145: How Do I Get My Food Budget Under Control?

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I'm a former Analyst, Podcaster, and Producer. My goal is to help you understand your finances better in about the time it takes to make a bag of popcorn!

Keeping my food budget under control can be so difficult some months. Erin Chase from 5DollarDinners.com stopped by for a bag of popcorn and to share some of her favorite tips on how to reduce your food budget!


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So How Do I Get My Food Budget Under Control?

Why is food such a difficult item to budget for and keep under control?

I really think there’s two reasons that food is tricky. The first one is we have to eat every day. I mean that’s like super obvious, right? But it’s a necessity. We have to eat something every day.

What ends up happening, as we roll into what I think would be the second reason, is that, because we have to eat every day, because we have to provide something for ourselves every day, we fall easily into the convenience trap.

And the convenience trap is drive-through or takeout or Uber Eats or DoorDash or whatever is near you. We live so much in the moment and I feel like with food, and then having to pay for food, we just do it in the moment.

What we don’t do is we don’t calculate that in the moment. We don’t calculate backwards to how much we’ve already spent on food, and we don’t calculate how much we will be spending on food if we keep up these convenience type food habits.

Why are we so bad at estimating our food budget?

Typically, we kind of have a ballpark idea of how much we spend on groceries, because you go to the store, you spend $125-ish a week. Okay, that’s $5,600 dollars on the month on the groceries.

But what we don’t add up is every time we’re swiping our debit card in the drive-through or grabbing lunch or whatever. Not to say that you can’t or shouldn’t do those things. They can be part of your budget. But they need to be part of your budget.

Where do you still struggle with your food budget?

Thursdays, I call it my Trigger Dinner day. I just can’t do dinner on Thursdays. I don’t know why. I’m a food blogger, I cook for a living basically. But somehow Thursdays is just really hard for me personally.

So, I have figured out that Thursdays is now going to just have to be a slow cooker meal because I just need to do it in the morning, because there’s just something about Thursday afternoons, I just have a mental block. I’m tired at that point. I’ve done a lot of work for the week. I’ve Ubered my kids all over town already. I’m just kind of over it.

But I figured out that was my tough day, so I figured out how to get around that. But I think it’s just that awareness of what are my trouble spots. Maybe it’s you’re going out to lunch too much, or maybe you need to cut your coffee habit.

Whatever it is, you need to come up with an alternative first, right? With any habit change, right, you need to come up with an alternative. So my Thursday night, just don’t want to cook dinner. Going to bust through the drive-through. My habit changes is that’s now a slow cooker day.

Meet Today’s Guest – Erin Chase

Erin Chase is the founder of 5DollarDinners.com, 5DollarMealPlan.com, GroceryBudgetMakeover.com, and MyFreezEasy.com and author of The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook series. She’s on a mission to help busy, overwhelmed home chefs learn to spend less money on groceries and get organized in the kitchen.

Her courses and membership programs have helped tens of thousands of shoppers save hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless shreds of sanity. Beyond the money savings, she’s helped many people come to enjoy cooking again and help them stop feeling stressed and overwhelmed with feeding their families every single night.

When not whipping up delicious, frugal meals in the kitchen or helping streamline work schedules, she can be found out of a run, chasing her 4 boys around the neighborhood, or taking escape from the south Texas heat at the pool. She lives with her husband, 4 hungry boys, and 1 furry boy in San Antonio, TX.

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