How do I create and stick to my budget?

July 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm (Budgeting)

Not sure how much your food will cost for an event?  Looking for tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your budget?  Look below for a few ideas on how to best plan a budget and then how to keep from going over your budget! **This page is still under construction, but please feel free to browse what I already have listed!**

Never Buy Camp Food That You Won’t Eat At Home

To be honest, budgeting for a camp kitchen is really hard.  And there will be times that you realize you are going to go over budget.  There are two ways to deal with that– one is to re-evaluate your food and make menu changes (grilled ham and cheese becomes grilled cheese, dinner no longer needs salad or bread, breakfast can go without the bacon or sausage).  The second is to decide how much you are willing to go over budget, accept it, and defray some of this cost by adding the event leftovers to your usual groceries/food for the following week.  Either choice is perfectly valid in my opinion, and which one you choose depends on your own personal situation, and how much food you already have at home.

Either way, you are going to have leftovers.  And the only thing worse than having a bunch of event leftovers is realizing that all those leftovers are things you added for other people that you don’t really want to be eating now that you’re home.  It sounds simple, but without really trying, you can find yourself in a situation where you had sandwiches on the menu and all the turkey went lightning fast and now you’re carting home a bunch of ham that you don’t care for.  Or the only cereal left from your variety pack is the kind you won’t eat.  Sure, you can send it home with someone, but there are no guarantees that others will want them either, and those little things can really add up.  So if you are planning to be the one eating the leftovers, and most importantly if you are using this as justification for running over budget, make sure you don’t buy anything that you won’t happily eat once the event is over!

Remember to Take Into Account Expenses Once On Site

You may not realize it until you’re trying to keep several coolers worth of food cold, but ice can be really expensive.  And during a really hot camping event, depending on the length of the event, type of coolers and shade you have, and food you are keeping, it can be as much as 20% of your budget.  That is a problem if you’ve already spent your entire budget before you even get there.  So be sure when planning meals and adding snacks to take into account where you are going, what the weather will be, and how much ice you think you will use.  Add a little extra room in that “on site” budget for those things you inevitably forget (there is always something), or that well timed store run that allows you to bring back popsicles on a really hot afternoon.

Overlap Your Ingredients so that you can Use Your Leftovers!

The easiest way I know to help stay on budget is to plan meals that share ingredients.  Even with careful calculations as to portion size and expected numbers, one of the biggest concern for most camp cooks is “Will I have enough food??”, and this method helps ensure that without causing leftovers from every single meal.  By planning a breakfast that uses french toast and a lunch that is sandwiches, you can add a little extra bread to your shopping list and rest easy that if either meal goes over, you can pull from that reserve, but you are not purchasing that little “extra” for both meals.  If you spread these meals out, it also gives you the peace of mind that if something should have gone horribly wrong in your planning and you go through all of that ingredient in just the one meal, you can potentially run to the store and stock up for that second or third meal using the same thing.

Some of my favorites include:

  • the french toast/sandwich swap listed above
  • french toast and scrambled eggs and toast (they are the *exact* same ingredients)
  • French toast and bacon from breakfast becoming BLTs at lunch
  • Anything with ground beef can be easily interchanged if all you are bringing is the cooked beef and necessary sauces/seasonings (tacos, sloppy joe, beef stronganoff, etc)
  • Pasta can be used for either pasta with sauce/meatballs/etc, or  macaroni and cheese, or pasta salad
  • Ham from dinner can be served with breakfast
  • Eggs for scrambled eggs can be used as hard boiled eggs or deviled eggs or egg salad

Do you have any other ideas?  I’d love to hear them!!!

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