During my time as a student I didn’t have a very large food budget, so I had to get smart with my money in order to be able to last the month. So, being the nerd that I am I started using Excel to plan both my cashflow and my grocery shopping. Now that I’m working I’ve gotten used to doing this and I actually stil enjoy spending as little money as possible on food AND still eating healthy. I’ve seen a lot of articles where people try to spend as little money as possible, but they seem to be missing essentials like fruits and vegetables.

If I look at food prices I consider myself lucky living in the Netherlands, even on a ‘expensive’ week where I have to buy cleaning products, toiletpaper or personal hygiene stuff I still manage to stay below 40 euro’s and I’ve even managed to do shopping for a week and only spending 20 euro’s.

In this article I’m gonna show you how I plan my meals and how I make sure I don’t overspend.

First of all, some do’s and don’t, they might not be new to you, but I think they are actually really important. If you read my tips you might notice that I don’t say anything about coupons. This might be a big thing in other countries, but apart from some daily deals in the store coupons aren’t very normal in the Netherlands, also if something is on sale you generally can’t stack another discount on that item.

1. Set a budget.

How much money can you spend on food? What is included in this budget? I have set mine around 175 euro’s a month. This includes all my meals and snacks, cleaning products and extra’s like eating out,  the occasional coffee and sandwich at Starbucks or a gasstation. If I eat out I just adjust my budget if I can, for instance cook a big pot of pasta sauce or soup, freeze it and eat that later.

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2. Plan ahead!

I always make a meal plan for the week. I usually try to to do this on a Friday or Saturday. I usually do my shopping in one store and that store has an app and on Friday they post the new deals for next week. Using this weeks deals and next weeks deals I make my menu for the week. This way I also prevent having to trow out food because I didn’t use everything.

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Planning ahead also means making a shopping list and sticking to that list, this leads to my next point on the list.

3. Wanting and needing (1)

If you want (or have to) stick to a budget, this means making choices, especially if you want to eat healthy and clean . So the biggest part of what ends up in your cart should be actual food instead of pre-made stuff. Getting a can of tomatoes is always cheaper then a can of pasta sauce. If you you get seduced by something like chocolate or cookies always ask yourself: do I need this or do I want this? If the answer is that you WANT something, you don’t really need it and you should only buy it if your budget allows it.

4. Don’t shop hungry

If you shop when you’re hungry you are more likely to buy stuff you want and thus spending more money that you planned (2).

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5. Stockpile!!!

Buy your basic foods when they are on sale, stuff like rice, pasta, potatoes, oatmeal and other stuff you use on a regular basis and don’t spoil very fast. Even when you don’t plan on eating that product that week, just buy it. But, don’t buy something just because it’s on sale. Getting a certain brand of food just because it’s on sale when the store has it’s own brand that is cheaper it’s not a great deal. In my Excel sheet I’ve made a list of stuff I have in my pantry, if something might run out in the next 2 weeks I’ll make it bold and if the store has a good deal I buy that item.

6. Don’t go shopping every day!

If you go to the grocery store every day I feel you spend more then you’ve planned. You probably don’t know what you have in your pantry, refrigerator or freezer. I did this when I just moved out, because I said I could never know what I would want to eat. But… this also meant I went to the store after school or work and that meant shopping hungry. So I would buy convenient food and get a bag of crisps or a bar of chocolate and that would mean going over budget.