This week I will be running some excerpts from my new book, Real Food on a Real Budget: How to Eat Healthy for Less. They will be short selections from a few different chapters, just to give you an idea of some of the contents.
Taken from Chapter 1: Working With a Budget
Once you have determined what your monthly budget ought to be, or how much you have to work with, here is my biggest piece of advice in sticking to that budget: USE CASH!
I know the reasons that people prefer not to use cash. They don’t want to carry that much around in their purse. They prefer to put in on a credit card that earns points and then pay it off. They make all of their expenses on debit and then just keep track of it. It’s more work to set it up, take out the cash at the beginning of the month, and stick to the system. It’s embarrassing to pull out an envelope full of cash when you’re in a busy line-up at the grocery store. It’s _______ (insert your own reason here).
Regardless of your reason for not wanting to use cash, here are the reasons that I find it the best way to stay on track with my own grocery budget:
It is visible and very tangible. I can see exactly how much I have left, and I feel it when I pull those bills out to make a purchase and notice how much smaller the remaining stack is. It keeps me very conscious of what I spend.
It prevents me from making impulse purchases that I really don’t have the money for. Trust me- it is much more embarrassing to not have enough cash for the food you’ve put in your cart than it is to simply count out the correct amount in front of curious onlookers! When I know exactly how much I have to spend, I make sure that I am keeping track of what goes into my cart before I get to the checkout line.
Even if I forget that I’ve spent more than I thought, the cash is no longer there and I cannot accidentally bust my budget. This is something that would often happen to me when we used a debit card for all our purchases. The smaller, quick-run-to-the-store kind of expenses would slip my mind when I was calculating how much money I had left to spend, until it actually came time to add it all up at the end of the month and I would realize that, once again, I had gone over budget. With cash, if it’s spent, it’s spent.
It forces me to really evaluate each purchase as I go to make it. Sure, that packaged spaghetti sauce would be nice and easy, but for the same amount I could purchase tomatoes and tomato paste and some veggies, and make a much larger amount of sauce that would be more nutritious. And do we really need those store-bought muffins or could I easily whip up a batch of my own (but minus the rancid oils, white flour and sugar, preservatives, etc.) and have a fun morning with my 5 year old? Those out-of-season peaches for $3.50 a lb in May might look awfully tempting, but I could buy a whole lot more seasonal rhubarb and strawberries for the same amount of money.
It helps me to set aside money for larger purchases, such as a side of grass-fed beef or buying organic grains in bulk or purchasing berries in the summer. By going through my cash at the beginning of the month and separating it for savings, for my raw milk share, for my co-op order, and then only spending what’s remaining on other groceries and produce, I can ensure that I’m actually using my budget the way that I plan to rather than running on auto-pilot and finding that I’m coming up short at the end of each month.
Do you use cash for your grocery budget? Why or why not?
Post taken from my newest book, Real Food on a Real Budget. Find out more about how you can save money and still eat real, whole, nourishing foods!