Now We’re Cooking: How I Got Our Family’s Food Budget
Back on Track and Saved Myself A Lot of Aggravation

Dinners were becoming disasters in my house. After a busy day at work, I’d rush home to throw together a mishmash of entrees in a vain attempt to satisfy everyone’s demands. One daughter insisted on vegetarian food. My husband wanted low-carb fare. My picky 5-year-old wasn’t happy about anything. All too often, I’d throw in the (kitchen) towel and declare that we’d eat out that night.

Everyone was fed, but this wasn’t a good solution. I knew we were overspending on food thanks to the First Step Cash Management program, which showed me what I’d budgeted and what my actual expenses were. And I wanted us to sit down together, at our table, for a home-cooked meal.

I needed help, so I called The Savvy Life’s Melissa Tosetti. Melissa, the author of Living the Savvy Life: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Smart Spending and Rich Living, is a whiz at helping families and businesses plug financial leaks.

We spoke for an hour about my shopping patterns, cooking habits and the quirks and preferences of our family of five. Then, she helped me create a shopping and cooking plan similar to the one she details in her book. The strategy that Melissa recommended has what she calls a “keystone habit” at its core: One grocery shopping trip a week, ideally on the same day each week.

I know what to buy on that trip because she helped me select 20 meals everyone likes and that I or my husband can easily prepare. Each week, I list five meals on my calendar (one night is for leftovers and another is at a restaurant), take inventory of my pantry and then create a shopping list for the ingredients I need to prepare those entrees.

My plan dovetails nicely with a $2.99 app called Shopping List. It keeps my list on my smartphone and allows me to update as needed. It also groups like items together, so if I’m buying milk, I can easily pick up yogurt and cheese. I love the check-off feature, which gives me a sense of accomplishment and makes sure I don’t miss an important ingredient.

Grocery shopping post-Melissa takes just an hour a week, and I no longer stress about what’s for dinner. I have a plan, and I have all the ingredients I need. Most importantly, I have peace of mind. Since I’ve implemented Melissa’s ideas, we’re eating better, together, and I haven’t once busted our food budget.