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Explore a few ways to stretch grocery budget

Grocery bills are a constant in every budget.
Grocery bills are a constant in every budget. NYT

Budgets look different for every person, but there’s one thing we all spend money on: food.

There are many sources who will tell you how much of your income should go toward groceries, but averages don’t always apply to individual needs.

Instead of saying you’ll allot a certain percentage of your income to your groceries, ask yourself questions like these that will help you determine your grocery needs and build a budget from the ground up.

How many people am I feeding?

If you’re a single person compared to a family of four, budgets will look different because portion sizes will look different. It may make more sense for a family to buy in bulk. In the same way, four cuts of chicken could last four days for one person. See how you can work leftover plans to your advantage on your list.

How old are my diners?

What may satisfy a 5-year-old won’t necessarily be enough food for a high school student. For instance, 10 instant waffles for breakfast could be enough for two children for five days on paper — but in reality, that math won’t hold water when a teenager wakes up hungry.

Factor these considerations into how you decide what will get more or less of your money.

Do I have dietary restrictions or preferences?

Allergies always need to take priority as something you budget for first. If lactose intolerance is prevalent in your house, you may need to spend more on dairy-free options. However, if it’s a dietary preference you’re working with, there is more wiggle room to let yourself indulge in the organic food and next week, purchase what’s lowest in prive to make more room in the budget.

It’s also worth noting that not all organic foods are created equal. Foods like avocado, asparagus, sweet corn and even cauliflower have been found to be less likely to have pesticides, making their regular grocery displays a fine alternative to organic options.

Are there any specialty items?

If you stick with the main staples of a household, like produce, meats and certain dry foods, you may be able to find them at a discount grocery store or on special with coupons. However, if you need a special spice or ingredient or cut of meat for a recipe one week, you will need to factor in where to find it and how much it will run you.

On those weeks, see if there’s another opportunity among these questions to trim the budget.

Your grocery budget won’t be fixed, because your schedule will change. Aong other things, it will depend upon how many people are eating and what the occasion calls for. Awareness of your needs will take your budget further in the long run than assigning a set number to it and trying to fit in the confines of that number.

Kat’s Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, visit http://communityamerica.com.

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