“How Low Can You Go?” and the Grocery Budget Dilemma

Have you ever wondered how much someone else spends on groceries to get an idea of how you’re doing with your grocery spending? No matter what amount she says, her family is different from yours, so then you have to do conversion math:

So that would be…

+ $100 per additional kid in your household

double if your kids are teenagers

- $38 if your kid only eats peanut butter

+ 50% for special diets

- 20% if you try to cook from scratch

- $15 if you save on household cleaners

+ $25 if you love Kettle chips

x 1.4 if you choose all-natural ingredients

+ 15% if your city has a higher cost of living

- 17% if you watch for sales

-$20 if you drink more water

then take the last digit of your phone number and place it at the beginning, and divide it all by 5.

When you finally get an answer to compare to yours, it might be higher or lower, but is that good or bad? Or does it even matter?

***

I used to be overly concerned about trying to make my grocery spending lower. I was caught in a game of grocery limbo: “How low can you go?” and while my motives were good (be a good steward of our money), the results were not what I desired.

I read several times about how food is a very flexible part of your budget. You don’t always have control over your other expenses, but you can save money on food. So I tried it, and it wasn’t working. I was spending less money on groceries, but every time we opened the fridge we felt disappointed. So you know what we did? We went out to eat more often.

Two years ago when I started to understand the extent of the food intolerances that run in our family, I had a hard time getting used to the idea of spending more for special food that was dairy-free and gluten-free. The cost of yogurt was suddenly double. Muffins and loaves of bread, which are a cheap food for others, became an expensive special treat. I saved special foods for my little girl, but couldn’t eat them myself.

Time heals a lot, and I gradually became used to the higher cost of food. I also saw the ill effects and medical bills when someone in our family ate the wrong food, and not in the vague “you’ll regret this when you’re older” way, but later the same week. I’m fine with spending more money on food now. We have it, and I will spend less on other things. I know this is not an option for everyone, and I don’t take that lightly.

I still watch my spending, but I do it differently now.

  1. Each month I look at how much I spent on groceries, but I don’t isolate that expense. I look at it as part of our complete budget, and I watch how much we’re spending on lunches and dining out too. (We definitely spend less on eating out now.)
  2. I also watch the average amount that we’re spending on groceries during the year. If I spend more to stock up in some months, then I should be able to spend less during other months. This gives me a better idea of what to expect.

Even after hearing all of this, I think some people may still be curious to know what I spend, so I’ll tell you. I’m averaging $550 a month on groceries so far this year. There are four people in our family, and one is a baby. We’re gluten, dairy, soy, and corn-free, and that’s just the beginning of a long list of ingredients we must avoid. My husband can expense most of his lunches for work. I like to buy whole chickens that are already smoked, because dealing with raw chicken is just too medieval for me. We chose our apartment by looking at Whole Foods locations on a map and drawing a radius within a certain number of miles. How does this relate to your budget? I’ll let you do the math…

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. This is something I struggle with every month. I feel the same way you used to. I need to meal plan better and hopefully that will help! Thanks for sharing this- it’s good to not feel alone!

    Mrs. Money´s last post…Carnival of Personal Finance!

  2. LOVE this post. the grocery budget is actually the bane of my existence at times simply because i read or hear what other people spend and can’t help but inwardly groan at what just my husband and i (with one on the way) spend.

    this is a great reminder. thank you!

  3. Amen! I’ve made peace with the idea that good food is not cheap. Should I save on the best yogurt from the Alps, on local cheese, on berries in summer, on organic flour, on avocado, on almonds?… no thanks! Food is our treat and our medicine as well. I suffer from anxiety and i feel much better when I watch my diet so yeah, the effects are immediate. Better save on clothing than eat crap. :)

  4. I agree that the amount one family spends cannot be compared to another family. In my budget I lump all food (groceries & eating out), household supplies, personal products and pet food into one category. There are four in my family and I do childcare for 6 other children. And I use cash to stay on budget. Can I spend more if needed? yes. Luckily I can. But I like to stay in my budget…mostly I think it is about mindful spending. You have to be happy with the choices and the cost. I kept a price book for awhile but now just have certain price points in my head for some items. I do think it is a way to trim the budget, but again, mindfully. Buying in season, stocking up on sale items you buy anyway…not just buying the least expensive box of whatever that is there.
    Thanks for another great post!

    Josie´s last post…Company Girl Coffee 73010

  5. Denise C. says:

    Great post! I’ve been struggling with lowering our grocery bill, but in the end, we too were not happy with the results. I spend a good portion on fruits, vegetables, I am ok with that. My kids (my son particular) is beyond a picky eater, the stuff he does like, I make sure we have on hand at all times. I’ll admit, when I went shopping this past weekend, my bill was $191. My husband said that was really good, considering all I purchased. I’d rather make lots of stuff from scratch than eat out, or buy junk with lots of yuck stuff in them.
    One item that I do not consider junk…..kettle chips (I love them too, especially the sea salt and vinegar ones.!) ;)

  6. I agree. Sometimes I get caught up in the calculations and comparisons. My grocery budget stays contained when I get food that we will eat.

  7. I like this Rachel. Loved your little calculations. Too funny.

    Long ago Damien told me to not worry about what we spend (he can easily say that, I’m a penny pincher) and not compare our food budget to others. Like you we have food intolerances. In addition we value supported our local producers. We also view groceries as an investment in our health, not a cost. So we spend less in other areas to accommodate that.

    Even after cooking almost all our meals from scratch, eating beans every day (no meat or other animal products at home), buying many things in bulk, making our own soaps etc… we have a large budget for 5 people, 2 adults, 3 children – 2 who eat like adults. If asked privately I will share our budget with readers but I have never posted it public to my blog and probably won’t. Because it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

    Our grocery spending is in line with our family’s values and that’s what I use as a marker.

  8. Great post! I always wonder this very thing. Do you include household items in your grocery budget category? We do, which makes it hard to know what I really spend on food, but I’d rather lump them together than be separating out diapers, wipes and toilet paper from my receipts.

    • I do include some household items, but I have a general idea of how much I’m spending on those. We use cloth diapers which required an initial outlay but we don’t have to spend money on diapers every month.

      I wrote more about this very question about including household items in your grocery budget in this post: Cleaning Products: Are You Spending More Than Needed?

  9. I think people go a little crazy with saving money on food. A large part of the reason we have so many health issues now is due to cheap, highly processed garbage that we call “food”. I found this infographic about average spending in America over 100 years:

    http://www.visualeconomics.com/100-years-of-consumer-spending/

    and I found this quote to be highly interesting: “In 1901, food and housing together took up about 60 percent of people’s incomes. About 40 percent of a consumer’s income was spent on food and about 20 percent of a consumer’s income was spent on housing. About 20 percent of a consumer’s income was spent on apparel. Virtually none of it was spent on transportation. Health care took up about 5 percent of a consumer’s income.”

    So now we worry about spending too much on food (and are spending much less than we ever have) and not worrying too much about taking care of our bodies. I think the point I took away from the graphic is that to really save money and be healthy, reduce your total transportation costs. Live, eat, and work as close to where you live as possible.

    • That is such an interesting chart Beth! In addition to the change in food, I can’t help but notice how much of a percentage of income people pay for transportation now.

      • That is an interesting chart. Its very obvious when cars became normal household items. Its also easy to see when cheap processed foods took over. As a zero car family (just my husband and I and we live in Chicago) we spend four times more on food than transportation every month.

  10. I love this post & can’t agree more! I get so frusterated when I hear that a mother feeds her family of 3 for $50 a week, because you’re right there are so many factors. We’ve been trying lately to eat organically, do without corn syrup & take some factors into account that are just plain more expensive-like whether chicken was free range, etc… and that just adds up! It’s been difficult to give myself permission to spend more on food, but you’re right- it’s a matter of health & isn’t that something I’m willing to spend more on? Plus, I was just reading hte other day that Americans on average spend less than 10% of our income on groceries, while most Europeans spend more than 30%. Its just something they’re not as willing to skimp on, apparently.
    thanks again for the post. I’ve been following your blog for awhile now, but just have never posted :)

    • Several years ago, I was that mother who only spent $50 a week on groceries for my family of three. I did pride myself in feeding my family cheaply (and I still do, but our budget has increased to about $70 a week), but it wasn’t because I wanted to pinch pennies. We just didn’t have the money to eat better. We couldn’t cut any more in the way of entertainment, clothing, etc. We didn’t have more than $200 each month to spend on food.

      So, before you go flaming people who eat the crap food, please stop to think that that may be all they think they can afford. Luckily, our $70 a week goes to food that I now prepare from scratch. I bake our bread, cookies, and treats. I buy a bag of potatoes to mash, bake, broil, etc, rather than buying preprocessed food. We don’t buy organic, soy, vegetarian, gluten-free, and so forth. My family eats better now than when we spent either much more or much less. However, not all mothers have the skills needed to do this. Not all of them have the time needed to cook from scratch. Some are just barely trying to get by, the best they can.

      Lindsey´s last post…The Resident Scaredy-Cat

      • I don’t think she was flaming people who eat that food but was expressing the frustration of a mom who has chosen to eat differently. I think there is guilt and frustration on both sides of this issue. As someone who is limited on funds but who also has a lot of food allergies in our family I often feel guilty for how much money I spend on food. Even though we are healthier and happier now that we spend more and are careful about what we eat I cringe every time I check out and I see the total I spend. I still have to keep to a budget but that can be difficult.

        I have also lived on a grocery budget of $35 a week for my husband and myself when we were first married. There aren’t a lot of options at that range but we tried to eat as healthy as we knew how.

  11. I have this sturggle every month and have tried to live within a budgeted amount of $ every week. It never happens. Now te hubs and I are trying a new approach. We are shopping every couple days and buying what we need or would like. We are mindfull of our left overs and incorporate them in to other meals. We try to buy organic and local and even though we are not vegetarians we do try to get more of our protein from other sources besides meat.

    • It’s just me in my household, and I tried to do the whole “save as much as possible on food” but it just didn’t work for me. I end up doing what you and your husband are doing – shopping every two or three days, getting what I need for a few meals – and eating leftovers. (luckily I could eat the same thing for a week and wouldn’t mind a bit.)

      I am using the same budget amount but spend it in smaller amounts throughout the week (cash only – I go nuts if I use my debit card).

      sunny´s last post…cute reading nook

  12. You DO know that Whole Foods is often referred to as Whole Paycheck Foods, right?

    We spend about $125/week for all groceries for two adults plus $25/week for Friday night takeout. My husband does ALL the cooking from recipes (from a cookbook, magazine, or his own creations) but he does NOT cook on Fridays. We eat very healthy foods and our diet includes lots of fruits and vegetables. We limit red meat to once or twice a week at most but eat lots of chicken and fish (Wild Alaskan Salmon once every week or two — it’s expensive, but poached in parchment paper with vegetables it is moist and delicious). The amount above also includes the household cleaning and other personal products. I cannot imagine spending more on groceries, nor do I know anyone who eats as well as we do. There isn’t anything you can order in a restaurant that my husband cannot make. I am a lucky woman.

    • Yes, I’ve heard that before, and I am aware of how much I spend at Whole Foods. I wish I had bought stock in it. But as I said in my post, because of my family’s extensive food intolerances, we have to bypass about 80% of what you would find in a regular grocery store. Whole Foods is where I can find good foods without the additives that other people don’t even notice, and I am grateful to have the option to shop there.

      It’s just one more reason why it’s hard to compare one family’s shopping decisions to another’s.

      • Christine says:

        I’m glad you have a whole foods. We don’t have one, but we have Trader Joe’s. Their ingredients are usually straight forward on their food and don’t have lists a mile long. I’ve had good luck with them for avoiding allergens and they’re less expensive. If you have them nearby they’re worth a try.

        • I also love Whole Foods and we don’t have “dietary restrictions” we just want to eat healthy, real food. Sometimes I feel guilty when my friends refer to Whole Foods as “Whole Paycheck” but I try to remember, I eat everything I buy there. I don’t have to throw produce away because it was disappointing or just plain nasty. The meat is also MUCH more delicious. We’re also healthier because I don’t buy as much “snack food” and I’m not tempted with candy at the checkout.

  13. This was such a great read as we start our week around here. I have really been struggling lately with spending money — I have been trying to be waaaay too frugal and have felt immense guilt if I splurged on something. You are completely correct in that you just end up with an empty fridge and a lot of disappointment.

    I am really working on this guilt thing, because eating a yummy meal isn’t any fun if you feel terrible about it. For me, it’s as much getting flexibility in my attitude as getting the flexibilty in my spending.

    Thanks for the great post!

  14. Great and well-timed post. I’ve been reading a lot of books recently by Michael Pollan and other “whole food” advocates, and he mentions several times that Americans spend significantly less on their food than most other developed nations. Amazing that we think we can cut corners with what goes inside our bodies. Over the last year or so, like many of your other commenters above, I’ve accepted the fact that whole, clean food *is* going to be more expensive than processed junk. I try to save in other areas so that we have more leeway to buy healthier food.

    I shudder sometimes (because I was there to some degree not too long ago) at how excited a lot of frugal bloggers are when they show a grocery shopping trip that came out to a crazy low number – and everything in their picture is colored, preserved, processed, and gross. Here’s to having a healthy perspective on what’s important to spend your money on!

    • So funny you just said that. After spending $250 at Wegman’s and Whole Foods, I came home and checked Facebook. A couponing friend posted a photo of her loot from that day’s shopping trip and all she got for $12. I was disgusted! I even politely commented that I would only use the fresh fruit and milk. The rest was just over processed crap with mile-long unpronounceable ingredient lists.

      Couponing is definitely friendly to me. I’m gluten and dairy free and try to eat whole & organic as much as possible.

  15. I’m not super obsessed with keeping a low budget, but do use coupons when I can and only eat out once a week, too (unless we have to go into the city). And you’re right, you can’t compare budgets on this. But you can compare trash/compost. One of the biggest components of trash is compost-able waste, veggies that were forgotten on the back shelf, left overs that are forgotten and packaging in the trash can. This is something that everyone can work on, especially me. It’s one thing to compost banana peels and quite another an entire apple. One thing that I’ve learned, though sometimes forget to do, is to clean out the fridge the day before I go grocery shopping. Then, I can plan meals around what needs to be used up and not be left to pulling out science experiments a few weeks later.

    • Good point, I also try to remember to use up what’s in the back of the pantry. Sometimes food will stay in there a long time while we eat more of our favorites from the fridge.

      • I once heard that you should never buy anything that has a shelf life longer than two weeks. It was more of a statement of health. Those preservatives aren’t good for anyone.

        • well, except dried beans, grains, nuts, and seeds… I save on these buy buying in the bulk bins. I then store them in airtight containers; or in the case of nuts/seeds which have oils that can go rancid, in the fridge or freezer.

          vegeater´s last post…Rainbow Grocery Adventure

  16. We are cutting expenses to the bone this summer as neither of us has a job until September. I find I am making more things from scratch–home made pizza last night for my son and his friends, I buy NO soda or bottled water, I make whole wheat muffins for breakfast treats, I even baked cookies. All in all it helps fill my teenager up and doesn’t require a trip to the store. Plus we are living on what is in the freezer that I stocked up over the past months. I do make sure there are fresh vegetables and fruits and yogurt–greek yogurt being my only “splurge”.

    • I love this because I tend to want to offer soda, chips and store bought cookies to guests even though I don’t want them for myself. Your comment reminded me that even this weekend – when I make lunch for some guys helping me move some furniture into my apartment – I can provide them with homemade sloppy joes, veggies, probably some chips and then offer water and lemonade and it’ll all be cheaper than the processed food I tend to offer guests. Not sure why there’s a disconnect in my mind about my food and what I offer guests.

      sunny´s last post…cute reading nook

  17. encouraging post! I grew up on cheap-but-not-necessarily-edible food (my mom makes jokes about this). I got married a little over a year ago into a family of foodies, which I LOVE. I have had to adjust my understanding of a food budget, as I’ve learned that quality is more important to my husband and is more enjoyable for me. I’ve also been thinking a lot about one of the early comments from your “Beans and Rice” post, about saving money on grocery OR doctor, but not both.

    Oh, and we just drove around the country, shopping primarily at farmers markets and Whole Foods :-)

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on all these things!

    Eliz K´s last post…successful baking experiment

  18. Thank you so much for this post. It is exactly what I needed to hear. My son has an extensive list of food allergies that can wreak havoc on the grocery budget. Coupon collecting can be frustrating because so many coupons are for name-brand, processed foods that just aren’t an option for us. It’s important for me to remember that it’s easy to get caught up in the competition of lowering your grocery bill – but no two families are the same. I could spend less on groceries, but we’d all be miserable. As long as I’m making thoughtful choices and not spending money we don’t have, I shouldn’t feel guilty for spending more to provide healthy, tasty food for my family.

  19. I love this! We have two active tween boys. We are very blessed to receive a freezer full of beef from my parents’ ranch each year, so my grocery budget doesn’t include beef. Our grocery bill averages about $560 a month, but that includes things like cleaning products.

    Jennifer´s last post…Alphabet Wall Collection

  20. AH! this post could NOT have come at a better time. when my husband & i sat down on saturday to have our “budget” talk for the month of august + july-in-review, i was almost to tears when we talked about our food expenses. there is just two of us–we are both 26 with no kids, no pets, & no garden (coming soon though!). i kept reading blogs about families of four spending $60/week on groceries & wondering HOW IN THE WORLD their bills are so low…which, in combination with other food-related-factors, was the tipping point for my almost-tears… but this post was the PERFECT reminder that we (him & i) are different from that family of four. i have an open fridge/open pantry/open stomach perspective. we have back-stocked food. we have people over a LOT. we buy mostly fruits & vegetables. i make all things baked from scratch. and yes, there are certainly ways i’d like to improve (CSA, local meats, supporting small grocers & family businesses, etc) but for now, for our location, we are DOING JUST FINE.

    thanks for this :)

    j´s last post…moving

  21. Christine says:

    Thanks for this post!!! I’ve also, recently, been trying to cut our grocery budget in order to have everything blow up in our face. We decided to move somewhere with cheaper rent instead. That’s how much of a pain lowering our grocery budget was. To save a few dollars I was wasting a ton of time and frown lines chasing down coupons and watching every penny of our grocery budget, just to feel bad about the fact that I couldn’t get the kinds of deals that I was reading about on blogs. I read a wonderful blog about saving money on groceries, but they must live somewhere very far from me because their groceries bills are obscenely low. I was comparing myself to an unachievable standard. Not to mention we try to eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies (A LOT) and I have children with dairy allergies, so I have the same problems you do buying groceries.

    It’s just nice to read a post talking about the same trouble I had reducing our grocery bill. I appreciate it!

  22. Fantastic post! I loved your equation and can relate to the double add for teenagers. Our grocery bill is a bit high, but we’re a family of 5 with three boys (8, 11, & 14). My husband and I also work from home so we’re feeding 5 people 3 meals a day. That makes our budget different from households who go out to lunch at work etc. I have to realize that when I’m comparing budgets. So thank you for the reminder.

    Jennifer @ LifeNickel´s last post…4 Steps to Banish Late Fees

  23. I think $550 is impressive, especially since your family has food needs. I spend about $300/month on just food for myself- I know I could get it down to $100-200 just by preparing more meals at home.

    Kelsey´s last post…Immediate Benefits of a Business Instant Messenger

  24. I keep some “yucky” food in the house for convenience and to avoid eating out, but we don’t have any allergies and that is not our normal food. I would agree that it is all about percentages and what is important to you about your family’s diet. We don’t have any car payments, no cable, no media on our phones, no debt other than our mortgage which is only $703.85 a month with everything included, so if we spend an extra $100 on groceries than average, that is ok. I have three teenagers, so my needs are different than those with toddlers, it changes at every stage, but let’s just say the amount consumed only goes up as they get older. We budget $560 a month for groceries and all health and beauty type stuff (cleaning supplies, shampoo, etc.) and sometimes other stuff comes out of that like stamps, water softener salt, etc. I think that the bottom line is spending less than you make and doing the best that you can with the resources you have available and your families’ needs. In times of sickness or pregnancy, cooking from scratch might be more difficult, when moving, there will be more eating out, etc., it is a balance, but we are aiming for progress, not perfection.

    It also depends on where you live, we are in the midwest and I would have to say that I got better deals on groceries in the Valley in Southern CA, than I do here. I could also get ethnic food and produce at separate markets for VERY reasonable prices and of course, there are Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s out there.

    Do the best with what you have and where you are at and make sure that you and your husband are in agreement, that is the best that you can do.

  25. Rachel P. says:

    This is a good post and a well-timed reminder to those who are struggling to make ends meet. My husband and I knew we had to lower our expenses when his income was cut in half and the grocery budget was the first place I looked. We stopped eating out and I managed to learn skills that let me cook from scratch at home. It is hard to keep two growing boys filled up without breaking the bank and maintaining healthy diets though. However, in spite of our belt-tightening we agree on one thing: if it’s an item we use a great deal of we buy high quality. I purchased a block of cheddar cheese at one time that was the lowest of price points, but the flavor was so terrible I went ahead and “splurged” on a high end block the next shopping trip. We use cheddar on many things and were reveling in the taste when we had the discussion that changed our philosophy. Now, we buy expensive cheddar, bacon, fruits and vegetables because it makes the less costly ingredients in my cooking taste better.

  26. Dh’s dad told him to expect to spend $150 per person per month. So with a family of four (well, 5 but the 4-month-old is living on breastmilk!) we should be spending around $600/month and I’d say that’s accurate. Menu planning keeps it down. A lot! That may sound high to you, but Canadian prices are about 30% higher than US, in my experience. And we have no Whole Foods, which is probably a good thing, budget-wise!

    mikkiroo´s last post…monday menu plan

  27. We average around $600 a month. We live in CA, 2 adults, 1 4-yr old, 1 15-mth old boy. I do not cut coupons (tried it, not worth my time & effort). I do not jump around to various stores looking for the cheaper deals, though I do randomly shop at the Super Target or Costco for a few items. Our biggest reason for budget fluctuation is that we like to invite guests over for dinner, at least once a month, moreso during the summer months. So, while the food is still cooked from scratch, the head count varies & it’s usually BBQ ($$). We are big meat-eaters, as hubby doesn’t like CHEESE. Do you KNOW how difficult it is to make a meal plan that doesn’t include anything with cheese in it?? Well, I guess you do, since you’re dairy-free :) It helps that hubby doesn’t fret when I feel the food bill is too high. He understands that I love to cook, we need to eat healthy as a family, & the cost of food is what it is. We don’t need to eat beans & rice every night (yet), so let’s enjoy what we have while we have it. Good post!

    • Oh yes, totally. I never realized how Americans are obsessed with cheese until I went without it. People put cheese on everything.

      I got used to leaving off the cheese and adding more seasoning. Now that I’m used to it, I find that cheese can make food too heavy and covers up the real flavor of food.

      But fancy cheese? Now that’s different.

      • Ah, yes, cheese. My husband is obsessed with cheese. And can I tell you, cheese is expensive. At least the good stuff is. But regardless of cheese, OUr budget very much reflects yours, Rachel, with the same number of chldren. We do have a garden and that definitely has helped…now I just need my own chickens, a cow, and a wheat field;) This post has just allowed me to take a deep breath as the trend among my friends is to compare how much was saved on the past weeks grocery bill using coupons…Problem?? I can rarely find coupons for most of the healthy, whole, “real” foods that we enjoy eating. We are downright committed to our health, short term and long. Coupons are very often for processed foods thatwe don’t enjoy. Anyway, thanks for the awesome post:)

        Katie´s last post…Hidden Pictures

  28. Elizabeth says:

    I would love to see some of your menu planning/recipes/meal ideas sometime!

    • me too!

    • I have the easiest meal plan ever. We just eat our same favorite meals every week: chicken & rice, fish, salad, scrambled eggs & bacon, with maybe something different for variety, and a dinner from Chipotle in there.

  29. Thank you. I feel relieved as my monthly bill is in line with others. I shop at Target for some staples etc. Cereal there is literally $1 to $1.50 cheaper a box. It adds up if you have teenagers. I would love some easy creative ideas for incorporating leftovers.. any suggestions of books/sites, etc would be welcomed.

  30. “then take the last digit of your phone number and place it at the beginning, and divide it all by 5″ — Rachel, you are so funny!

    Great post. It’s so important to remember that food has both a physiological and emotional impact and both of those needs should be nourished.

    • You know, I never fully realized just how emotional food can be until I started having to give it up. It’s definitely a way to nurture your family emotionally.

  31. Last month we spent $445 on groceries and $125 on restaurants. We’re a family of four; two adults plus an 11 year old boy and a five month old boy.

  32. Thank you for posting this! I always felt so guilty for spending so much on food, until I wrote down our priorities and healthy food was one of the top. So, now I feel very pleased to spend our hard earned money to feed our growing boys gf and healthy food. Plus not to mention 2 big doggies.

    jeana´s last post…Good Ol Summertime

  33. Wow, thank you for this article. It made me feel much less alone. I am glutten free, my oldest can not do rice and shell fish, my middle dd is on the feingold diet and can NOT eat anything with artificial food colors, flavors, BHT,TBHQ…. We almost never buy bread because we have to pay at least 5.$ a loaf. There are 7 of us. I am learning to garden and planted a big one this year but we still pay about 700. a month and that is cooking a lot from scratch! I have friends who are coupon queens and can buy a cart load for a few bucks. But Our family can’t eat a thing in their carts!

  34. Ha, I love your equations! Too funny.

    We spend about $400 per month for the two of us. There is some inflation there because we live in Alaska. In summer we spend more because we get most of our produce at the local Farmer’s Market (yes, you can grow things here!). I think the Farmer’s Market cost is worth it, both from a taste and an environmental stewardship standpoint. Produce at the grocery store is mostly flown in from far away.

    We rarely eat out and I cook most things from scratch. I think the additional cost of good produce and eggs and milk is balanced out by homemade bread, tortillas, pasta, dried beans, etc.

    Meal planning and doing a big shop just once every two weeks helps A LOT. Running to the grocery store to pick something up, for me, always leads to spending more on things I don’t need. :)

    liz´s last post…birthdays and pie

  35. Stephanie Fallon says:

    We have been saving money at our house by making our own iced coffee. Now if we could just get the recipe for “Spicy Thai” Kettle chips we’d be all set……Love your blog!

    • Just bought a pitcher for the fridge to make our own iced coffee too. Instead of an iced venti nonfat vanilla latte everday from starbucks (more than $4). I’m making coffee at home, putting it in the fridge and adding vanilla cream to it. A nice trick, make ice cubes out of coffee so when it melts in your coffee it isn’t watered down. Even starbucks doesn’t do that!

  36. My husband and I are always surprised when we talk with other families about food budgets. Ours is consistently the lowest. Our family of 4 (40, 32, 2.5 and 5 months) plus 2 dogs that weigh 80+ pounds live on $320/month.

    This budget has to buy diapers, wipes, dog food, cleaning supplies plus everything we eat. We rarely eat out and I primarily do the cooking.

    We don’t have food allergies or dietary restrictions… but are both trying to lose that post-baby weight. We limit processed foods and are carb-conscious. We will look at the sales flyers and pick one store to shop at each week — typically the one with the most advertised items we want on sale. It costs money to drive around tracking down a sale. With that being said, we routinely stock up on items at the store we know consistently is the cheapest — diapers at Wegman’s, trashbags at Hanaford’s, soy milk from anywhere but Shaw’s.

    Oh- and we pay cash. We use the envelope system.

  37. You know what is funny? Your title is the same as my last blog title. I was referring to online shopping order totals. LOL.

    I recently tried an online grocery shopping saving site. It helps you use your coupons at the right time. It ended up not being a good fit for me at all. It wasted so much of my time and sanity. I just am not a grocery coupon person. I save well just by buying the loss leader in the weekly ads and buying store brands. It was a good learning experience that my way is good enough!

    Lauri V.´s last post…How low can you go

  38. I think $550 is awfully good for all the limitations that you have diet-wise!

    I spent $400/month for six of us (two adults, four kids), but we have no dietary allergies or limitations, so I’m impressed you manage on $550.

  39. Great reminders…thanks! I feel a lot better about our grocery bills now. It is just two of us and sometimes (ok, often) I feel like we’re spending more than two people should be eating. And there are ways we could cut back, and I’m still learning as this is our first year together!

    But yes, I buy mostly from a co-op, lots of organic and local stuff, and…I mean really, we’re living well within our means and still saving money each month. And both of us really enjoy and appreciate good food! So it’s worth it to have food that not only keeps us from getting hungry, but keeps us happy and healthy. There really is that emotional element that’s impossible to quantify. I figure as long as I can cook healthy food that we both really like, you know, I’m not going to waste money, but it’s worth some extra dollars each month.

    Nikki (Trexel) Moore´s last post…The Return- and Discovery

  40. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. While I am doing the best I can to reduce our grocery budget I realize that when it comes to health you can’t skimp. I’d rather pay a little more for the specialty foods that my family’s diets require than pay for the many doctor visits later. What a relief to know that I’m not the only one.

    Beth@Not a Bow in Sight´s last post…What we did on Summer Vacation

  41. Kathryn Fenner says:

    My dad, who has managed to see the world several times over on a bottom rung white collar salary, a stay-at-home wife, and put two kids through college without their having any debt, and one through private law school, says “You can spend at the grocery store or spend at the doctor’s office.” He’s right.

    Now, I did read where people will pay twice as much at a farmer’s market for comparable food (organic, free range, etc.), so to the extent I can find good things in normal grocery stores, I buy there.

    Aldi is my new favorite. They have made a concerted effort to upgrade their produce, and since local is usually cheaper, they have a lot of it. They have a small selection, but if you can get to one, you may save a lot. We have to eat low carb, so I buy meat, fish, eggs and vegetables for the most part. Saving on vegetables really counts.

    Also, buying nongrocery items in a grocery store is usually not the cheapest way. Walmart or the excellent CVS Rewards program are great, and Target sales compare….but that’s if you can bear another stop.

  42. Great post! I have been battling this urge to be “frugal” and the urge to eat foods as close as to how God made them and they kind of don’t coincide all the time! I have been trying to give up my penny pinching ways on some things in the grocery budget like buying organic for the most affected produce (lettuce, grapes, etc…) and buying raw milk dairy products.

  43. Save money everywhere and anywhere just not on fresh, wholesome food.

    Cleaning products are a great place to cut. Baking soda and distilled vinegar rule!

  44. For awhile I was doing great budgeting on groceries… then our children must have hit a growth spurt because all of a sudden our bill seemed to rocket… I’m trying to cut it back again by cooking more from scratch.

    Unplanned Cooking´s last post…What places remind you of your family

  45. That is exactly our monthly grocery budget as well. I am crazy about making everything from scratch and having all animal products be pastured. But yeah, the health savings is enormous.

    Shannon´s last post…How I Use the Library and Six Super Useful Books For The Home- Kitchen- and Garden

  46. I do my best to keep costs down when I can. All the shopping rules you’ve heard are completely true:
    -shop the perimeter- processed, pre-made foods are expensive and usually not as good for you as home made
    -less meat
    -in season, local produce
    -drink water
    -splurge on good dairy

    Making my own breads (pita, naan and baguette) has been such a fun, rewarding experience. Once you get the hang of that and home made desserts it’s really easy. Also it gives my children and I another great project/routine to do.

  47. Karen (Scotland) says:

    It’s a relief to know that I’m not the only one who has slackened the controls on grocery spending. Food prices in Britain have ROCKETED in the last couple of years (4 pints of milk have gone from £1.10 to £1.49 in the average supermarket). I used to set myself a target for a weekly shop at under £60 but I’m now relieved if it’s under £80.

    I had two newspaper vouchers this week – £5 off £40 shop so I was trying to be clever and use two of the vouchers in two £40 transactions. I was tallying stuff in my head so I could work out when I’d reached £40, expecting to be half way around the shop. £40 didn’t even get me past the fruit and veg aisle and we are in high season for fresh, “cheap” produce.

    Five fruit/veg a day quickly adds up…
    Karen

  48. I’m with Jasi on the homebaked breads, etc. For easy and time saving recipes, google home made bread in 5 minutes. No relationship whatsoever! Just a great way to have fresh bread easily. Bought both books and am loving the low-cost experimentation, Used to spend $4.99 for my specialty bread. NO MORE!

  49. I actually do think having an idea of what others spend is helpful – but only others who eat whole, real food – not with the intention of getting my food bill to the lowest possible amount but, rather, to know that I’m not alone in the rather high amount we spend on food. We happily do without many things others may consider ‘necessities’ in our society but do believe that real food is important and adds to quality and enjoyment of life.

  50. Good, fresh food is not cheap. I recently had a guest in my home who was allergic to dairy and gluten- Oh. My. Goodness. My hat is off to you and yours.

  51. Fascinating discussion! I am in awe of families that have to juggle special diets and allergies – wow.

    I could guess at what I spend monthly, but I really do not keep track – I stick to some thrifty principles. My family is rarely sick and I think it’s because we eat good food (I call it nutrient-dense).
    My guess per month for 2 adults, 1 preschooler, 1 toddler, no pets: $300. That is food only. I don’t use a lot of cleaners. I use don’t use disposable anything (except feminine products). I’ve noticed that local, in-season food can be very cheap – I do most of my shopping at my farmer’s market and go to the grocery store maybe 1-2x a month for oil, dried things like rice and beans, salt, sugar, etc. I do cut out coupons, but don’t always find a use for them before they expire and I will not buy something just because I have a coupon.

    Well, this is what my blog is all about :) so you can see I really like this topic.

    Margo´s last post…Ratatouille of Grilled Vegetables

  52. Its so interesting to know where other people are in all this. We used to never give a thought to our grocery budget as two newlyweds right out of college. When I finally added it up we were spending almost $800 a month which is INSANE!

    We tried to do the super-cheap grocery thing, but kinda ended up like you. If there are zero snacks and zero time to make an hour long dinner…we went out! I think we’ve finally found the balance between eating real, good foods and having enough without being extravagant.

    I do find it interesting that Americans, as a whole, spend less percentage on their food than the rest of the world. And, interestingly enough, have a lot more health problems. Like you’ve pointed out, cheap isn’t always good.

    Kait Palmer´s last post…Steamed Veggies With A Twist

  53. Wow — I have to say that I can’t fathom spending that much on groceries but when you have a family with that many intolerances, I can see why.

    Personally, I would love… LOVE… to have fresh, pastured meat, organic vegetables, and all that. I think it is great to aspire to but when you’re living hand to mouth every month, it just doesn’t work. And I have tried, believe me.As it is, my family eats well and we eat as healthily as we can — no preprocessed junk, making as much as I can from scratch, bulking on veggies vs. grain, meat as flavor not filler.

  54. We spend about the same as you do on groceries (it varies between 550 and 600) except we’re three people. We live in an area where healthier food is harder to find and a lot more expensive. It used to bother me spending more on food but then my husband was diagnosed with cancer. I researched the effects of food on our health and decided that spending more to get healthier foods and cutting back elsewhere was definitely worth it. We may not buy the most expensive clothing or drive the fanciest car but we are one of the healthiest familes I know and that is well worth every penny.

    Lisa´s last post…Weekly Green Link Round Up

  55. One thing that is very difficult for me as a single woman is using up my ingredients before they go bad. Most recipes serve four-six people, and I don’t want to eat monday’s dinner for the next four days. Does anyone have any tricks?

    Jo´s last post…July- where did you go

    • Jo, I used to make the full recipe and freeze individual size portions so I would have some to take to work. If a recipe didn’t freeze well, then I only made half as much and had leftovers for one day. What’s hard is when a recipe only calls for a little bit of an ingredient, like when a soup recipe only needs one celery stalk but you have to buy the whole bunch. In that case I would usually skip that ingredient and the recipe always came out fine.

      • Sometimes I’ll get the one celery stalk from the salad bar. It costs more per pound but there’s no waste. I’ve found some grocery stores have a bulk spices section, and I love that-that way if I hate a dish I didn’t buy another $5 spice I’ll never use again. I need to do better about putting stuff in the freezer. And I’m getting liberal with my substitutions. No black beans? Pinto will be fine. Its still intimidating to have supplies and no recipe to fit them.

        Jo´s last post…July- where did you go

        • Karen (Scotland) says:

          Rhonda at Down-to_Earth gave this tip for celery – wrap it in tinfoil really tight and it keeps FOREVER in the fridge. Seriously, I kept one for almost three months and just took a stalk off for soup/stock/whatever. Eventually, the leafy feathery bits looked a bit bedraggled but the stalks were fine – no browning, no wetness.
          Or else make Celery Soup! Surprisingly yummy considering I don’t actually like the taste of celery!
          Karen

          • Okay I’m not normal on the celery thing. I buy 4-6 bunches a WEEK. I have a bit of an addiction apparently. Whenever I get the munchies between meals I grab 2-3 stalks and chomp away. I can’t fathom celery being around long enough to go bad!

          • What a great post. My self-employed boyfriend and I (also self-employed) go without the “extras” (like haircuts from stylists, new clothes, lots of eating out, unnecessary western-medical doctor visits (except when unavoidable) & unnecessary purchases) but we still manage to spend about $500 per month on groceries between us. Sometimes it’s just not worth it to chinse on the good food only to end up spending more later. And what a great tip on the celery – I will definitely try that! Thanks.

  56. I think I spend around $500 a month. My husband and I eat very healthy, my two kids could eat a little better. Because of all the healthy foods I eat, I was able to come off of two of my medicines, saving me $60 a month.

  57. Love this post. I have wrestled with grocery guilt for so long. But we have the same perspective: good food is a health investment and I no longer want to apologize or feel guilty for it.

    We have a family of 6 and live in the Pacific NW: 3 teenage athletes, 1 quickly-growing eleven yr old, 2 adults.
    We are vegetarian, gluten and dairy-free. We rarely eat out because of dietary needs and I make almost everything from scratch. I make a lot of purchases through a co-op and buy in bulk. I spend at least $1000/month on groceries, sometimes more, but rarely less. I have tried every thing I know to reduce this bill, but we always seem to come back to this amount. This allows us a whole foods diet without a lot of frills, but certainly without deprivation.

    Thanks for sharing!

  58. Thank you for posting this. The food debate is such an ongoing battle in my mind. Just when I feel like I have decided what I feel comfortable with for our family, I see someone post something about their food budget and it turns my world back upside down as I rehash all the decisions that were previously fixed in my mind. Anyway, I love your blog so much. It makes me feel so pleased and at peace with my choices when I see that I have a kindred spirit out there on the interweb. Blessings!

    Sarah´s last post…Sprinkles

  59. Thanks for this! I’m smart about sales, cook from scratch and all the typical frugal tricks but eventually gave up trying to cut our food budget more. There are only so many ways to cut a food budget when you want to enjoy what you eat AND have food allergies.

  60. Being the mama of two a 17 yo and 20 yo living at home…Teens can eat you out of house and home. I learned to bake lots and make their favorites at home…wings, pizza, coffee drinks etc. It helps a lot.

    Anita´s last post…HAPPY 17th BIRTHDAY BABY GIRL!

  61. I used to shop for a full week, if not more.

    Now? Every two days…and supplement with my garden. I hit the many farmers markets in town…two which are within walking distance of my house on Saturday and Sunday. I think food is more expensive when you buy fresh and local, but well worth it.

    Michelle´s last post…For Today 03 August 2010 Simple Woman’s Daybook

  62. My baby has a variety of food allergies so we’ve begun purchasing special food for him. I hate that we have to spend so much more money than other people do on food, but it is what it is.

    Alison´s last post…But the Good News Is

  63. Rachel,

    Wow, coming fresh from no spend month challenge, buying just enough groceries as we need is fresh in my mind. I agree, that eating good food is important to our health and we should not cut corners too much and find other ways to save money instead like cooking from scratch.

    Preeti @ Heart and Mind´s last post…No Spend Month Challenge- Update and Take away from the experiment

  64. I spend about R2500 ($333) when I don’t watch the budget and buy junk, otherwise can easily shave R5oo off.

    But I’m in South Africa and we have good food here, some is very cheap and others like coffee/ tea very expensive

  65. Rachel, I stopped buying whole chickens awhile back just for this same reason. There was a lot of effort with little return. My husband will only eat chicken breast. I joke he is a “breast man”.

  66. I love this post too and I’m glad to see so many other people are concerned with this issue too. This topic has been on my mind a lot lately and I am always trying to lower our grocery bill AND not waste what I do buy. It’s a process and a science and I am amazed by those that seem to have it figured out. I feel like our mothers were better at planning meals and using food more effieciently than I will ever be.

  67. Thank you so much! I sooo needed this. Yes, I love to save but am not really crazy about what’s on the fridge…. and yes, we spend alot of money eating out. I had caught myself in this vicious cycle about two months ago. You have just put it into nice words that make sense. =)

    Karisa Rivera´s last post…Habilidades Domésticas

  68. Courtney says:

    Love this topic and all the interesting comments!

    Regarding the raw chicken…I’m a vegetarian and used to be grossed out by handling raw chicken, but now I’m so used to it that it doesn’t faze me a bit.

    We stock up on whole chickens (either Smart Chicken or Just Bare) when they are on markdown, which usually means spending about $4 per chicken. Once a week or so, I roast one. That makes a meal for my husband and three kids and there is always enough meat left over to make another meal – enchiladas, pizza, etc. The bones and any leftover bits go right in the crockpot to make broth and then I make soup. We end up getting three meals out of one chicken, plus scraps to feed our dogs. Doing this on a regular basis has helped our food budget so much!

  69. great, funny and practical post. thanks.

    fondly,
    glenda

    Glenda Childers´s last post…Playing the catching up game

  70. I have to say I scrutinize my shopping, always have but I have gotten better. I try to buy the seasonal stuff for two reasons one is price, and the other is that I find out of season produce is expensive and sub par.

    Last fall when I finally convinced my Dad to clean out and unplug his freezer in the basement to help with the electric bill(which went down significantly, can’t say how old the freezer was but it has to be at least a 60′s model). We hauled out stuff from the 80′s and that is no kidding. The one thing that really caught me off guard was when my dad said I guess buying all that stuff on sale really doesn’t save anything if in the end you throw it away.

    I think of this every time I go to the store. My dad recently left us, but I will remember this statement and much more of life’s wisdom he has taught me.

  71. Oh what timing this article is! First off let me say that I used to follow you regularly but got out of the blogging circle for a few months and posts like this are what make me so happy to be back “in the circle!”

    We recently decided that I would quit my day job and be a freelancer/Realtor and work from home. We have 3 children, one has ADHD and I have Celiac disease (gluten intolerance). I’ve tried to do the Once A Month Cooking plan but because of my dietary restrictions and trying to restrict the sugars, artificial flavors/colors/sweeteners in most foods it basically precludes us from actually making it work. However I have found e-mealz.com and they have several versions of meal plans, including a gluten-free one.

    We are budgeting $600 for groceries and $200 for household/toiletries per month. We have purchased 2 $400 Visa gift cards to help us stay on track. Just the other day we went for the week and spent $215 (it should be about $200/week) and didn’t even get everything. My husband was not thrilled with this and compared it to “other people.” I reminded him that we don’t buy “junk” food, pre-processed or high-fat/sugar foods. We also buy a lot of organic or natural, not to mention gluten-free (which can be really expensive).

    We’re going to use the e-mealz.com plan to see how we do. I’m going to blog about it on my blog as the month progresses, if anyone’s interested.

    Thanks again for this article (and yes, I forwarded it to my husband…)!

    Sarah´s last post…Good things to come I hope

  72. Thanks for sharing this.

    I sometimes read about people who play the “coupon game” or do extreme couponing to save money, and wonder if I could do better with our bill, too. Then I look at what I buy – most of it never gets a coupon. Fresh fruit, veggies, meat, organic dairy, etc. — I just don’t buy most of the stuff that you could save $1 on with a coupon. And I’ve decided that’s a good thing!

  73. We have actually loosened up our food budget lately. We spend about 300 bucks a month on our food and cleaning supplies (and occasional wine or beer), but we feel like we eat really well by using coupons and sales.

    However, we decided to join a CSA in the middle of June and had to plunk down 300 bucks for it. I decided not to include that in any of our usual food budgeting because it is just SOO worth it to eat delicious, fresh, organic veggies!

  74. We always used to get by on $550. or $600.00 a month, but it is more like $800.00 or more each month. Healthy eating, four teenagers, a lot of hospitality, etc. It adds up.

    Jena (Organizing Mommy)´s last post…Rebound!!

  75. Just thought I’d ask — how much chicken leg quarters would you buy if they were .3475/lb.?

  76. Before our son was born, when we didn’t budget, my husband and I spent anywhere from $600 – $900/month for the TWO of us on food. We didn’t have left overs or throw anything away either. Once we started budgeting, I couldn’t believe how much we spent on food since we are both extremely healthy and slim.

    What really helped me to better manager our grocery bill is to switch to a weekly grocery trip with a $100 budget per week. We have a very natural diet, lots of fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, very few packaged foods and I haven’t found a way around spending less. I go through the coupons every week but the foods we buy just don’t offer coupons, so I do my best to look for sales at the grocery store!

  77. Excellent post! I have three picky eaters in my family (that’s everyone but me), so grocery shopping ceased to be fun or inexpensive a long time ago. However, I have also come to the conclusion that meals don’t have to be elaborate to be healthy and healthy foods are much less expensive than doctors/hospital visits. It’s all good in the long run if my family is eating and staying healthy. :)

    Susan´s last post…Things Ive Learned This Summer

  78. vermontmommy says:

    I realize I am very late on commenting but I have been thinking about this since you posted it. I feel free after reading this.

    I budget $1000 a month on food for our family of 5 (ages 3-36). That includes our CSA, raw milk from a local dairy, and the meat we get from a local ranch. I buy a few things organic but to be honest I just try to buy quality ingredients. I have tried to coupon shop and find that I buy things I would not normally buy. I make everything but pretzels and crackers. That means homemade meals, fresh bread, yogurt, granola, popsicles, treats or anything like that. I plan our menu each week. We do go out here and there for dinner or lunch but it is about once a week. I love baking for my family and I cannot imagine it any other way.

    I so often read blogs about how families eat for pennies a day. I admire that. I know my mom had to raise our family of 5 on $35 a week for food. That is not much. We ate a lot of pancakes, potatoes and pasta. She made everything from scratch but was a coupon queen and we had lots of “junk” that she got for pennies or free with her coupons. She did what she needed to do.

    This post gave me permission to stop comparing our family to others. Just because I spend $1000 a month on food doesn’t make me any less of a mom. I figured it out to be about $6.67 a day to feed each person in our house.

    • Calculating the price per person per day is a great way of looking at it! $6.67 doesn’t seem like much at all especially for such quality food.

  79. I didn’t read all the comments so maybe someone also spoke to this point already. Another consideration to keep in mind for grocery budget comparison is where you live…for example we are in the dc metro area and our grocery stores charge more. I would be curious to know if Trader Joes and Whole Foods cost more depending on location. My guess is yes. But I don’t know for sure.
    We use mostly cash and spend b/w $700 and 800 per month. Our family has 2 adults, and 4 kids – ages 11,8,6,1. I only use coupons occasionally, they are usually for the junkier food. I think this subject is fascinating – thanks for getting the party started. :)

  80. I agree with Melanie that this subject is fascinating. More people should discuss this. It speaks to the root of our basic approach to life and our own self respect. I have been whole fooding for years. I live in Los Angeles and I will tell you that shopping at Whole Foods Market is expensive, but then everying here is expensive. I know many people who can’t spend much on food and so I won’t pass any judgments. But I think trying to save money on healthy food when you do have the choice is suicide and not an act of love. And for those people who don’t have enough food money, we should all be contributing to their health. Truly, I believe this. For me, food limitations have been a blessing because because I’ve learned to reframe the way I look at eating. I’m gluten intolerant, come from a family of diabetics, have a genetic heart condition and I am the healthiest person I know. I can not stress strongly enough the importance of eating healthy food and exercising moderately. I could be the poster child for this. I definitely find my savings in non-food items. I have learned to compromise in all areas of spending but will never do it with food. Illness can be a great teacher. I have loved ones who couldn’t eat because of it and now, when I sit down to a healthy meal, I truly understand gratitude. And I find one eats less when eating right. I love chocolate, a bottle of wine, etc. so I’m not a fanatic but I also don’t deny myself. I think learning to do some planning and cooking simply helps and that’s the choice I’ve made. There are many ways to fit good food into one’s diet. I wish we could get this message through to our educational system and programs for seniors. I truly believe it could make a huge difference in how kids grow, and in how people all age. Hmmmm…..I might spend $125 weekly but then I work out of my home and eat most my meals there. Marvelous topic, thank you so much.

  81. We split up our accounts groceries, gas, and a regular checking where our utilities come out of and any extra. (Yes, we have three separate accts) However it helps us to track grocery spending and eating out all in one acct. Each paychk we alot a certain amount to each debit card and thats what we stick to. Anything left over gets rolled over for special treats or when we have gatherings and spend a little extra. We spend between 4-500 for a family of 4. We don’t have a whole foods but we have a trader joes.

  82. I spend only $400.00 a month for four of us and cats and dogs. We do have a garden and we don’t eat a lot of fake food,(chips, candy,etc) We sometimes have meatless meals and I have quit buying expensive cleansers and sprays. We use vinegar, baking soda and bleach for most cleaning. I don’t use paper towels. We use microfiber cloths. I use a combination of methods for saving. I shop three stores within a four mile radius and watch ads diligently. I do use coupons,especially if they are doubled.We rarely eat out. We use generic products a great deal. I am not hung up on brand names. I have no problem cutting up whole chickens or cutting our own pork chops from a pork loin. I have always managed to have extra to pack the freezer or pantry. We always have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.(sometimes organic,even if it is not from our garden) Being frugal has taught me to be more creative with my cooking. I think of it as a blessing. I guess some people would think of our lifestyle as being restrictive, but I would be willing to bet that those same people don’t have any cash socked back for their children’s college or if some emergency should arrive when least expected.

  83. Thank you! Yes, I often compare grocery budgets, and it never makes me feel good. Implicit is the idea that we should spend as little as possible on food so I feel guilty spending more, but really each family has different priorities.

    Kelly´s last post…Make a kite

  84. Cathie Australia says:

    Really late commenting on this, but I had to. I live in Australia, and I can’t belive how cheaply you eat. I have 2 kids, husband, dog & cat and I average $1200 Aus per month. I track in Quickbooks so this is very accurate. This includes toiletries, cleaning, etc. Not eating out/takeaway. No alcholol included. I read these types of comments on blogs and just can’t belive how cheaply some people can live, meat at $1 – $2 per pound – impossible here, the cheapest would be $3 for low quality minced beef, very occasionaly on special. Even cheaper, tougher cuts of meat are around $5 per pound. Chicken breasts $5 per pound, and I’ve read of Americans getting them for $2. Milk has just droped to $1 per litre here, now cheaper than petrol but was more expensive. So compared to me you are all doing amazingly well.

  85. I too have my list of uncompromisable items when grocery shopping for my family of three (myself, hubby & almost 2 year old). We only buy organic milk, yogurt and eggs. We all eat a lot of those so it’s worth it. I’m military so I shop at our Commissary which luckily has some good options, but it’s still really easy to be tempted. We don’t have any special diet restrictions, but still are mindful of what we buy. I enjoy cooking, so I rarely buy convenience foods. I try to make one trip last almost two weeks with just small trips between for more milk, veggies, etc. I usually spend less than $100 weekly for us, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less, but I try not to stress too much. It all works out for us in the end with all of our bills. I am lucky though that my husband can support us all on his income and provide us with enough to eat. Food is one area where we do not skimp and will go without in other areas. I’ll also splurge on the better stuff for our son, and we’ll eat whatever if necessary.

  86. oh thank goodness i’m not the only one who spends outrageous amounts to feed my famiily of three healthy. I love to eat organic foods whenever possible and I love cooking but full time school and child rearing dont always allow for it. we live in iowa and our food budget with eating out runs about $530 per month. My husband tends to complain about cost but I rationalize that our health is worth it. He’d live off boxed mashed potatoes, chunky soup, and cereal if I didn’t encourage a balanced diet!

  87. We used to try to save a lot on groceries, I could spend $50 or $75/week to feed three of us (my hubby, myself and our son). I can’t tell you how much extra $$ we spent eating out because we didn’t like what was in the fridge!

    I made a rule at our house after that – we are absolutely ONLY planning meals that we actually like and desire to eat. I call it Fantasy Meal Planning, and the concept is simple – you only plan to make, what you desire to eat. Easy. I try to find ways to save $ on ingredients, but the money we spend isn’t important – the important part is that we are eating fresh, healthy homemade meals almost all of the time.

    I talk about it on my blog if you want to find out more. Since we’ve started doing this, our eating out has cut itself off by default. We love what we eat at home more than what you can buy in a restaurant – maybe that’s testament to my chef abilities? I can make anything better than a restaurant can, provided I have the time (both of us work full time, and I don’t cook professionally so my cooking time is at a premium). I make at least one homemade meal a day, more on weekends, which have enough leftovers to sustain us the rest of the time.

    Honestly, our food costs are lower than they were when I was only spending $50/week and we were eating out all the time. I spent $218 at the store last week (groceries and sundries like diapers), but that’s enough to feed us for the week plus some. We won’t be going out to eat at all (excepting my husband’s birthday tomorrow), and we’re eating great all the time.

    If you love to cook, and love to eat, I don’t see the point in restricting yourself to a set amount if you can afford it. We enjoy the experience much more this way, and choose to save in other ways.
    Kaylen´s last post…Mac N’ Cheese Party

  88. As I stated in my post the guilt comes from how much money we spend on food vs. the amount of money that we have — not on what other people think of our choices.

  89. I find this subject fasinating, I live in Canada and our food up here is more expensive then inthe U.S. I was obsessed for a while to reduce our grocery budget, but have now decided not to worry about it. I buy a ton of fresh fruit and veggies (mostly at the farmers market), not alot of meat and have a super picky 8 yr old. I try to make alot of food from scratch and make it as healthly as possible, but we do have our junk food/movie nights. I spend around $800 a month on groceries and that includes toiletries and some cleaning supplies (I make most of my own). I think it doesn’t matter, if you can feed your family healthly on $50 a week that is so awesome, I wish I could. A good topic. I am also going back to school to become a Holistic Nutritionist, so I am slowly changing what our family eats, to my husbands shagrin.

  90. Thank you for the important reminder that we shouldn’t beat ourselves up when our food budget can’t meet another family’s low budget.

    Every family’s values and circumstances are unique, so we should find inspiration but shouldn’t try to mimic another family’s budget!
    debbie T´s last post…Spending Less For Food, But Not Too Low