Every couple weeks when I go shopping, I pick up a stack of corn tostadas for my daughter.
What’s funny is that a few months ago, I had never bought a package of tostadas in my life, but when some friends started sharing a homemade crunch wrap supreme recipe in our Facebook group, I bought them so I could make my own – I just had to try it!
Little did I know that doing so would wake the tostada monster within my four-year-old.
She was never crazy about Mexican-themed meals before, but something about sour cream spread on a crispy corn chip, and sprinkled with cheese and taco meat really lights her fire.
She would eat them every day if I let her, but I limit them to once a week or so, because, while tostadas aren’t the most expensive thing in the world, things like that add up after a while and wreck your budget.
Here’s the thing; children (and sometimes even spouses,) don’t understand how their whims impact your budget.
They like it, they see it, they want it. That’s all they know.
Most of the time we see this with kids and snack foods, and men with red meat, – that one is a particularly good example; a cheap steak easily costs $5/lb, whereas really good chicken breasts cost half that. It’s all protein, but the dude wants red meat, and it doesn’t occur to him that buying it might wreck your budget (I’m not disparaging men btw, I’ve just found that most often, they aren’t in tune with the price/fullness factor equation).
Tip: Read How To Get The Best Prices On Meat
So what do you do?
Here are a few ideas that might keep your family from wrecking your grocery budget:
- Shop alone. Monkey see, monkey want can be largely avoided if you can arrange to do your grocery shopping without the kids in tow.
- Try to set aside a little money to blow on everyone’s favorites. If you can shop smart, find some sales on other things, and otherwise shift things around, so that you’ll have a little left to spend on somebody’s favorite, everyone will be a little happier. One way we do this is buying frozen produce, which is much cheaper (and easier to prepare!) than fresh. We also make our own refried beans instead of buying them canned, which literally costs pennies.
- Get ahead of your husband. Make a meal plan and share it with him. It may sound weird and almost sneaky, but get him thinking about what you’ll be cooking this week, instead of things you didn’t buy because they were more expensive. Maybe put some of what you know he’s most likely to splurge on on them menu, but not as much as would happen if he did splurge.
- Compromise. Say your husband really wants to have steak a few nights a week. It’s expensive, and takes up most of your protein budget, but you can make it work by compromising. For starters, explain meat prices and how much your budget is, and you’ll probably find your spouse very willing to compromise. Maybe you can make part of the compromise having steak once a week instead of twice. Eat beans the other nights, and maybe throw in some chicken leg quarters.
- Make the consequences of spending too much very clear. Use if-then scenarios with your kids. For instance, “If we buy those bags of chips that put us over the grocery budget, it’s bye-bye Netflix for a month. Is that worth it to you?” (If it is, I have to follow up with “well, it’s not worth it to me, so put the chips back” ;))
It doesn’t hurt them to know how money and budgets work. While I’m very careful to word things in an abundance mindset – I don’t ever want them to feel like we’re just pitiful poor people because we can’t buy whatever whenever we want to, I do make it clear that we have a budget, and that we don’t just spend money willy-nilly because we want something.
It doesn’t hurt them to know we’re on a budget, and it’s not embarrassing if they tell their friends “we don’t have the money for that”.
Even with all that, kids often don’t really “get it”, and you just have to put your foot down and say “no”. You’re the parent after all. It might make them grumpy for a minute or two, but they’ll get over it. Because in the end, the only person who can enforce your budget is you.
Just remember that nothing we do will ever be perfect. Life, relationships, budgets – all of it – will always be a balancing act. Just do your best, and give yourself grace when it doesn’t work out, and also, no, your husband isn’t the only guy who wants to eat red meat all the time. 😉