Guide: How to determine your food budget in 9 easy steps!

Guide: How to determine your food budget in 9 easy steps! #health #foodbudgetIn this article, I will show you how to determine your food budget in order to eat healthy and save money.

For most people buying food and staying healthy is an easy thing. The problem arises when you are not financially secure and still want to eat healthy.

It is no secret that high quality nutrition is not cheap. This is an area where a lot of folks are having problems with when they take the next step to improving their health and nutrition. This small guide will help you determine your food budget with examples from my personal life.

Step 1: Current state and future goals

First we need to establish the current state of your nutrition. There are 3 categories:

  1. People who are eating unhealthy
  2. People who are eating healthy but not organic
  3. People who are eating healthy and organic.

As you can understand, people who belong in category ‘3’ have already made the switch and this step does not apply to them (move on to step2).

For the rest of you who might belong in the first 2 categories, keep reading.

Depending on which category you belong to, there are 2 states of transition that you would need to make:

  • Unhealthy to Healthy: In this transition, is if you are switching from eating junk and processed foods to normal unprocessed natural foods (veggies, fruits and grains). This is also the biggest jump of the two (financially speaking).
  • Healthy to Organic: here you are switching from normal natural foods to organic natural foods. This transition is relatively ‘less-intense’ since eating healthy is usually slightly more expensive than eating junk.

Step 2: Determine your current monthly budget

As a second step in this process, you must answer the following question: How much money do you allocate for food, monthly?

Step 3: Determine your Meal Frequency

In order to do that, you would need to find out your current meal frequency and answer this question

How many meals per day do you currently consume?

For normal people, this might be 3-4 times per day. For athletes it can go up to 6-7.

The higher the frequency, the higher the budget.

Step 4: Determine your Meal Structure

After that, we will look into how each of your meals are structured.

Since I made the switch to 3 meals per day, I only eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. No snacks, no other meals in between. Below is an example of my current meal diary and how I eat.

For breakfast: (small meal)

  • Main Food source: 1 protein shake or 4 eggs
  • Fat source: 1 handful of nuts

Or

  • Protein source: 1 protein shake or 4 eggs
  • Fruit source: 2 dates or 1 apple or 1 small scoop of oats with 1 tablespoon honey

For lunch: (bigger meal)

  • Veggie source: 1 small salad
  • Main Food source: 1 portion fish or chicken or meat etc. or 1 bowl legumes (lentils, beans etc)
  • Fat source: 1 handful of nuts
  • Fruit source: 1 apple

For dinner: (largest meal of the day)

  • Veggie source: 1 big salad
  • Main Food source: (as in lunch)
  • Fruit source: 1 banana
  • Other: healthy dessert like raw honey or a piece of chocolate (on nights before a workout)

For people who do not drink shakes, you will need to focus on your main food source, which might be fish, meat, chicken or legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas) and some carbs (oatmeal, quinoa, rice or potato).

Take note, that I consume my food in exactly the same order as seen in the list above. This is important and you will soon find out why.

Step 5: Determine your weekly Meal planning

In this step, you must decide what kind of foods you will eat throughout each day, especially for the main food source.

Split this into days as it will much easier to keep track of:

  • For Monday, have fish and potatoes,
  • Tuesday, Meat and rice,
  • and so on.

Some people (usually athletes and bodybuilders), eat the same meals 5-7 days a week. For them, this step is not required and it can be skipped, simply because they already do this meal planning.

Step 6: Determine the quantity of your meals

In the previous steps, we already established the food groups that we will consume. Now, let us calculate the actual quantities of each one, by using the current order as provided in the meal diary in step 3.

For example, I always recommend starting your meal with a salad, so we will first address the salad.

Veggie Source Example

For a normal salad you will need:

  • Green source (example lettuce),
  • Red source (tomatoes),
  • Dark green (kale or spinach),
  • Peppers,
  • Olives,
  • Olive oil.

Determine how many of the above ingredients you need (and at what quantities) to make 1 salad. Then based on your weekly meal planning, find out how many salads you eat per week and calculate accordingly.

As an example, I need ¼ to ½ of a lettuce head for each daily salad, which means 7×1/4 or 7×1/2, around 4 lettuce heads per week.

1 tomato per salad, 2 salads per day, that’s 14 small tomatoes or 7 big ones per week

Then you will continue to do the same for the rest of the food groups.

Main Food Source Example

  • Proteins (e.g. 1-2 big fishes for Monday’s meals, 1-2 chicken breasts for Tuesday’s meals etc),
  • Carbs (1-2 potatoes for Monday’s meals),
  • Fat (1-3 tablespoon of olive oil or coconut fat per meal),
  • Nuts,
  • Fruits,
  • Other (dessert or anything else).

By the time you have finished scanning your meal program throughout the week, you will have established a weekly grocery shopping list that shows you exactly how many items you eat during that period.

Step 7: Putting a price on each food

For the pre-final step, you just go through your list and add prices for each one of the items in your shopping list.

Here’s a brief example of a basic day:

Breakfast

  • Oats or quinoa (calculated weekly per package)
  • 1 cup of milk: 20c
  • Handful of nuts (calculated daily or weekly)

Lunch

Small salad:

  • 1 big tomato: 50c,
  • ½ cucumber 50c,
  • Vinegar (calculated monthly),
  • Oil (calculated monthly).

Main food source

  • ½-1 a fish: 10-15$,
  • 1 big potato: 1-2 $,
  • Oil (calculated monthly),
  • 1 handful of almonds (calculated daily or weekly),
  • 1 big apple 2$

Dinner

Big salad:

  • 1 big tomato: 50c
  • ½ lettuce head 50c
  • ½ onion 10c
  • Vinegar (calculated monthly)
  • Oil (calculated monthly)

Main food source:

  • 1 big fish: 15-20$
  • 1 big potato: 1-2 $
  • Oil (calculated monthly)
  • Handful of nuts (calculated daily or weekly)
  • 1 big apple 2$ or raw honey (calculated weekly)

Step 8: Calculate everything else

In the final step, you need to determine the quantities of small items like nuts, fats and dressings (oil and vinegar), dried fruit and cereal (oats). You could also measure the amount of the above foods and then calculate the percentage of the package that you use, which will then determine the price.

For example: if you eat 100gr of oats daily, and you buy 500gr packages per week, this means you need 2x500gr packages per week to cover it (for 700gr weekly) and you will have some left for next week.

If the 2 packages cost 3$, then you will need a weekly consumption of around 70% of 3$, that’s around 2,25$ per week.

Using this method will allow you to establish a food budget for all of your weekly meals and help you save more money while still eating healthier.

Step 9: Make the transition, check and adjust accordingly

By now you should have established your current nutritional plan. Once you have done that, you can take the final step and move on to the next desired category as mentioned in step 1.

There are 2 different ways to do that:

9a. Switching one food at a time

You can either switch gradually by switching each food at a time. For example, if you are switching from processed to healthy, switching from microwavable rice to normal basmati rice is one step. This is a much easier process and less painful on your pocket.

9b. Switching your entire shopping list to organic

The other way is to just make the jump and change your entire shopping list. This would mean that if you are switching from healthy to organic, you would have to replace all your food sources to organic ones. Beware that even though this process is much easier, it might still greatly shock you and your pocket.

Closing thoughts:

This simple guide will allow you to initially determine your current food budget and thus allowing you to make the transition to healthier days or just help you calculate the budget of such a diet. The same process can be used in different ways any time you wish to calculate how much you are currently spending or will be spending due to a change in your diet or even your location (for example if you move to another country or state).

Do you keep track of your expenses using a similar process? How do you do your calculations? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

I hope you enjoyed this guide as much as I did writing it. Putting it together took a bit of time but it will only take you a second to click on the Share buttons below and show your support to this blog.

by Nick Sigma
CWC, EH, E-YRT200

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