  and wait for the explanation. Obviously (or maybe not obviously? I don’t know) I don’t plan on having $5200 in my pocket to spend on food come January. And if I did, I wouldn’t spend it all right away. If you do have all your grocery money for the year set aside, you are winning at life and I need to quit this blog and start doing what you’re doing.

Now I will say that in this house we love us some Dave Ramsey but we also love our Discover card. For the most part, we put all of our monthly expenses on it and pay it off each month. Dave will argue that no one ever made millions on cashback bonuses, but we did use all that free money for our Christmas shopping last year, so ya know what Dave? WORTH IT. I’m NOT advocating racking up debt with your grocery bill, but it does give us some flexibility for stocking up. Like anything else, you’re investing a little more up front but saving in the long run.

If we didn’t have a ton of flexibility in our grocery bill, here’s what I’d do. Since we’re heading into the holiday season it’s a terrible time to suggest this, but I would take a couple months and eat as CHEAP as possible. Beans and rice, mac and cheese, do what you gotta do to give yourself a little bit of room to skim off the top of your grocery budget, and then SAVE IT. If you’re me, you’ll need someone to physically hide the extra cash from you or it will mysteriously disappear into the abyss of Target or Amazon prime. Start putting a little bit aside from anywhere in your budget so that the next time you see ground beef on sale (eye roll at myself right now) you’ll have the cash to stock up.

The other thing I’ve noticed from watching the sale flyers recently is this. (Sidebar: I live in rural northern Maine and we have like 4 grocery stores to choose from…no Aldi or Costco…sigh…) One week chicken breasts were on sale at Graves’, the next week they were on sale at either Save-a-Lot or Steaks ‘n Stuff (can’t remember for sure), and the following week they were on sale at IGA. So if you’re not loyal to any one store, I would stock up over the course of 3-4 weeks at different stores versus stocking up all at once at just one store. Then it would be a little gentler on your weekly budget, and you’re still saving a few bucks. Make sense?

Also, try planning just for a week or two. You WILL spend less money if you have an actual plan and don’t go floundering into the grocery store while you’re starving only to realize all you left with was a cucumber and 3 bags of chips to get you through dinner the whole week. I guarantee if you’re starting from scratch and make a basic plan and go into the store with a list, you’ll find money you didn’t know you had. (You could also take that approach literally and start checking last year’s winter coat pockets for that $20 you forgot about.)

Now, back to the actual managing of the money and the math crap. Deep breath.

So let’s say your budget for the year is $5200 — $100 a week. Spend $100 bucks the first week? Great. Your budget is still $100 bucks a week. But let’s say the second week you stock up on chicken for a few months and spend $200. And the next week you hit up a beef sale and spend another $200. Altogether you’ve spent $500 in 3 weeks and you now have $4,700 left in your year-long budget. With 49 weeks left in the year, your new budget is about $95 a week. It seems like you’ve gone over your weekly budget, but long- term you’re still in great shape. Okay? Go eat the ice cream now. Eventually as you keep stocking up, your weekly budget is going to go down. But that’s okay, because you will have a ton of things that you won’t need to worry about buying anymore!

Next time we talk I’m going to give you a little tour of my fun little May Designs notebook and how easy it is to organize this with a simple little calendar and a few notebook pages. After that, we are D-U-N DUN! If you have questions, feel free to get in touch! But I feel like if I give any more details about my thought process you will be too frightened to give yearly meal planning a try. At some point you just gotta jump outta the nest and figure out the kinks as you go!

Signed,

Type B, ESTP, 8w7.

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