Even for a parent who is an expert at handling their own finances, adding additional mouths to feed can cause a budget to go off the rails in a hurry. It's all too easy to lose track of the monthly food budget when trips to the local McDonald's and Starbucks drinks add up. Being a Family CEO means occasionally making tough budget decisions, but it's relatively straightforward to bring expenses in line without too many complaints.
1. Meal Prep
The easiest and simplest way to balance the family budget is to replace fast food with homemade meals. You don't even need to go off the charts on day 1. Simply replacing one fast food a day with a meal made from affordably priced groceries can save an easy $5, or $150 over the course of a month. Saving the food in portable containers allows the replacement of lunch meals at school or work, but you can start by just using a paper bag. The important thing is getting started.
2. Fast Food Limits
It can be difficult to convince family members to cut down on expensive fast food, especially with the advice coming from a seemingly naggy parent. A fun suggestion is to make a game out of it, especially for a child who has had unchecked access to fast food in the past. For example, setting a three-meal-a-week limit encourages the child to think each day about their options. You can even offer an end-of-week reward if they end up "under budget". It's important to not make family members feel forced to make changes, but to encourage them to discover the new world of food budgeting for themselves.
3. Don't Waste Food
There's hundreds of reasons not to waste food: save the planet, don't consume too much, etc. But the most pressing reason not to waste food for most Americans is how expensive it can be. If you spend an extra $20 on groceries per week, it adds up to over $1000 per year. Getting out of debt and managing money is a series of small battles: any change you can make and repeat again and again will get you out of the red. Optimize your grocery shopping, making sure that you don't purchase what you don't need. While you're working on your finances, it's okay to save money by purchasing less food or store brands. Every dollar counts, and it especially counts when you're paying interest on debt.
4. Plan Traveling Carefully
Every family knows how stressful travel can be, and the charges for food tend to pile up quicker than we realize. If you are doing any travel, it's critical to figure out what the food situation will be beforehand. If you're going to stay in the same location for more than a couple days, it's usually a good idea to visit a supermarket in the area instead of splurging on fast food or a restaurant every night. Even if the place you're staying doesn't have a refrigerator, you can save plenty of money on canned goods. You'll still be able to make great memories without cringing at your credit card statement when you get home.
Ways to continue saving
Once the family starts to enjoy the idea of planning meals better, the sky's the limit. Small Tupperware containers can allow you to prepare a full week's meals at a time and buying food in bulk will bring costs even further down. But the most important thing is to introduce meal planning and budgeting to family members without it being rejected outright, and the key is small, fun, healthy changes.