Making a Food Budget

June 20, 2008

Posted by: Y

In the beginning of college, I was notorious for using all my money on food (and clothes, of course). My parents gave me $900 a month for living expenses/eating (not including rent, which they paid as well). Needless to say, I was spoiled, but my parents did that because they knew I wouldn’t be able to survive by cooking on my own in NYC. Shamefully, I still found myself short on cash at the end of the month, and lived on ramen for a week (that sounds funny to me thinking about it now, but it was definitely not funny for me then)! I think back and really regret not having saved a majority of the money; I would probably have a lot of money in savings by now.

 I am still working through changing my ways. A couple years ago, I created a personal P&L sheet in Excel so that I would know when I was going to have money coming in and out. This solved the problem of starving the last week of the month. However, I made it so that I could see how much money I had left over (not really tracking how much I spent) and ended up spending all the extra money on clothes and expensive meals. Now that I have to pay for everything on my own (rent taking a big chunk of my paycheck), I really need to make strict guidelines for myself and track my spending. I don’t just want to skim by, I want to put away a substantial amount of money in savings.

Recently, I created a food budget sheet in excel. I used to spend an average of 25-30 dollars a day on food in college. A day!! Now, since I cook more often and only eat out on occasion, I use alot less money. I am slowly weaning myself to using less and less on food, so I haven’t really set a end goal for a food budget. So at the beginning of the week, I’ll take a quick inventory of what I have in the fridge/pantry to make sure I am using up everything that is perishable. Then I make a menu for the week that works around the perishables I want to use up, also scheduling when I will go pick up any more necessary ingredients at the market. This process ensures that I cook at least 5-6 nights a week. So I made my weekly food budget excel sheet in a way that would be easy to carry over to following weeks- nowadays I always get lunch at the cafeteria at work (but I plan on packing lunch in the future) so I just save the receipt and file away in an envelope at home. I also save receipts from the market in the same place, and go through these receipts  every couple days to enter into my food budget worksheet, which looks like this:


I set up the sheet so that if I ever have a negative balance at the end of a week, then that amount will be subtracted from the following week’s food budget (no rollovers for extra money left though, that is cheating on the budget)! I think that this way of maintaining a food budget will work really well for me. Hopefully it will help somebody else too~



2 Responses to “Making a Food Budget”

  1. Tim Says:

    Your story sounds very familiar to mine. My parents were very supportive of me financially when I started uni, but I still managed to blow through my food allowance each month. Like you, planning the week’s menu in advance and shopping to minimise waste has dramatically cut down my food costs.

    I’m in awe of your spreadsheet though — as far as I’ve come I think I lack the gene for that level of organisation!

    I’m looking forward to following this blog. I love reading the blogs of people who can afford to cook with extravagant ingredients, but as most of the thing I cook are fairly simple and inexpensive it’s always great to get some new ideas.

  2. Adam Says:

    Anyway you can throw up a link so we can download a version for us to use?

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