All About Budgets | Frugal Living

How To Track Your Junk Food Consumption

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Whether at the shop or online, junk food in your grocery cart maybe what’s eating into your grocery budget.

As we start thinking about the new year, we need to consider the costs of groceries increasing.

To truly understand where your money is going every month, you must have faith in the process.

If you’re anything like me, you’re a hawk at knowing the prices of products at the grocery stores.

I also know what price may be a reasonable sale price or not with the unfortunate rise in grocery prices.

For example, buying package hotdogs, bacon, bread, cheese, and meats increased slightly.

If you purchase those items when they are on sale, your budget is still taking a hit, although we can’t control inflation.

We can reduce what we are purchasing if the items hold no real nutritional value.

Today, let’s explore how we can manage our grocery budget by reducing the amount of junk food and tracking it.

You can also download my Free Junk Food Tracker by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post.

  • Cutting Out Fast Food
  • Stop Buying Junk Food
  • What Is Junk Food?
  • How to Reduce or Limit Junk Food
  • Consumer Price Index
  • Tracking Your Junk Food For A Year
If you feel your grocery budget is not allowing you to get what you need, consider reducing any junk food you purchase,

Struggling To Stay Under Budget

Adjusting your grocery budget to inflation is problematic because it means starting the process over.

There won’t ever be a time where your grocery budget will be the same month after month.

I can hear it now; many of you want to tell me that you shop only the deals and reduced rack.

Another argument may be that kids are involved, and we have to buy snacks for their lunch.

Fair enough, as we have a 7-year-old autistic son who thrives on crunchy foods, which is challenging.

Avoiding junk food will either be easy for you or something you’ll have to work hard at reducing or removing.

I know that people who only eat junk food because it’s convenient may be shocked at the overall costs.

Some won’t care because they have money, and others will because the money is not available after paying bills.

A little splurge in your diet is ok as long it’s not every day, and you can fit the costs into your grocery budget.

Stop Buying Food With No Nutritional Value

Quitting cold turkey may not be an ideal situation for someone who eats it daily.

Drinking a can of Coke is just as addicting as drinking coffee in the morning.

The idea is to slowly eliminate eating junk food and replace it with healthier options.

Over the past 12 years, six provinces have banned junk food in schools with a positive effect on student health,

In October 2005, New Brunswick became the first province to impose a junk food ban in its schools. Under its Policy 711, the Department of Education eliminated all foods from a so-called “minimum nutrition” list.

Using World Health Organization standards, Statistics Canada says close to one third —31.5 per cent — of Canadian children and youth were classified as overweight or obese between 2009 and 2011.

Toronto Star, Junk Food Ban In Canadian Schools June 2017

Along with the health concerns comes the big hole it leaves in your pocketbook.

Every coffee, donuts, fast food, chips, chocolate bar etc., can cost you more than you think.

Years ago, I compared buying coffee to bringing coffee from home, and the results were staggering.

If a grocery budget is $400 a month for a family of four who shops weekly but keeps spending more, junk food could be the culprit.

The problem with junk food is that not everyone considers junk food the same way.

There is always an important lesson to be learned by reading the product label and ingredients list.

Also, consider what the manufacturer considers one portion following their nutritional figures.

What Is Junk Food?

Remember that I’m not a dietician as I’m only sharing what we are doing to combat junk food.

Junk food is fast food or products full of sugar and sodium and does not fill your belly.

It may be a food that is high in carbs and sugar, which is why you’re hungry an hour later.

The junk food marketing to consumers says, buy me now.

Grab a Snickers Bar. Do you remember that commercial where the message was if you don’t feel yourself and need a boost of energy, eat a Snickers bar?

Eating any chocolate when I’m stressed is excellent but not the best option for my health.

There is no nutritional value in many forms of junk food, even frozen pizzas and nuggets.

Generally, if sugar is the first ingredient on the list, the product has lots of sugar.

Junk Food List Of Products

Junk food in moderation is the key, so don’t think it’s wrong. I’m saying limit your purchases.

  • Pop and other high sugar beverages
  • Juice (high sugar)
  • Frozen pizza, burgers, nuggets and many other frozen items. (read the labels)
  • Chocolate of any description even Nutella
  • Fast Food Restaurants (pack a lunch or snacks when out for the day)
  • Chips and dip including flavoured rice cakes
  • Tortillas
  • Cereal can be loaded with sugar (read the label)
  • Any pre-breaded products
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Granola Bars
  • Oatmeal with flavourings
  • Crackers although there are healthier options
  • Yogurts filled with sugar
  • Pre-made pudding cups
  • Fruit cups loaded with syrup
  • Coffee loaded with sugar and other sugary ingredients
  • Flavoured Popcorn

I can list foods forever, so I’ve come up with a few examples.

What else should be on or taken off this list?

How To Reduce Or Limit Junk Food

There are only two ways you can reduce or limit junk food purchases, and that’s to stop buying them.

If you can bake, it’s easier to whip up a banana loaf with natural ingredients than to buy one with a long list of stuff you’ve never heard of inside.

Start buying more fresh vegetables, then clean them when you get home, so they are ready to snack on.

Growing a garden is an excellent source of healthy fruits and vegetables if this is an option for you.

Although still read the ingredients list, look for alternate sources of snacks in the health food aisle.

Limit the junk food you purchase to one pack of cookies or puddings once a week only for lunches.

Make healthy muffins, chop apples and keep bananas and berries on hand with cheeses.

Understanding Canada’s Consumer Price Index (CPI)

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) averages the costs of products purchased across Canada.

Using the CPI is how the rate of inflation is primarily determined.

An excellent experiment to conduct is to buy the same items at a regular price for a year or six months.

You should have 6 or 12 grocery receipts to review, which will show you the inflation rate of those products.

Another point to consider is, has the weight of each product changed over time?

Take a brick of cheese which used to be 500g but now is 400g for the same price or higher depending on where you grocery shop.

I’ve found a video from Stats Canda that explains how the CPI works, and it gives you a better understanding of where your money is going.

Tracking Your Junk Food Purchases

Often if I’m trying to figure out where we can cut money, I start tracking where it’s going.

Learning how to control impulse buying is our challenge, and it may be for you as well.

We’ve created many budget binder worksheets for readers, from debt reduction to saving money.

Earlier this year, we started a 52-week Loonie money challenge to see if we could save the money.

For tracking, the experiment uses a six-month timeline where you track your junk food dollars.

To make this work, you need to ask for all of your receipts wherever you spend money, even if you shop online.

So, for example, if you are buying Oreo cookies on Amazon, you need to track that.

Learning where your money goes buying junk food is not a life-long tracker. It’s just an indicator of how much you spend on junk food.

The best way to learn about your money is budgeting, but you must first balance the budget.

Start a budget any time while continuing to track junk food expenses.

Moving Forward After Food Tracking

You will move forward once you know how much you are spending on junk food, not including items for birthdays and other holidays or gatherings.

Learning to say no at the grocery store is SO hard because we live through it each week.

We’ve decided for 2022 to track our junk food, including what we buy our son for his lunches.

At the same time, we will develop other ways to reduce those expenses.

For example, instead of buying a big box of chocolate chip cookies at Costco for $9.99, I’ll make them.

I think Tim Hortons Copy Cat Chocolate Chip Muffins and Chocolate Chip Cookies will forever be in our son’s lunch.

So, although we are still making the product, we will account for that on the tracking sheet.

Products such as McCain chocolate cake, frozen fries, chicken nuggets, ice cream, pizza, McDonald’s fries, chips, crackers we will forget.

It’s outstanding if you must buy any of the above if you have a picky eater but if not, work on introducing other healthy foods.

Eating Junk Food In Moderation

Once in a while, we will allow French Fries from McDonald’s, but that’s about it as we don’t eat out.

Small expenses such as a large fry will also make the junk food tracking sheet.

An experiment such as this does not take away junk food but alerts you how much you are spending.

Grocery shop as you usually do and find out the final results at the six-month mark.

Beer and Alcohol- Is it junk food?

Another thing to consider is alcohol and beer consumption and the costs for the six months of purchasing.

Whether you add alcohol into your grocery budget or not, it’s worth tracking the costs.

Use a different tracking sheet just for alcohol, if that’s the case, to give you an idea.

If you finish a six-month tracking system with us, I would love to see your results and share them anonymously on the blog.

Let’s work together to fight food and drink inflation to balance our budget and eat healthier.

Go to the free resources page to download the Free Junk Food Tracker for your budget binder.

Discussion; Do you think you can do this for six months with us? I hope so and can’t wait to see your results and feedback.

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