How to Keep Your Food Budget and Waistline in Check

Ok. You just moved into your home somewhere in metro Atlanta and you are settling into your new job and your new environment.  Let’s say, you have been getting into this routine for about six months now and you start to notice that you have been overspending each month.  How can you start to trim some of the fat from your excessive spending sprees each month and develop a budget for yourself?

One thing that I have noticed is that food is the most expensive thing that I buy each month.  And yes, there may be sites that tell you to cut coupons and get things at a discount but are the things that you get with coupons even necessary?  More importantly, are these things really healthy for you?  There are so many considerations when it comes to feeding yourself and your family and let me tell you that there are no cut and dry answers.  If you have discounts, by all means use them but here, I’m going to include you in on some simple hacks that I use in order to save money and be a little healthier in the process.  Trust me, food is a runaway, variable expense that you have to control because it alone can make you broke each month.

I recently started working out at the gym with a trainer and I’m proud of myself for it.  My personal trainer helped me realize how much I was getting wrong with my diet.  All of the wrong choices I was making with my diet was the root of all the excessive spending that I was doing monthly.  So the first thing you have to do in order to improve  your food budget is to decide that you are going to eat better.  I know this isn’t the answer that you probably want to hear but look on the bright side, this change will most likely improve your health for the long term.  A good way to start to eat better is to download a calorie tracking app so that you can see just how terrible some of the things that you put into your body are.  These apps will show you the sugar, fat and salt content of groceries and food that you eat at restaurants.  This alone will probably scare you into shopping and cooking for yourself more than eating out.

Once you finish this shock treatment, you will discover that food is one part energy one part waste (and the waste part is huge) so you will need to train your taste buds to eat what give you more energy and less waste so you won’t be sluggish throughout the day.  For instance, you may not need to eat fast food biscuits or pancakes every morning which could cost $5-6 dollars per morning.  Perhaps you should eat a piece of fruit or oatmeal or something light to start the day.  Your body doesn’t need that much excitement anyway first thing in the morning, so train your body to start to eat healthier breakfast.  This will make you feel better and save you $30 a week.  If you are the type that fruit doesn’t suffice as much as that big, tasty biscuit breakfast, try eating healthy, high energy snacks between breakfast and lunch.  Avoid stopping at the vending machine for that on the go snack that may run you about $1 per day and $5 dollars by the end of the week.

Lunch time may be a tough one for most, because many of you may be used to a ritual of going out with friends or co-workers and paying $6-10 dollars on lunch.  That equates to $30-$50 spent by the end of the week by the way.   If you must, minimize time spent with friends and co-workers at lunch time; or, to avoid seeming like a broke party pooper, try to eat healthier options.  This won’t save much money but at least you will reduce your waistline.  The app that I mentioned before will allow you to determine whether the food you are about to consume has too many calories, thus, you can at least make healthy choices while hanging with co-workers.   After lunch, avoid that sugar and salt rush that comes around 2-3 p.m. by eating a healthier snack alternative than a chocolate bar or potato chips which may also run you a $1.  Cutting out most of the junk food you eat during the week while at work may reduce your waistline and even place a few bucks back into your pocket for other things.

Notice that I mentioned snacking between breakfast and lunch and between lunch and dinner.  My personal trainer mentioned that healthy snacking improves metabolism and keeps the body from storing fat so keep this in mind if you are not much of a snack person.  These in between snacks can keep the body from gorging at lunch and dinner.

Now on to dinner.  I know that as Americans, we have lost a sense of sitting down and enjoying a nice home cooked meal but you should really try to do this as much as possible.  It is good for family life and it’s good for the budget.  The hard thing about this ritual is determining what to eat.  One thing that I have started to do with my teen children is we sit down at the end of each month, print out and blank calendar, and write out meal plans.  I know this may sound lame but this ritual helps me plan grocery shopping better, allows me to watch my calorie intake more effectively, and most importantly helps me prevent overspending.  When I know ahead of time what we will be eating for the month, this allows me to plan groceries better because I buy exactly what we need to consume for the month.  Another great thing about this is that it’s great bonding and decision-making time with the family which allows for the children to be involved in helping to make healthier food choices.  If you don’t do anything else that I mentioned in this article, try this method – it works!  It may start off a little wonky but persist at it for a month or two until it becomes a habit.

After putting some or all of these tasks into place, review your bank statement after a couple of months of and you should start to notice at least $50 extra bucks in your pocket per month and your waistline shrinking.

How are these changes working for you?  Share your results in the comments section.  And don’t forget to follow Move Me to Atlanta on social media at Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.


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