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  • Magastos Sa Pagkain? Here's How To Stick To Your 2022 Food Budget

    Of all the items in our budget, food expenses are probably the hardest to control.
    by Grace Bautista .
Magastos Sa Pagkain? Here's How To Stick To Your 2022 Food Budget
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  • There are many factors that affect our food spending—ever-increasing food prices, addressing the needs of a picky eater, changing or growing needs of a growing family, increasing disposable income and abundance of online shopping and food delivery options are just a few.

    While we have little control over inflation and food prices, there are many other things we could control to keep our expenses reasonable. Here are a few tips to help us stick to a budget while still ensuring a good and healthy diet for our families.

    7 Ways to stick to your food budget

    1. Plan your meals and follow through.

    A meal plan does not need to be too elaborate and detailed, but at least have a list of food you will cook for each day of the week to guide your grocery shopping. If you don't have time for meal planning, you could start with this quarantine meal plan or this 5-day dinner plan for less than Php1,500. See what works for your family, then modify until you have something of your own.

    2. Resist the urge to order out.

    Ordering out often will easily double or triple your food expenses compared to preparing your own meals. So, to avoid overspending on food deliveries, do not open your food delivery apps every time you crave something. Instead, plan the times you will order out. If your budget can afford, earmark some amount for ordering out once or a few times per month. Save ordering for days when you are too tired to cook or when there are achievements to celebrate.

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    3. Stick to a 'suking tindahan' when buying your food staples.

    In my experience, trying stores other than the one where I usually shop significantly skews my grocery bill. This is because grocery stores have different price points for different items. The difference in prices is usually small for processed food, but the prices of fresh meats, fish, vegetables and fruits vary greatly. Also, it’s easy to get excited about promos, bundles, “rare finds” and cheaper items you could buy in these stores (even if you don’t need them) because everything seems new or different to you. The result could be bill shock at the checkout counter! It's fun trying different places to shop for food but doing so is not good for the budget. On the other hand, shopping in the same place regularly may allow you to earn shopping points which you could eventually use to pay for some of the food you buy.

    4. Have a steady interval (make it as long as possible) between grocery runs.

    Avoid going to the supermarket more than once a week, and refrain from going there just to buy a few items or ingredients. Supermarkets are designed to tempt us to buy more than we need. And every time we go there, we end up buying at least one item we could do without. Go to your neighborhood sari-sari store or a nearby talipapa for your missing ingredients instead. To avoid having missing ingredients for your meals, go back to tip #1.

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    5. Cut down on food waste.

    To do this, it is very important to know the right food portion for your family so that whatever you cook is just enough to consume within a day. In our home, I notice that leftovers, especially those in odd quantities, rarely get consumed and end up being thrown out after about a week, so, it is best to avoid having leftovers altogether.

    Another way to reduce food waste is to refrain from buying too much fruits and vegetables that go bad before you could consume them. Remember that every piece of rotten banana you throw out is equivalent to P5 to P12 pesos and every carrot costs around P20 pesos. So offer the fruits to your kids soon after you buy them and plan to use your vegetables while they are fresh. Also learn how you could prolong the shelf life of your veggies here and here.

    6. For celebrations, see if ordering or eating out is more economical than cooking at home.

    Even if my family of five has only had simple, at-home birthday celebrations with no guests during the pandemic, we still spend three to five thousand pesos buying groceries for these occasions. I figured I could spend the same amount of money to order food from a restaurant, enjoy good food, and not tire myself out from the food preparations and cleanup after cooking and eating. Depending on the size of your family and what you like to eat during family occasions, eating or ordering out may be more cost-efficient for you, too. 

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    7. Rework your monthly budget.

    Are you constantly dipping into other pockets of your budget to fill the gap between your food budget and your actual food spend? Review your food budget versus your actual food expenses over the last months and see if there is a pattern of overspending. Note that spending more than you intend for food is not always bad and not always your fault. Food prices have been increasing and a growing family’s dietary needs keep changing so it’s only natural for our food expenses to increase. If you have been regularly overspending, it may be time to increase your budget to a realistic amount that can accommodate your actual food spend (without going overboard). Decide what kind of budgeting works for you and your family–following a weekly budget, bi-weekly or monthly–and stick with that.

    Grace Bautista is a work-from-home mom who enjoys a budget-friendly lifestyle with her husband and three boys.

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