Personalize Your Food Budget

March 25, 2021
| Created by Heather Lieber, MS, RDN, CD

The very title of this post includes “personalize” which means we’re going to get personal! How much does food mean to you? How do you prioritize food in your budget? 

Obviously, we’re biased, but here at Harmons we believe food should be at the top of your priority list. However, we get that sometimes circumstances dictate other things come first financially. Because of this, we offer a variety of products and brands to lower the financial barrier between you and nutritious groceries. Along with a variety of products, we’d like to offer tips for finding a successful, sustainable food budget and plan that fits your needs. 

Budgeting is a useful practice to track and keep spending in check. However, there is no one specific method or grocery list that is right for everyone. There are many factors to consider to make a food budget your own. Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself: 

How much of your income is allotted to groceries? What about eating out?  

Of course, how you choose to spend your money is up to you. Be honest with yourself. If you are feeling limited with your grocery budget, examine spending in other categories. Look at shopping, entertainment, subscriptions and other flexible spending areas. It may be time to rethink and reallocate funds.  

How often do you shop?  

Once you’ve defined about how much money you’d like to allocate to groceries, think about the timeline. How often do you make it to the grocery store? A grocery cart for two days or two weeks will look very different. This impacts the total cost of your trips and the types of products that make sense to buy. Compare your grocery shopping schedule to your paycheck schedule, and calculate how much grocery money you have for each pay period. If you’re short on time but need groceries more frequently, set aside an additional $4.99 and have our eShop associates pick your order for you. You will pull up to the store and we’ll load it directly into your car. Our eShop service is also a great way to ensure you stick to your list and avoid last minute impulse buys. 

Where are you willing to splurge?

Budgeting doesn’t mean deprivation. If there are products that you simply must have, work around them! Whether it’s a specific brand or convenience item, keep your favorites in the cart and compensate by identifying other foods to save on. A sustainable food budget is one that makes room for preferences. 

Where do you want to save? 

We all have certain products that we aren’t picky about. Pinpoint what those are for you and get creative! Maybe you buy the generic brand or the brand that’s on sale, or if a product has a long shelf life, buy in bulk! Prices are usually lower per unit in the bulk section. Defining where you want to save also means being aware of overpriced items that you don’t feel are worth it and avoiding impulse buys.   

General Budgeting Tips

With your personal food budget prioritized, here are a few tried and true budgeting constants: 

Watch the ad: Every Tuesday morning, Harmons releases the weekly ad which means new items are on sale! Bookmark this page to scope out what’s on sale each week. 

Have a plan, but leave room for abandoning the planDietitian Genevieve and Dietitian Ashley have outlined useful meal planning tips in previous blog posts. Even with a meal plan, it’s important to be realistic and know that occasionally the plan goes out the window. In these times, turn to your favorite go-to near-instant meals to save yourself the hefty price tag of eating out.  

Take inventory before you shop: After you’ve made a plan, check the pantry! Use up what you already have to save money and prevent food waste. This also prevents you from buying duplicates so you don’t end up with five bottles of ranch taking up precious shelf space in the fridge.  

Make a list: Once you’ve taken inventory and made a plan, MAKE. A. LIST. Even if you have an incredible memory and are sure you won’t forget anything, there’s something about writing it down that helps you stick to it and not stray from it. This is a good time to remind yourself to have a snack before going shopping. Walking into the store hungry without a list is a sure way to overbuy just about everything, and even forget other things you actually need. 

Check the per unit price: Rather than looking only at the price per package, look at the fine print to see the price per ounce, pound or each (whatever is listed). This can be found on price tags as well as listings on eShop. This way, you can accurately compare prices of products with different package sizes. Notice that the picture below lists $0.36 per ounce. You could then compare this to other shredded cheeses’ per ounce prices. 

We hope these ideas jumpstart the beginning of a personalized food budget and grocery shopping plan that works for your specific needs. For additional ideas or to visit with a dietitian individually, reach us at dietitian@harmonsgrocery.com.