I founded Eats 2 Know on the idea that nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated; and that a healthy and balanced diet can be attainable for you and by you. Creating a grocery budget doesn’t have to be a daunting chore. Part of my job as a nutritionist and educator includes making nutrition feasible, from purchase to consumption. Budget Planning 101 is the first step.

Enter creating nutrition education programs for fire departments. I quickly found that teaching nutrition lectures was great and beneficial in so many ways, but it wasn’t until true application and lifestyle adoption that the positive changes can occur. Throughout my career, a common theme discussed is that eating healthy on a budget can be perceived as difficult for many and is an area that I think many (we all) can improve on. I also often hear that eating healthy is too expensive, so I wanted to work on sharing how we can make nutrition and healthy eating attainable for each and every one of you on your own terms (and budget). Given this, I’ve created a Budget Planning 101 PDF to help you make the most of your budget when it comes to grocery shopping. For a sneak peak into the guide, check out these tips for budgeting below:

5 Steps For Creating A Grocery Budget

Step 1 Visualize the change you want to see. 

When I first started to take control of my budget, I needed to understand why. Why do you want to save money? For me, I realized that money saved from excessive spending on groceries (some which went to waste) could be used elsewhere. When I first started my budget challenge my goal was to save just five dollars a week or $20 a month or $260 in a year. It may seem small but it adds up quickly. To really understand why it’s worth budgeting I want you to visualize your goals. You can spend the money saved on literally anything. 

Step 2: Prioritize your needs vs. wants when creating a grocery budget.

By figuring out the difference between your necessities and the extras, you can understand which areas from your grocery list that you can cut, therefore decreasing your budget. A common place to start with extras includes your eating out habits, from coffee to takeout. Coffee and takeout are extra expenses that can add up quickly, but we can easily make them at home to save a little money (it all adds up).  For instance, if you normally spend $10 a week on 2 coffees at your favorite coffee shop, but could spend the same or less on coffee for the whole week if you make it at home. I’m all about finding what works for you — for me, I’ll try to make some things at home; and if it can’t live up to the hype of a convenience option, then I’ll go out to purchase it.  

Step 3: Create your list of non-negotiables (you know, your ‘must haves’ in your shopping cart each week) vs. flexible items. 

If you’ve never done this before it is a massive game changer — and if you have the budget PDF then you’ll know there’s a space for you to fill in these items and their costs. This was one of the biggest concepts that helped me get my budget down each week! As I got deeper into budgeting I started thinking what if I went into the stores being more open-minded? Instead of having a rigid meal plan, be flexible about the protein and produce on sale. To shop produce in-season or frozen because they’re cheaper and taste better (example: I love berries; in winter i get them frozen unless on sale — because they’re pricey in winter here; in summer I load up on fresh). To know that there would always be items I wanted (example: greens, sweet potatoes, etc.) and then budget money leftover can be  spread across flexible items. It’s incredibly freeing to not be attached to a specific food or set of recipes; to get out of a routine and be flexible. And just like that I found myself saving more money, with little effort.

Step 4: Prep

I’m all about creating a game plan for what meals you can have for the week. This can be before or after you shop (the reality is that we don’t always plan or sometimes we change our minds). When you have a plan, you can set yourself up for success from a budget and eating standpoint. Figuring out what to prep is a start, with hanger (hungry meets anger) back up plans in place. 

Hanger tip: In addition to prepping a few items, I suggest having a list of food ideas readily available so that you aren’t stuck with “what am I going to eat tonight?” Take a quick scan of your fridge, freezer, and pantry to see what’s in it and what you can prep quickly (i.e. 15 minutes or less). You’ve taken the guessing out of it — now you have plenty of ideas of how you can recycle and spice up the food you made throughout the week. This tip attacks boredom and hanger all at once. I recommend doing a quick scan of your kitchen to figure out some meals and snacks that you could whip up in a flash if the hanger were to attack!

Step 5: Repurpose Your Prep

Make the best of your meal prep and avoid boredom by recycling your leftovers into a whole new meal! For example, make a roasted whole chicken in the oven, then use the leftovers in meals such as a, salad topper, in a quesadilla, in a stir fry, soup, tacos, or more. Making flexible and versatile options (like a blank slate) as a start can then be turned into fancy and flavorful repurposed meals. 

Repurposing your prepared meals into new ones  is a large theme in Fast Food Reinvented (my ebook). I’m big into showing how you can make one recipe (side) into various meals throughout the week by changing up a few ingredients. Making use of what we’ve got — time and resources! 

Interested in learning more about budgeting? If you enjoyed this blog post and the Budget Planning 101 PDF, then grabbing a copy of Fast Food Reinvented is the next step for you. It’s all about taking control of health, budget and time by learning how to shop, prep and repurpose. 

I’d love to hear from you regarding all things budgets — strengths and struggles. Have you already created a grocery budget? Any interest in getting it down? What is your biggest Budget Planning 101 takeaway? Leave a comment below, and I’ll get back to you! And if you want to see what others are saying on Instagram, check out comments from our budget challenge last year