Meal Planning on a Budget Without Compromising Ingredients
March 1, 2023
Grocery prices are up 11.8% as of December 2022, while certain items, like eggs are up 138% according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data. With grocery prices soaring, many of us find ourselves pausing in the aisles, debating about whether or not we actually need something. “Meal planning is one way to edit down your shopping list to weekly essentials and save money,” said certified financial planner Ted Jenkin.
Here are five tips to keep your ingredients healthy, and your bottom line low:
- Know your prices. Though making more than one stop can be more time consuming, it can save you a ton of money. Margaux Laskey of the NYT suggests visiting a couple of different stores to take advantage of sales. When you begin keeping track of prices, you may start by taking notes on your phone, but eventually, you’ll memorize them, knowing where to get your regular items at the best price. When in doubt, a quick internet search will tell you whether or not you’re being gouged; coffee is an excellent example of this.
- Take an inventory of what you already have. Frozen meat, perishables, and pantry items are the first three things to check when making your list. For instance, if you already have a jar of marinara and a box of pasta, then you may only need to get ground beef for a fun spaghetti night.
- Always shop what’s on sale. BOGO (buy one get one) sales are great for pricier things like cheese and staples like cereal. “If you spot a good sale on your favorite, stock up!” emphasizes Laskey. She adds that cereal can also be used in cereal bars, pie crusts, and even as bread crumbs. Next, the produce and meat that’s on sale should be the items that help you decide what’s for dinner. Vegetables on sale will make excellent side dishes to almost any meat that’s also on sale.
- Keep breakfast simple, and use last night’s leftovers for lunch the next day. Food will never go to waste if you plan on eating leftovers the next day for lunch. Plus, if you have some leftovers piling up in the fridge, plan on a leftover dinner night. For breakfast, stick to a simple rotation; cereal, oatmeal, and yogurt are all inexpensive and pair well with fresh fruit.
- Give the pantry some love. You don’t need to buy fresh to incorporate produce into your diet. Salsa, marinara, canned veggies, apple sauce, fruit cups, and jams are examples of working produce into your diet without having to buy fresh. Dietitian Mike Gorski points out that with these items “you aren’t sacrificing nutritional value for convenience and reduced costs.” Canned seafood is another way to save; tuna (tuna salad), salmon (salmon cakes), and clams (linguini and clams) will almost always be less expensive than their fresh counterparts.
When in a Pinch, be Realistic
You may find that the store is out of something you need or it’s just really priced too high for your budget; let it go, and be flexible. Some nights, you may not feel well or just be too tired to cook, so have a pre-allocated takeout budget ready. Keep a drawer full of menus and coupons, and know your specials. Many locations have kids-eat-free nights, while grocery stores offer weekday specials too, such as $5 rotisserie chicken days. “Never underestimate the power of a rotisserie chicken,” said Vaughn Vreeland of NYT Cooking, who eats some for dinner, then shreds the remaining meat and uses it later in chicken salad and soup.
If you are one of the 64% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, creating a budget is imperative. There are several free resources online to help you plan and budget your monthly expenses as well as devise a meal plan for the week. At insureyouknow.org, we recommend that you track your monthly expenses at the grocery store and file receipts, important documents, and all of your family records.
Do You Realize How “Precious” a Child Is?
September 15, 2022
The cost of raising a child through high school has risen to $310,605 because of inflation that is running close to a four-decade high, according to an estimate by the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC.
In 2017—years before the pandemic and during an extended period of very low inflation—the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projected that the average total expenditures spent on a child from birth through age 17 would be $284,594. This estimate assumed an average inflation rate of 2.2 percent and did not include the expenses associated with sending a child to college or supporting them during their transition to adulthood. Since 2020, the inflation rate has skyrocketed— 8.5 percent as of July 2022—partly due to supply-chain issues and stimulus spending packages that put more cash into Americans’ pockets. The Federal Reserve has now raised interest rates substantially to control inflation.
The multiyear total is up $26,011, or more than 9 percent, from a calculation based on the inflation rate two years ago, before rapid price increases hit the economy, reports the Brookings Institution.
The new estimate crunches numbers for middle-income, married parents, and doesn’t include projections for single-parent households, or consider how race factors into cost challenges.
The estimate covers a range of expenses, including housing, education, food, clothing, healthcare, and childcare, and accounts for childhood milestones and activities—baby essentials, haircuts, sports equipment, extracurricular activities, and car insurance starting in the teen years, among other costs.
In 2019, the typical expenses to raise a child were estimated by the USDA as follows:
- Housing: 29%
- Food: 18%
- Childcare and Education: 16%
- Transportation: 15%
- Healthcare: 9%
- Miscellaneous (included Personal Care and Entertainment): 7%
- Clothing: 6%
Housing at 29 percent is the most significant expense associated with raising a child. The cost and type of housing vary widely by location. Other variables include mortgage or rent payments, property tax, home repairs and maintenance, insurance, utilities, and other miscellaneous housing costs.
The cost of food is the second-largest expense, at 18 percent of the overall cost of raising a child. Over time, food prices have trended up, with food-at-home pricing increasing 12.1 percent and food-away-from-home pricing increasing by 7.7 percent from June 2021 to July 2022. The USDA expects rising costs for 2022, with increases as high as 10 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively.
Childcare and Education
Childcare and education expenses in 2019 accounted for 16 percent of the cost of raising a child, and it continues to increase.
The widespread acceptance by employers of remote work and letting employees work from home part or full-time has eased the burden of childcare costs for many families, cutting the cost by as much as 30 percent for some workers.
Education is a major expense when it comes to raising children. When it comes to kindergarten through high school, parents can choose between public and private schools. For private schools, the Education Data Initiative estimated that tuition costs an average of $12,350 per year. Associated costs, like technology, textbooks, and back-to-school supplies, could bring that up to $16,050. For a child to be in private school from kindergarten through eighth grade, the estimated cost could be about $208,650. Additional expenses for extracurricular activities such as sports, the arts—music, theater, and yearbook—and other clubs also add up and are accompanied by fees for participation, equipment, and travel, which have also increased due to inflation.
The total cost of a health plan is set according to the number of people covered by it, as well as each person’s age and possibly their tobacco use. For example, a family of three, with two adults and a child, would pay a much higher monthly health insurance premium than an individual.
Raising children is rewarding and fulfilling to many people. But it’s also become very expensive. By preparing mentally and implementing financial planning strategies, you can be well-equipped to raise your child to adulthood comfortably, even on a budget.
If you are a parent, you are responsible for raising your child and providing food, clothing, shelter, and security. Consider getting insurance coverage—including life, short- and long-term disability, and health insurance to avoid putting your family at risk financially in the event of unexpected hardship. To cope with the rising costs of raising children, live within your means, save money wherever possible, and shop around for home and auto insurance each year for the best deals. At insureyouknow.org, you can track your expenses to raise a child and file insurance policies that cover your family’s financial and healthcare needs.