I am sure that every American asks this question, ‘What’s for dinner’? The bigger question, however, should be ‘How much is it going to cost’? As a child, my family went grocery shopping every Saturday morning and my mother knew exactly what we needed because she had a meal plan. Dinner brings families together- planning it out can bring them even closer!


How much should I spend?

Dave Ramsey, a personal money-management expert, and popular radio host suggests spending between 5-15% of your take-home pay on groceries, including eating out. For example, if your take-home pay is $2,500 per month, the Dave Ramsey formula allows approximately $125-$375 per month or $31-$94 per week on ALL food. The envelope system is a great place to start. First, determine your weekly food budget and place the cash in an envelope for the entire month. Next, each time you go to a grocery or convenience store, restaurant, or through the lunch line, use cash from the envelope. Depending on your habits or the size of your family, the budget could be very tight! A word of caution; school/ work lunches or special events like a birthday dinner could use your entire weekly or monthly budget before ever stepping foot into a grocery store.


Going Out the Door, What's for Dinner?, grocery bag


What do we really need?

Short-term food storage includes items on sale. For instance, if your family enjoys eating spaghetti once a week and the meal requires one jar of sauce, you will need 26 jars of sauce for six months. A sale of the sauce saves $1.00 per jar plus any coupons you may find, putting at least $26.00 back into your grocery budget. Keep a list of the items your family eats, watch the sales, and stock up! After a few months, you will begin to notice huge savings in your food bill.

Going Out the Door, What's for Dinner?, pasta

Spaghetti Dinner Tips: 

  • Buy sauce and noodles only when they are on sale. Double check the expiration dates and write them in a visible spot with a sharpie so they are easy to see.
  • Boil two pots of noodles at a time if you have to stand over one pot you might as well do two! Drain and rinse the noodles and separate them into meal sizes. Place the noodles in freezer baggies with a little olive oil and lay them flat in the freezer. It is wonderful in the summer to warm the noodles in the microwave without heating up the kitchen! The convenience saves a ton of time plus resists the temptation to eat out when in a hurry.
  • Cook and freeze an extra meatloaf to use with spaghetti at a later date.
  • Skip the meat. Celebrate meatless Mondays and save the budget for another day.
  • Make extra for lunch. To stretch your meal a bit further, add a little water from the noodle pot or add a small can of tomato sauce with some spices to the sauce. A pound of spaghetti and meat (optional) and a large jar of sauce feeds a family of four.
  • Coupons for spaghetti sauce are readily available. www.coupons.com is an online source or visit the websites of your favorite brands (be sure to join their Facebook pages). The coupons are usually valid for several months and the product goes on sale at least once before the coupon expires.

Food for thought: How many hours do you work per week to cover your food budget?

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