One of my goals this year is to write a small series on food privilege. Most people I know have never experienced food insecurity and it’s something important that I want to share with people. What is food insecurity? It’s the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
The keywords here are affordable and nutritious. Sure, people can grab dinner from the dollar menu at McDonalds and it’s affordable but is it nutritious? A salad at McDonald’s may be nutritious but at $6 it may not be affordable.
Part of having food privilege is being able to not worry about little nuances like this in life. It’s being able to grab a $6-$13 salad and not give it another thought. My life has become this way (a bit) in recent years, but it wasn’t always this way. It used to be choosing between getting a salad like this and not having enough gas to get to work the next day or getting a $1.25 bean burrito and make it both home and to work with the gas I could put in my car.
And it’s important to note that food insecurity doesn’t look the same for everyone. For a mother who has a teenage son… a growing teen age vacuum cleaner… food insecurity looks very different. Think about it… buying a ton of veggies and fruit that will keep this kid satiated for like an hour can get expensive at times (especially when fruit isn’t in season or the kid eats a bag of apples quickly… also there’s the issue of time which we will discuss in another post).
Anyways, my story is why I started food budgeting a while back and as I work to pay off my exuberant amount of student loan debt it’s why I’m heading back to counting those food pennies. Now this doesn’t mean I’m food insecure by any means, no, I’m still hella privileged and I acknowledge that.
I am simply writing this post to help others who may be in a season of life where money is tight and affordable/nutritious food seems like it’s too far out of reach. These tips below are simply some tips and tricks to creating a budget for food and sticking to it!
Tip #1: Know your budget. Allot for both grocery expenses and eating out expenses. If it helps, pay for all of these items in cash to help keep yourself on track.
Tip #2: Have a plan! Meal planning will save your life and your budget. Think about what you want for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Yes plan your snacks! Having a plan will help you stick to a budget. Plan out not just what you are going to make or eat at/from home that week, also plan out any meals that you will be eating out. It really helps to just write it all out in a planner, on a white board, spreadsheet, piece of paper, etc. if you have a plan you’ll succeed!!
Tip #3: Get creative with your grocery plans! You can spice up $0.10 ramen noodle packages with some frozen veggies and spices from your spice cabinet. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Some of the bet meals I’ve ever had in my life were created totally by accident. Being creative allows you some creature comfort foods and helps keep you within your budget!
Tip#4: Take inventory of what you already have! Doing this can save you both time and money. Before you go grocery shopping or meal plan for the week, just poke around those cabinets or the fridge and see what you have already. If you have some frozen meat you need to eat, plan around that. Knowing what you have will make planning easier and keep you from spending money you didn’t need to.
Tip #5: Shop with a list. once you know what you are going to eat and what you already have, make a list of what you need. Every week I shop with a list and realllllllllly try hard to stick to the list. Sometimes I’m successful. Other times I buy a few impulse purchases. But if you make a list you’ll be better at staying within your budget!
Tip #6: Meal Prep! Meal prepping isn’t just for those gym rats, body builders, or those obsessed with diets or weight. Meal prepping is a game changer. Believe me I didn’t believe in it before but now I do! And no this doesn’t mean you have to eat the same meal each day nor does it mean you have to spend all day Sunday cooking everything. Meal prepping comes in so many different shapes and sizes. It can be as simple as cutting up all your veggies and putting them in containers to save yourself time during the week. Meal prepping will save you when you are tired on Wednesday night and would rather swing through the Popeyes than make dinner. I’ll tell you it’s great to come home and toss something in the microwave instead of cooking a whole meal.
Tip #7: Don’t be disheartened when it doesn’t work out. You are human and sometimes you won’t follow the meal plan, or you’ll grab that box of Captain Crunch you really wanted but didn’t put on your list. It’s okay! It’s a learning process, just try again next week!
I hope this helps anyone who may need it. I wish I knew what I know now when I was struggling to manage my money and eat.
This is only the start of my series of Food Privilege… make sure to look for the next part of this series which will be on Time and Food.
January 2020 Giveaway Question: which tip is the most helpful from this post?