By Terry Frisk
What a financial roller coaster this year has been! We have had to make several revisions to the budget we meticulously prepared at the beginning of the year in response to seemingly nonstop price increases. While the overall annual inflation rate was reported as 9.1% in June of this year, the food price index increased 12.2% over the past year. How do we feed our families a healthy diet and stay within our budget? Here are some tips to control your food costs.
- Set a budget and track your spending. Determine the maximum amount you can spend on groceries. The standard rule of thumb is your food cost should not exceed 15% of your income. If you earn $1,000 per week, your food budget should not exceed $150. To ensure you do not exceed your budget, use the calculator function on your smartphone to keep a running total of the items you put in your cart.
- Plan your weekly menu and make a list of items you need. Studies show that people spend less when they go to the store with a list. Purchasing only what is needed to complete the weekly menu guards against buying excess items that may spoil or accumulate in the pantry. Reducing excess purchasing also helps keep store shelves stocked so items are available to others who may need them.
- Shop for sales and use coupons. As you plan your menu and make your shopping list, check your store’s sales ads. You no longer have to purchase the local newspaper to find the sales ads. Most stores post their savings ads online. Likewise, discount coupons are available through various online and social media sites such as coupons.com and savings.com.
- Participate in store loyalty programs. I recently checked out at a local supermarket and the register total was $20 higher than I had calculated. When I questioned it, the clerk asked if I was using the loyalty program pricing. Of course, I was and I had simply forgotten to present my card before checking out. The clerk was gracious enough to re-ring my items to get the discount. It not only saved me about 15% of the total bill, it also provided a discount on fuel purchased at the store’s fuel center.
- Preserve fresh foods when they are available. September is a time when many fresh fruits and vegetables are available in abundance at a low cost. Research the best ways to preserve these items and recruit the family to participate in the process. It is a good way to store foods now for use during the winter months when their price in the store is higher.
I also want to encourage those of you who have been blessed with an abundance and spend less than 15% of your income on food to give generously to your local food pantry to help those who are experiencing food insecurity. For Jesus said:
“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)
If you are experiencing difficulty providing food for your family, there are many resources available to help. If you have access to the Internet, search “food assistance programs near me” for a list of available food assistance programs. You can also call your local office of the Department of Health and Welfare for assistance.
It doesn’t appear that we will see relief from inflation anytime soon. However, you can mitigate the impact on your grocery bill by following these tips to control costs. Also, please support those less fortunate who experience the hardship that the spiraling food costs cause through giving to food assistance programs. Your generosity will be rewarded. Take care and may God bless!
Terry Frisk is a partner in the firm B2B CFO, providing financial advisory services to small businesses. He also counsels individuals on personal financial matters through the Cathedral of the Rockies Budget Counseling ministry. He may be contacted through e-mail at [email protected].