Updated: Feb 4, 2020
Food cost is the #1 struggle for controlling spending that I hear from my clients.
One strategy I use for myself is to calculate ballpark cost per person, per meal. For example, let's say we are planning to have lentil soup for dinner (we may or may not have been eating this all week....). The ingredients and rounded costs are as follows:
Cabbage: 1/2 head, $0.75 Lentils: 3 cups, $1.25 Misc. vegetables: 4 cups, $1.50 Diced tomatoes: 2 cans, $0.90 Sweet potatoes: 2, $0.50 Various spices: $0.10
Total cost: $5.00 Number of people: 5 Number of meals: 4 (two lunches, two dinners) Cost per person, per meal: $0.25
Doing this doesn't take me any extra time or money. I usually do it in my head while I'm driving to or from the grocery store, or even while I'm in there. Surprisingly, I don't keep a spreadsheet on it. It's just a way to keep myself in check for spending. It's easy for me to think, "I'm cooking at home instead of going out, so anything goes" when it comes to the grocery store. But sometimes when I start adding up food costs I realize it is coming to say $8 per person, per meal, and we could be getting something to-go for that amount.
It helps to motivate me to find meals that come out to a better cost savings.