With expenses rising, how can you keep the costs down on a specialized diet? It’s a question we’re all having to answer. All food costs more right now. It doesn’t matter whether you cook at home or eat out – everything is more expensive than it was a couple of years ago. And that’s on top of higher gas prices and increased shipping costs that are driving up prices on other items. The trip from feeling comfortable to feeling pinched can be a short one.
Having a plan can help remove some of the stress from the necessity of adjusting the budget. And to keep stress as low as possible, that plan must stem a realistic analysis of yourself, your obligations, family dynamics, finances, and time available. What fits well for one family will not work for another.
How can you get started making a realistic plan?
Here are some steps to take. Use them in any order that fits your situation.
Review your budget. If you do not have one, take a look at how much you’ve spent on food in the past 3 months. If you already know the past three months were over budget, go back to a 3 month period in 2020 or 2021. Use this as a rough guide for future budgeting.
I don’t really use budgets, but I have a sort of running idea of how much I spend per week/month on groceries. This is easy to keep up with ordering online. I can simply go to past purchases in my accounts and see what I spend.
If you’d like additional automated help, consider a service like Imperfect Foods, Misfits Market, or Hungry Harvest. Imperfect Foods allows an “always include” list. You can add to or take away items during the shopping window, but each order will begin with a list of foods you’ve specified. This makes it easy to hit a predetermined price range. It also saves time.
Assess your priorities. Within your specialized diet, there will be many ways to be compliant. What is most important? Fresh food, convenience, patronizing restaurants, budget, quality of food, time management, being able to include favorites. Make a list that includes any significant priority. Number them in order of most to least important. Let this guide your plan.
Explore options. My priorities include fresh food and having something I can grab in a pinch available at all times. That means that my ideal plan should include time to bake or prepare food that I can store in the freezer for quick, easy use later. This might mean making and freezing biscuits, muffins, waffles, soup, and baked chicken breasts. It could also mean making one pot meals that will last a few days without creating lots of dirty dishes. Or it could mean that I splurge on steak because it’s quick to cook and cheaper than restaurant food.
Because I enjoy the physical benefits of gardening – fresh air, sunshine, playing in dirt, bending and stretching, I reduce my vegetable costs by growing some of them. And you simply can’t get anything fresher or tastier.
One blackberry bush can produce enough berries to save me about $100 per year. Of course that amount may vary due to weather conditions and whether I am a consistent harvester. But planting a raspberry bush alongside it will double the savings. And growing fresh herbs in pots can quadruple the amount of savings in my pocket. Even if you don’t have much space, growing one pepper plant in a pot can make a difference if you eat a lot of peppers.
If you love baking, consider buying gluten-free flour in larger quantities from online sources or warehouse clubs.
If you’re looking for convenience baked goods, consider buying direct from the brand’s website. When I order, I buy enough to get free shipping and freeze many of the items on arrival.
One site I use is Katz® Gluten Free. They offer flash sales and other specials. Katz also allows you to sort by gluten-free; gluten & dairy-free; gluten & corn-free; gluten & egg-free/vegan; gluten & rice-free; gluten & soy free; gluten & sugar-free. They have some mini-donuts that are completely grain free. I like that the site is robust and customer friendly and the sales allow me to purchase items when they’re most affordable.
Be Realistic. Even though I may prioritize fresh food, there are periods of time when baking and freezing or cooking 100% of each meal simply won’t happen. Family obligations and work projects sometimes dovetail into too much to do in a given amount of time. That means I need to rely on the closest I can get to my priorities for a period of time. I allow for these times in my overall plan by researching prepared foods that I can purchase online in bulk and place in the freezer. Anticipating and allowing for a few periods of up front allows me to keep myself on track.
Know yourself. I am not a coupon shopper unless there’s a coupon that shows up on the item when I click to order it. If a code comes via email, it’s out of sight, out of mind. If a physical mailer comes via snail mail, I will file it so I can find it and still never think to look in the file before I make a purchase.
My haphazard coupon use means I know not to rely on coupons to keep costs down. It’s not a realistic strategy for me. I don’t feel bad about that. A lot of managing finances comes down to managing to your strengths.
Whether you’re like me and keep a rough budget in your head, have a strict written budget, or fly by the seat of your pants, you’re sure to see a difference in the prices you’re paying for food. Developing a plan now can help you navigate what’s to come with less stress.
Review your budget, assess priorities, explore options, be realistic, know yourself and keep the costs down without giving up your specialized diet.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”