I mentioned in my Baby Steppin’: April 2018 post that we had gone WAY over our food budget for the month…. like ridiculously far over it. I ended up taking that money from the fund we’d set aside for fixing up the house to sell, and although we aren’t selling now, it would have been a much better use of that money if we had put it on debt rather than eaten it. Poof… gone!
As a bit of a knee jerk reaction, I thought about completely slashing the food budget to a comical level. I mean, Dave talks about existing on rice and beans when you’re in debt snowball mode, and well… we’re vegans so rice and beans are kind of staples already. I was afraid of repeating April, and while fear might shine a light on a need for change, when not paired with truth, it can cause you to make rash decisions. So, we had a meeting.
Absolutely, our food budget needed an overhaul, but there are health concerns to consider too. Health issues were part of what racked up the debt for us during the flood last year and so we talked about a nutrition plan that would meet our dietary needs, but allow us to still make radical changes to the food budget. We chose Dr. Fuhrman’s, Eat to Live and then set about making a list of ways we could reduce what we spend.
The first thing we agreed must go? Restaurants! It’s expensive and it usually isn’t good for us… double whammy. We simply had to break the habit of using take-out as a fall back for “I can’t want to make dinner tonight”. The flood really kicked this habit into high gear because living in chaos made us not want to think about meal prep. This has NOT been easy, but we are committed to it for the sake of our future.
The second thing we could cut out? Junk food! That’s right, we annihilated another entire “American Diet food group” (already don’t eat animal products). I wish I had the numbers for all the dollars we’ve spent on the craving whim of… “You know what sounds good right now?” At first, this one was primarily about health for me. You know, cutting back on the packaged food laden with all those bad-for-you things? But, I realized I was thinking about the money too when I contemplated asking the husband to pick up a four pack of sparkling water drinks from Trader Joe’s on his way home one evening. Sparkling lemon water is totally on our meal plan, but suddenly I was thinking, “But it’s not necessary, we already have regular water to drink.” Besides, it would have also violated the next goal.
The third thing we could cut back? Multiple trips to the store each week! In any given week we might have two dozen or more transactions come through the bank that were strictly food! Using EveryDollar is certainly easier than my old method, but to open it and see you have 46 transactions to drag and drop is a little scary. Suddenly I would think, “Oh Lord, I really hope I have budgeted for all of these” (Realizing most of them were food, I knew I was in trouble). We do go to more than one store for general grocery shopping, but those should equal 2-5 transactions a week… at most! (Wal-mart, King Soopers, Natural Grocers, Trader Joe’s, and Costco – if we hit all five one week)
So, our goal is to not return to the store for anything until the next week, unless absolutely necessary. The first week I forgot leeks… so the veggie soup I made didn’t have leeks in it because I would have had to go back to the store to get them. It turned out just fine. The second week, we ran out of some other things early and just had to make do rather than run out and get more. We survived.
Obviously, I would love to do bi-weekly or even monthly shopping, but my storage capacity isn’t adequate for that… besides, fresh foods don’t stay fresh long, so weekly shopping works. As an added bonus, this also cuts down on our consumption of gasoline… cha-ching!
The fourth thing we agreed to cut out? Snacking! Yep, you read that right. No snacking between meals. Obviously, this wouldn’t work for everyone because some people are on diets which require snacking, but we chose to adopt a program that prohibits it. This was another difficult change. Those cravings kicked in and Whoa Nellie! After our bodies adjusted, we realized we actually felt better not being in digestion mode 24 hours a day. Plus, no snacking means more money in the bank and less fat on our hips/belly.
You might be wondering if any of this paid off… well, these changes put us $112.87 below our normal food budget for the month of May…. and we released a total of 21.2 pounds… yeah, we think it paid off. Plus, one of our college kiddos came home half-way through the month, bringing us to 5 people in the house.