Recently, we were told we have a very low food budget for the three of us. In all honesty, it would be a high food budget in terms of couponers. We are right at $350 a month for three of us, and that doesn't account for FishPapa's allowance that he eats lunch off of most days. We still enjoy convenience foods some of the time, but there have been two things that have truly changed that budget. Once upon a time, FishPapa and I sometimes spent $700 on dining out and groceries. JUST the 2 of us.
Probably the biggest thing was sitting down and limiting ourselves to a cash based budget. I'm not always good about it, but we usually stay really close to our budget.
But there are two other things that have made a huge difference. A deep freeze in our garage, and taking the time to plan our meals. Some people plan a week at a time, but that seems like a lot of extra work for me. I plan a month at a time, and write it on a calendar that I post on the fridge. I look up, and see what our game plan is, shop once a pay period, and then only run to the store for fresh produce and milk as we run out. I spend less time shopping when I do this, and am tempted less to spend money on extras.
I discovered freezer cooking last spring, which has helped TONS during the week that I have to really focus on work each month. Either Fishpapa or I can go out to the freezer, grab the meal and set it cooking, and know we will have a wonderful meal to eat later that evening. :)
I really do wish that I had learned to value being frugal when we were younger and made more money, but I'm grateful that even though i came to the party a little late, there is always time to learn these wonderful habits!