This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure to learn more. Updated 9/18/16
How frustrated are you with your grocery budgeting right now?
I know that for me, my grocery budget can be my nemesis. I feel that I try to set a budget, and then inevitably blow past it each month. So I finally decided enough is enough. I had to figure out a different way to approach grocery budgeting. Here is the problem I kept having…
I would try to set a grocery budget that I thought sounded good, and then I would create my meal plan for the month.
I would list all the ingredients that I needed for the meals and then would pay whatever it costed once I got to the grocery store.
And I would always be considerably over budget each time.
How can I be over budget again?!
I thought meal planning was supposed to fix all my grocery dilemmas! I had to find the solution to this going-over-budget deal. So I decided to flip the process. My method:
Instead of planning my meals first and setting my budget by that, I set my budget first and figured out what I could spend on each meal. Click To Tweet
So this is how I solved my grocery budget quandary and how you can too with my auto-calculating budget chart.
Step 0: Download the Grocery Budget Calculation Chart.
Step 1: Setting the budget
In our household, it’s just me and my hubby and our 4-legged furry baby. Since we are trying to save as much as possible each month, I like to trim off as much as I can from our grocery spending. I ended up setting our grocery budget at $200 a month. I want to try to get that down lower in the future, but it’s a realistic budget for us to meet right now. Plus, I shop at ALDI to really save money on our groceries!
Now when I say “grocery,” I am only referring to what I spend at the store on food for snacks or meals. I do not include toiletries, paper towels, toilet paper, etc. in this category. (Those items are included in the household expenses category in my overall budget.)
We also have a separate budget for when we go eat at a restaurant or get take-out. Click here to see what I mean and get my free budget template! So once again, the grocery budget I am talking about in this post is only referring to food purchases at the store.
So go ahead and write down what you want your grocery budget to be. Then after you download the budget chart, you can put that number in. You will put this number in cell C7 which is the pink highlighted box at the bottom of the “Budget Per Meal” column. When you put this number in, the chart will automatically update.
(P.S. Download the iBotta app for free to save money on tons of grocery items!!)
Step 2: Break down your budget into 4 categories
Here you will decide how much of your budget will go towards breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. If your total grocery budget is $100 and you want to spend 50% of it on dinner, then that translates to $50 budgeted for dinner; and so on for the other meals. You can change around these percentages until it best fits your household’s needs. Just remember that the total percentage should add up to 100%. The pie chart below shows the breakdown for my grocery budget as an example.
Dinner takes up a large majority of our budget because that is our largest meal, and we eat the leftovers for lunch. Breakfast is a fairly small part of the budget because my husband doesn’t eat breakfast, and I eat very little. Plus breakfast foods are fairly affordable.
Step 3: No. of Servings
This refers to the number of people in your house who will eat a regular adult sized serving. You will have to use your discretion on what number to put in here based on how your family members eat.
-If your household consists of you, your spouse, and 3 ravenous teenage boys: instead of putting in “5” for the number of servings, you might put in 7 or 8 because your boys eat double what you do.
-Or if your household consists of you and two kids under the age of 10: instead of putting in “3”, you might only put in 2 or 2.5 because usually little ones don’t usually eat as much as you.
Once again, this number really stands for how many portions your family will eat rather than just strictly how many people are in your family. Furthermore, the number could change from meal to meal. Some family members might eat more at dinner, but less at breakfast. In my handy-dandy chart below, you will be able to adjust this to your household’s specifications. Here’s what the chart looks like:
Step 4: Use Budget Per Serving to Plan Your Meals
After you have plugged in your info into the chart from Steps 1-3, it will calculate how much you should be spending per person per meal. Using my example, 65% of our budget is for dinner and we have 2 people in our household. This means we can spend $130 each month for dinner which is $2.10 per person per dinner. The chart calculates this number by dividing the total budget ($200) by the percent dedicated to dinner (65%) which equals $130. Then dividing this $130 by 31 days of the month, and then dividing that number by 2 which is the number of portions we need.
Ta-Da! That is how we arrive at $2.10 per person per dinner.
This last step is to check to see if the meals you plan are within your new budget. You can check this by selecting one of your typical meals and adding up the cost of the ingredients you need to make it. Divide this amount by how many servings you usually get out of the meal. If it costs me $10 to make chili for dinner, and I get 6 servings out of it, the cost per serving would equal $1.67. This meal would make the cut for my meal plan because the cost per serving is under $2.10.
This is the key to sticking to your new budget!
Ready to get your grocery calculations? Just download the chart and plug in your household info and it will calculate for you!
Download the Grocery Budget Calculation Chart.
Tips & Highlights
- Edit the chart in the order of steps 1-3.
- Only edit 3 parts of the chart
- Total budget: Type in what you want your grocery budget to be in cell C7 highlighted pink. Experiment with different numbers here until you find one that is feasible for your household.
- % of Total budget: Choose what percent of your grocery budget you want to spend on breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Remember that these should add up to 100%.
- No. of Total Servings: Remember that this number represents the number of servings your household eats at each meal. Ex. A family of 4 has two heavier eaters who eat 2 servings instead of 1 at eat meal. So the numbers should be 6 instead of 4. These numbers could be different for each meal.
- The pie chart seen above is also included in the download. It will automatically update as you put in your numbers.
- If you are viewing the chart on your mobile device, I suggest getting the Google “Sheets” app. It will allow you to view and edit the chart right on your phone.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with the numbers! Change your total budget and the percentages for each meal to see how it will affect your budget per serving.
- Shop at ALDI to save money on groceries! Learn how here or below.
Be advised that this chart is to show you how much you can spend per serving per meal with an allotted budget. If you set a low grocery budget that you really want to meet, then you might have to change some of the meals you cook. On the other hand, you may have to raise your grocery budget a little more if you don’t want to cook meals that fit the budget per serving.
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed this post.
Please share, subscribe, and comment below!