Food is an essential part of any family budget. Because modern families spend so much time on the go, sometimes it is hard to reign in food costs due to sporadic meal planning and reliance on fast food. However, there are several different approaches that can be used to create a manageable food budget.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has found that most Americans spend just under 10% of their non-fixed income on food, and that amount is evenly split between food prepared at home and ready-to-eat food. This figure provides a good estimate that can be used to determine if household food spending lines up with national averages.

While knowing what most people spend on food is helpful, there may be certain circumstances that make individual food budgets difficult to compare to food budgets of households with less specialized food needs. In these types of circumstances, it may be necessary to track household food spending for a month or two to determine if there are opportunities available to reduce food spending.

Often times, just the act of analyzing food purchases highlights some clear areas of waste that can be alleviated with a little meal planning and preparation. In most cases, food is more economical when prepared at home. For this reason, cutting back on fast food and prepared meals is often a reliable way to save money in the food budget. Some people find that coordinating their purchases to coincide with sales or utilizing coupons helps them to save a significant amount of money on food.

Cutting back on non-essential items such as snacks and drinks can also result in food budget savings. Having a good idea of what food items are running low by keeping a list can help to prevent duplicate purchases of items already on hand. Checking for price differences between stores by comparison shopping can lead to additional savings. Once a workable food plan is established, it can be used as a template for setting the food budget for upcoming months.

Controlling food spending is a major part of building a financially secure future. Identifying areas of waste and planning ahead are small steps that any household can take to save big money.