Living On A Budget: The Food Trap

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What is the one area of the budget that can expand like a diaper in a swimming pool?

Food. Don’t get me wrong, eating is one of my top priorities and I am absolutely not telling you to stop eating. What I will tell
you is that we look at food differently in our home: There is necessity food and entertainment food.

Necessity Food 

What our bodies need to function
properly each day:

1) Some form of protein

2) Some vegetables

3) Some fruit

4) A little grain

5) A little fat

For the sake of discussion, I will boil it down to these simple elements. The amount we need is determined by our activity level and metabolism.

Entertainment Food

Food we like to eat, but we don’t need:

1) The 10:00 a.m. coffee break doughnut

2) The 10:00 p.m. TV watching munchies

3) The midafternoon “Mom, I’m bored. What’s in the fridge?” search

4) Popcorn at the theater

5) Friday night pizza delivery

6) Saturday night dinner out

7) Dessert

If our family has any confusion on the difference between necessity food and entertainment food, we either eat a lot of potatoes for the next week or something doesn’t get paid. Friday night pizza delivery sounds wonderful after a busy week, but
not so wonderful on Monday morning when the power bill is due.

In our house, we buy necessity food first

Because we have decided that we don’t want to trade something temporary (food) for something eternal (my ability to stay home and raise our children). For our family, spending too much on entertainment food means I have to get a job.

Having said that, you should know that we do not sit around at home eating beans and rice (although we do occasionally eat beans and rice). I plan my meals around the sale items each week and we enjoy delicious food like steak fajitas, BBQ pork, garlic shrimp radiatore and ranch chicken casserole.

My husband and I have a weekly date night, we just don’t eat dinner out very often. If ice cream is on sale we may have dessert that week, but it comes out of entertainment money (leftover after we put aside bill money), not the grocery budget. If we receive birthday money and we have a Living Social discount, we may go out to eat as a family. Eating out and having dessert are not the norm, however.

If eating out is an important part of your life, please continue to do so. Just make sure that you can actually afford it and make the choice consciously. Realize that by “eating” that money you can’t spend it on something else.

Kimberlee is a happily married mom to four teens ages 13-18 and an avid fan of happiness!  She’s learned a few things over the years and aims to share her “secrets” to help others live a joyful, purposeful life. For more great advice like this, visit

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