I have been reading lot on your site — especially about deals, target trips etc. and grocery budgets. I’m wondering when you describe grocery budgets — are you talking about food exclusively? What about things like dish soap, shampoo, and sponges etc. etc? We have 3 kiddos and wondering what you think is a reasonable budget for all that stuff? -a reader
Great question! And it’s one I get asked a lot. I figured it was high time I wrote a post answering this question!
1. Do What Works For You
First off, what works for one person won’t work for someone else. Some families will find it works best to lump all of their food and household purchases under the Grocery Budget category. Other families will find it works best to have multiple categories — one for food only, one for household items, one for diapers, etc.
Try a few different methods and then figure out what works best for you and stick with that. And don’t feel guilty if you’re doing things completely different than another frugal friend of yours!
2. Start With a Reasonable Figure
One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lower their grocery bill is starting out with an unrealistically low budget. You can’t overhaul your grocery bill overnight — unless you want to find yourself frustrated and exhausted!
Instead, pick a realistic-for-you amount. For most people, this will be somewhere between $20 to $40 per person per week. The amount will vary based upon where you live, what your dietary restrictions are, and whether you include non-food items in your budget.
The best thing you can do is to pick a number that is actually doable — even if it feels a lot higher than you’d like it to be. It’s better to be reasonable and actually stick with your budget, than to try to adhere to an impossibly-low budget number and end up overwhelmed and stressed.
3. Slowly Shave 1-3% Off Per Month
Once you’ve picked a grocery budget amount that is realistic for your family, challenge yourself to shave 1 to 3% off of it every month. This might seem like it won’t do much good — and it won’t really make a difference at first.
But over time, if you continue to consistently shave an additional 1 to 3% off your grocery budget every month, you’ll start to see significant savings. And when you approach it at a slow rate, the savings are much more bound to be lasting.
What advice and suggestions do YOU have for this reader’s question? I’d love to hear!
Stephanie @ From the Burbs to the Boonies says
I have had to do the first and second. I started at $60 per week for a family of 3 and 3 animals and it just wasn’t working. Between animal needs and kid needs and husband needs, ha, I just had to adjust it. Thanks for the advice!
You all should feel really good about yourselves! We don’t have any kids, but my husband and I live in DC and have a grocery budget of $400. That usually doesn’t include toiletries since I am usually able to get those for free at CVS. We even buy most of our groceries at the commissary and Costco and barely ever buy processed foods. We tend to eat out 2-4 meals a week, so that also cuts down on our grocery cost (since the “dining out” is a separate part of the budget). We do spend more buying organic when possible, and it includes luxuries like wine. I’m not complaining because I know we don’t buy as cheap as we could (ie: less meat, wine, more rice and beans), but I think we do pay minimum prices in our area for what we get.
All I’m saying is for those of you with even bigger families who eat even more meals at home and manage to spend the same amount, that is awesome! You should feel so good! And for those who spend more because they are living in an expensive area, I hear ya! Not everyone can practically feed a family of 8 on an average budget for two!
Heather @ My Mothermode says
Mel, I commend you for not being afraid to state that grocery budgeting should be taught to anyone receiving government aid…food storage and preparation should be taught as well. Many of us here are working hard to price compare, coupon, and cook our foods. What a healthier population (not to mention “healthier” national debt) we would have if food assistance were rice, beans, flour, and other simple foods that most of the world’s population consumes.
Tania Cox says
In people’s experience, is it cheaper to shop at Aldi’s vs. Walmart? What about the quality of the food there?
Jennifer C. says
I just moved to a town with an Aldi and I am comparing prices. It does seem a lot cheaper at Aldi. For instance, chocolate chips 1.29/12 oz. bag. Got a pineapple yesterday for 99cents and we had one last week that was delicious. Bread is 1.29/loaf which is about as cheap as the day-old bread store. They have real maple syrup that was comparable in price to Trader Joe’s price. Their selection is not like walmart and a lot of the food is their store brand, but overall, it appears a lot cheaper – I think you just have to know your prices. Not sure about their meat, though – but I did buy a butterball turkey there for Thanksgiving.
I think that grocery budgeting should be taught to anyone receiving government aid. I keep reading more & more that families are going hungry because their food stamps have been cut by 5% yet the amount they receive is far more than I spend for my family of 5 (average of $75 per week). I see so many people in front of me at Wal-Mart spend $250 on a cart full of processed, high sugar, high fat convenience food and pay with food stamps when they could eat healthy and stretch their dollars if they were forced to or taught how to budget.
Just coupon we started a group called couponing 101 in fort worth on facebook. Where we share deals with each other and what coupons. You don’t have to consume yourself with couponing to get some good deals. Just do a few that strike you and you will be stocked up. I do not pay for toilet paper, detergent, dish soap, body wash, do, or any other cosmetic type things. Some food as well, so this leaves more room in our budget for groceries.
Need A Nap2 says
My husband and I have been on tight budgets ever since we got married so I’m not worried as much about how much am I spending on groceries (though we’ve had to up the amounts b/c of rising costs/shrinking packages). I think another commenter made a good point, what are you throwing away?? I tend to throw away produce we didn’t eat or make something with (carrots/celery went bad, salad wasn’t eaten as expected). Refrigerated dairy-type products, sometimes milk, cream cheese (now I know to freeze it), sour cream (some say to freeze and some say not to?), *rarely* shredded cheese that got moldy. Since I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes last year (4 years after our oldest daughter), I haven’t been making as much dessert so boxed cake mixes and cookie mixes (we also changed our church small group so I don’t need as much as I used to make for them).
So adjust what you buy and how you care for the food you do buy. I only buy one tub of sour cream (I used to buy 2 or 3 when at a rock bottom price). I watch our milk carefully (I think it’s gone up a $1 a gallon this year) because lately my kids have been drinking more water. I’ve learned to rinse celery off then wrap in paper towel then foil, supposed to keep for a long time that way.
I think this is the most stressful area for those new to frugality, the comparing to others. Other ladies ask me a lot, how much do you spend? how can Money Saving Mom spend so little (Crystal doesn’t post as much about it as she used to)? don’t you get your groceries for free because you use coupons?
I don’t like to get into specifics about how much we spend but on big areas where you can save. Buy diapers, wipes, baby food, laundry detergents, soaps, and toothbrush/toothpaste with coupons and sales and sometimes a drugstore instead of a grocery store to save more. 🙂
Some weeks, we don’t buy anything.
Some weeks, we spend as much as $100. No week is typical, as my wife would tell you, because one product price in a sales cycle can mean we buy 60 of that product that week. Some weeks, no price is worth it.
We use coupons for at least 80 percent of the thing we buy and have consequently gotten nearly anything you can think of for free. Not always, but at least once. Our stockpile is enough that when I was unemployed for three months, food wasn’t a concern. And some of the items we’ve bought we actually got paid to buy.
We don’t buy organic, and we don’t buy gluten-free. We watch three local chain stores’ sales cycles and buy when prices with coupons are low enough. For some things — salad dressing, spices, pickles, even rice and pasta sauce — low enough means free. For other things, you’re not going to get it free basically ever, so you take advantage when you can. This week, that means buying bacon for $2.40/lb.
But to do what we do, you have GOT to throw away your brand loyalty. We buy brands we haven’t heard of because the food is free or close to it. We haven’t been disappointed.
It takes time. Reviewing weekly sales takes an hour per sale, and that’s without scouting the store for unadvertised deals. And when the sales are good, I can spend three hours a day driving and shopping. But in those trips, I’ll save more than $60 on … everything. Sometimes I’ll save more than that. And it’s food, it’s Christmas gifts, it’s household items.
Heather @ My Mothermode says
When you always coupon and look for stock-up prices and track how long it takes to prepare for store visits, travel, and then make your way through the store- particularly ‘super double’ coupon events- you may realize that it’s a big chunk of time! I’ve made it a goal to try to ‘fly’ through my preparation and shopping to ease the burden.
Bulk flour, rice, meat, and other simple foods are tremendous money AND time savers.
Yes, I save so much on drugstore items that I have a lot more wiggle room for groceries. I love Rite Aid so much.
Cash is king! (That’s a Dave Ramseyism) If I don’t use cash, I keep “stocking up,” but never have a lower budget week to compensate. It really makes you reevaluate a lot of expenses; for instance, water suddenly became an appealing beverage when we realized how much we were throwing away on other drinks. I also get to do little treats with any leftover cash (like meet a friend for lunch at Panera), or fun family activities.
For wiggle room, I do one “envelope” for all Targety-items and food, including any (rare) dining out. This allows a lot of flexibility, which I need as a total youngest-child type- like, I can wait one more week to buy new foundation if it means I can splurge on some dark chocolates (you know, for the children!) It stinks when you have $20 left for a week, but it is also very freeing to know you are sticking in your budget without much effort, and gives almost instant feedback on if you are spending wisely. Best of luck!
Mrs. W says
We had been spending $950/month for a family of 4. Our grocery bill is higher due to food sensitivities. We don’t buy much organic. We don’t buy much prepackaged foods. We do go through a lot of produce. We do shop at several stores to get the best prices.
Since a I started price matching at Walmart this past year, we knocked $80 off of our monthly total. (Dropped our grocery bill down to $880) Now four months ago I started couponing and stockpiling, and our monthly grocery bill the past two months has been $700 or less. I never thought our grocery bill could be that low. Price matching, couponing and stockpiling has been awesome for knocking our food bill down a ton!
Things I have stockpiled- Hormel natural sandwhich meats, Planters cashews, honey roasted peanuts, gluten free cereals (found for $2 or less on clearance), Skippy Natural Peanut butter, frozen veggies (this past week I got them on sale for $.48 then used coupons for $.35 off to get frozen veggies for $.13/bag), meats on sale, canned goods, anything seasonal on sale- right now baking stuff is a great deal, this summer we got ice cream treats for practically free with price matching and couponing.
For produce, we usually get each week what the best deals are. Aldis is great to price match from. Some of our other local stores sometimes have produce real cheap too. So if carrot sticks, apples and oranges are rock bottom prices- that is what we eat that week. If mangoes or melons are real cheap, we eat those. We’ve had a lot more produce variety since I started following the sales.
When I see grocery bills for $400 only I think how in the world? I think without our sensitivies I think a good grocery bill for a family of 4 in our current economy would be $600 month. I could see $150 a week being very doable. Of course, with sales/price matching/couponing- maybe it could be even cheaper than that.
I usually figure out how many meals a month I am going to need and create a menu. From there I find the ingredients I know for those meals and make a shopping list. Then I take the ingredients and shop around for coupons and compare the grocery flyer for the week we choose to go shopping. I allow some snacks but we do not go over board. I typically do not by an item unless it is on sale or I have a coupon except when I absolutely need it. I also buy store brands of certain items like fruit cups, apple sauce and baking items. Since I keep my fiancé at home (he tends to throw me off by wanting things not on my list!) I typically spend no more than $300 a month for two adults and a nine year old. I average around $250 a month and save between $50 to $100 in coupons! I am a little OCD when it comes to grocery shopping so remember it is all what works for you 🙂
Amanda L says
I have it all in one category, except for diapers and wipes. We cloth diaper, so we don’t buy as many disposable, but they come out of the baby envelope. We spend about 75 a week for 4 people. I budget 100 a week to allow wiggle room for holidays, special events, and saving towards our half cow purchase each year. Some months we use it all up and others we don’t. We also have a separate eat out budget. I am also the type to move money around envelopes if need be to meet needs in an area that are unexpected.
Budgets definitely differ per family – what works for one may not work for another!! I think the biggest thing that has helped me shave down on the grocery bill is to plan out the meals for a week before shopping. I used to scour the weekly ads and match coupons then plan my meals around that, but since we have Aldi I stopped doing that because they are just cheaper all around even without using coupons. So I plan my meals and then just take off to Aldi to do my shopping. Right now, I spend about $60-$70 per week for a household of 3 just for food. I usually go to walmart twice a month for household items and spend about $20-$40 depending on what we need.
Kelsey Hays says
Thank you for this post! SO MUCH. I always stress myself out over being within a certain budget based on what I think is frugal. I think it is so important to just do what works best for your individual family and not worry about how much/little any one else is spending! 🙂
Wow… I think that cost of living plays a part here. We live in upstate NY (Rochester). I don’t know where some of you live, but I feel like some of your food budgets seem insane to me! I coupon like crazy and get great deals- and on top of that we get WIC for our youngest 2 kids and reduced price school lunches (which makes it cheaper than packing) for our older 2 kids. Yet I still spend around $700 per month on groceries (which includes all toiletries, cleaning products and make-up) for a family of 6. I am a SAHM who makes homemade dinners almost every night. What am I doing wrong? Would love to only spend $400 per month or less on food.
Nevermind. Thanks, Jessica. I see from the USDA Food Plan that we are actually probably at about the low-cost level, if you factor out the WIC and free lunches. Now I feel like I am doing a good job!
Jessica Ross says
I found this USDA link a few days ago while asking myself the same question. It was interesting to see what the national averages were for families like mine. There are 4 levels or tiers of weekly/monthly food costs. You can base it on a 4 person family or add up the individual members to get the average for your specific family. It helped me realize that we spend a lot less than some, but we could be pinching a few more pennies to fall into the “thrifty plan”.
Thanks for the link! I remember reading about these charts years ago in the Tightwad Gazette but hadn’t checked them in forever.
With whatever time you might have, it is best to look for ways to save that WORKS FOR YOU. I try to make meals at home, freeze meals for when we are busy or know we will be rushed, buy when things are on sale, buy when things are the “best time to buy” (ex. Thanksgiving or baking goods are at their lowest in November), and use coupons when you can. A woman behind me at the register the other day commended me on using coupons. I have been using coupons for so many years (I can’t remember a time I didn’t use coupons) and I do my best to scout them out, but I am by no means an extreme couponer. I do what I have time for and I usually can save $100 per month by using coupons so why not. I don’t have time to figure out what I save by buying things that are on “sale” but that is also a savings. I always try to buy things when they are on sale but obviously sometimes you can’t. When ordering online or before I go shopping, I spend ten minutes on the computer looking for coupon codes or a printable coupon to use in-store. I try to buy what we “need” vs. what we “want”. No separate grocery or non-grocery budget. Makes it hard when you are at a Target or WalMart to be separating that out. I think the $30 per person is reasonable for groceries and non-groceries, sometimes higher depending on the household need.
One thing I don’t do is purchase the non-food items like the dish sponges, shampoo…at a regular grocery store. They usually mark them up a lot more than someplace like Wal-Mart, Target..
And as for groceries, it also depends on size of family and what you like to eat. My husband has certain things he wants and things he refuses to eat, since he works to support us, I do splurge on things for him, but less on the rest of us when he is at work.
I lump it all together. I figure if the grocery store I shop at sells it, then it’s “groceries”. This makes my budgeting a whole lot simpler.
Diapers, wipes, cat food, cat litter, feminine care, toiletries, OTC meds, baby meds, first aid, and people food is all “groceries”. I don’t want to spend hours deciding whether the probiotics supplement recommended for my baby’s viral gastroenteritis is a “grocery”, an “OTC”, a “vitamin”, etc. I got it at Meijer, so it’s groceries.*
I live in Ohio. We’re a family of 5 people: 2 active adults in our mid-30s, plus a picky 7 year old, a 3 year old, and a baby turning 1 next month. The baby is on formula due to my lactation failure. My 3 year old is in diapers… tried cloth diapering on all my kids and it only worked on the oldest. The other two have skin problems and the cloth, for whatever reason (and I tried 10+ detergents, various creams, ointments, etc)- irritated their eczema to severe levels where they had open, oozing sores in their diaper regions. Once I switched to disposables, it cleared right up. We don’t have dietary restrictions but we do have picky eaters. We rarely go out to eat or buy bakery goods. I cook and bake from scratch. We don’t drink beer or pop or bottled water and I’m the only coffee/tea drinker. On the flip side, I don’t drink cow’s milk but my DH, 7yo and 3yo do. The baby will switch over when she turns 1. We don’t eat “organic”, but I also don’t buy much in the way of packaged cookies, lunchables, chips, frozen dinners, or deli stuff. As fa r as toiletries and OTC, I coupon and buy generic and am not brand loyal on most products.
I think it would also depend on the types of foods you enjoy. Due to our picky eaters, I prepare fairly simple meals. Earlier this week, I cooked 5 pounds of chicken breasts in my crock pot. We had them with potatoes and peas that day, then we’ve had chicken fried rice, chicken tacos, chicken wraps, fettuccine alfredo with shredded chicken, and there’s still some left that I’ll be using to make a bbq chicken pizza this weekend. I got that chicken at Target this week for $9.60 after coupons and discounts. My husband is the type that “needs” a meat at every meal. Our other dinner this week was grilled cheese sandwiches with corn on the side. Lunches are leftovers or pb&j sandwiches. Breakfast- DH eats a banana and drinks 2 cups of chocolate milk. I eat a “normal” breakfast. My kids forage and the oldest one usually eats the provided breakfast at school- in our district, every child gets free breakfast regardless of income. They just want kids to start the day fed. We otherwise don’t qualify for reduced/free lunches. I pack her lunch and I pack DH’s lunch. Again, leftovers or sandwiches. DH also takes applesauce, yogurt, cheese stick and something I’ve baked. My 7yo also takes a granola bar in addition to her sandwich.
*Meijer does sell toys, bikes, furniture, clothes, shoes, electronics… I rarely buy those but if I did, those go into the gift/clothes etc category.
I totally agree that the prices do depend on the area of the nation you live and also the size of the city. We live in basically a grease spot in the road and there is not much competition among the few stores. For us it would require a 100+ mile round trip to save more substantially. Considering gasoline prices we adjust our menu to what is on sale, cook from scratch and hope for the best. May not be the most brilliant plan but it works for us.
I figure my grocery budget the same way, Jessica, except we have only a Wal-Mart in our little FL town. I used to try to break everything down into categories but it was so tedious that I wasn’t doing it. Now, if I buy it at Wal-Mart, except for rare gift and clothes purchases, it is part of my grocery budget.
Oops, haha, I forgot to add. Our weekly “groceries” budget (like I said, it includes cat food/litter, people food, OTC, hygiene, feminine, diapers, wipes, and cleaning products)- is $100 per week. I live in Columbus, OH, where I can shop at Aldi, Walmart, Target, Meijer, Giant Eagle, Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Sam’s Club, Save-a-lot, local/independent grocers, Costco… etc. I mainly use Target, Meijer, and Aldi. I stop in Kroger if there’s a super sale going on. I’ve never bought anything at Costco, Trader Joe’s, Save-a-lot, or Whole Foods. I will occasionally go to Sam’s club (I’m a member)- maybe 4x a year and stocku p on what we use in bulk. I can’t stand Walmart so I avoid it at all costs. There was just another police incident at one of our Walmarts that involved a suspect being shot. Yikes!
Jessica I live in Columbus Ohio as well and use Giant Eagle we are a family of four and
I can’t make my budget less than 200 a week on average. We take our lunches to work and eat breakfast at home or work too. Do you use a lot of coupons? That’s the only way I can shed some off my bill.
I lived in Columbus, up until 4 years ago, and I found that Giant Eagle was the most expensive store to shop at. I used to live near Kenny and Henderson Roads, so I had access to Meijer, Kroger, Aldi, and Giant Eagle.
I have found Giant Eagle to be the priciest in our area too. My average grocery bill went up significantly the couple weeks I did our main shopping there. However, I find that if I shop at Wallmart, because they have everything and it is cheaper, I fill my cart with more than I would normally buy. We do have Aldis close by, which I appreciate. I think if I stuck to my list and shopped without my kids, we would probably save more. On the other hand, when I try to scrimp and save, I end up going to the store more frequently because I don’t buy enough. At some point it would probably be best to not hang out at either extreme end of the spectrum, and implement strategies that I know I can.
Everyone’s suggestions are great! For me, I separate my grocery budget from my household budget. I also have a separate yearly budget for stock pile so that I can stock pile on items for when the stores are basally giving the items away that I use! With no dietary restrictions and living in the north burbs of Chicago (no coupon doubling here) I spend $40 or less per week for grocery’s for some that may be high but I enjoy fresh produce). We have so many places to shop…Target, Jewel, Aldis, Walgreens, CVS , Food 4 Less etc. When it comes to my dinners, they are planed based on sales or what is already stock piled in my freezer. When there is a GREAT sale, I have been known to stock pile on an item that I use based upon that items expiration date. I will calculate how many of that item I will probably use and buy enough to last me through that expiration date. And most important I use my coupons. My favorite is when Target has a sale and I have a mf coupon and a Target coupon as well as a Cartwheel for it. Also what has helped, I am no longer brand loyal! Ok, I do have a couple of items that I do prefer a specific brand but I will not buy it unless it is on sale and I have a coupon for it or a GREAT sale but do not have a coupon for it. Otherwise, I do not buy it and do without…not a big deal for me. Also read what “Lisa” said below for it is so true regarding wasting food.
Sharon Schulze says
Another thing that can make a difference is where you live; food prices vary a great deal around the country (I live in CT; I’d love to see some of the prices I see mentioned for other areas in our local stores!). Invest some time to see what your options are. As others have said, look at what you’re spending now; also take a close look at _what_ you buy now. Do you need everything you bought to feed your family a balanced, healthful, tasty diet? Can you substitute less expensive items? Buy in bulk? Stockpile, coupon, etc? Do some comparison price checking, as prices can vary quite a bit from store to store. Despite the sticker shock at the checkout, you may already be doing better than you think–but you won’t know until you weigh what you’re doing vs. all your options. As with so much in life, don’t beat yourself up by measuring yourself against someone else’s yardstick–there are a lot of variables involved in what things cost/what you spend/etc.
I have found this to be helpful:
It is interesting that this chart is labeled “food at home”. I guess it is not including eating outside the home which your average family does in some form whether it is eating out or at families/friends. Always makes me kind of wonder what the “real” average is for families, probably a lot higher:) According to the chart we are doing great considering we lump non food and eating out in our budget. We still land in the “thrifty” plan but I know I could do better.
Interesting. For our family of seven (oldest child is 9), our monthly budget on the thrifty plan is $750. I probably spend $200 less than that. I don’t know if that means we aren’t eating healthy or that the costs are not quiet right. Our liberal cost is $1500. Wow.
Yes! The prices posted here are clearly Midwest prices. I’ve lived in a number of areas but I don’t see prices like that. And you are absolutely right about looking at what you are buying. Juice boxes/juice is a good example. I buy juice when it is a great deal, but it is not a regular item on my grocery list. Whole fruits are better for you and you don’t have to worry about additives. Cheese sticks are another. Buy cheese on sale and cut it into cheese sticks.
Yes, I agree. I live on the PA/ NJ border and it is pretty pricey around here. Though I do also buy organic.
Celia, you may find driving west to shop for some items helps out a lot. I live in the DC area, but since I have a sister in Lancaster County, I do my bulk shopping, every quarter, at an organic Amish store called Miller’s Natural Foods. I don’t necessarily get the prices posted by this woman, but this store’s prices are much cheaper than down here. So I stock up till the next time I visit. Of course I still have to pay for my regular fresh produce prices, but any reduction in costs help.
Thank you, I will see how far away that is. Maybe we can make a day trip out of it. I feel like I do pretty well making my own breads and treats, but with the prices being double and sometimes five times regular food it does get a bit overwhelming.
Amanda L says
I agree that PA prices are higher than many mentioned here. Though there are a few items I see mentioned that are cheaper in our area.
I live right in Lancaster county and there are a couple “bent and dent” stores that I keep an eye on, on a pretty regular basis. Glenwoods and Ebeneezers are both in Ephrata, as well as a Sharp Shopper. There’s a little place in New Holland called Save-Mor. By checking regularly, I find all kinds of organic and gluten free deals that are cheaper then Millers.
Eew. I have to be honest, Pennsylvania food prices ARE insane. We come visit friends and family in Penn’a once a year, and every year I want to vomit at milk prices. I think I saw lowest legal limit this past summer at 4.50 a gallon or some insanity like that.
That being said, we get our groceries at Giant when we visit Gettysburg and the area – we do a lot of our own cooking, and i find if I bring my binder and watch sale prices the weeks leading up to vacation, I do pretty well!
I lump it all together. Since quite often we buy toilet paper with food, I don’t want to have to separate it out. Plus, I know that will make it more difficult, so I’ll be less likely to do it.
I started by gathering my receipts that I had and taking stock of what we used. I was able to see what we spent, and where we could save. In moving from Massachusetts to Utah I’ve had to reanalyze since the stores and deals as well as regular prices have changed.
The size of your family and appetites will also dictate the budget size : most recipes are aimed at serving 6, for our family of three, that means freezing half, or leftovers. I aim for $20/person/week average but some weeks I buy meat sales, some weeks paper goods, some weeks nothing.
Your budget will change, too, when your children are teenagers. My son, 14, is eating more and more. During soccer season, he will eat a full dinner before AND after practice. We just have to shop sales, use coupons, and shift funds from our “wants” category.
Sara@Save Money, Live Joyfully says
My son is only 18 months, and I’m already cringing at what he will do as a teenager! For a *snack*, he’ll eat a full container of raspberries, two applesauces, and an avocado. For meals, he usually has two servings of everything. But, my husband is 6’4″, so I should have expected we would have tall kids too 🙂
Stephanie @ Six Figures Under says
We keep our food budget separate from our household items (toilet paper, trash bags, baby wipes) etc. That helps us keep better track of where our money goes.
Cooking from scratch, buying in bulk and on sale, and having a garden help us keep our food budget down. We live in the boonies, so I usually only shop once a month. Right now we have $300/month budgeted for food for my husband and I and 3 kiddos.5 of us. We actually spent $100 less when we live in the wonderful land of Aldi (Come to California, Aldi!). For household things we have $40 budgeted. We try to buy ahead when things are on sale or there is a good deal. We also cloth diaper (though, as of Monday he’s potty trained!), so we don’t have that expense.
I agree with Crystal though, everyone’s situation is so different. You really can’t compare your numbers to someone else’s. Take a good look at what you’re spending now (dividing out household items might help) and try to cut it down from there. Then you can compare yourself last month with yourself this month.
Stephanie @ Six Figures Under says
I should also add that this is a no-frills-working-hard-to-pay-off-student-loans-asap budget 🙂
Congrats on potty training–we’re potty trained as of Monday, as well!
Shop once a month? That is insane. I don’t know how you could plan that! We are a family of 6 and I shop at least twice a week. Impressive! I think my DH would live to live out in the country or up in the mountains, but I want my stores close!
The Prudent Homemaker says
Kara, it’s really nice not to have to go to the store real often, and even with a large family, it’s very doable. Keep your pantry and freezer stocked, and buy larger quantities of things when you go, and you can switch to once a month shopping.
The less time I spend shopping, the more time and energy I have to do other things!
Need A Nap2 says
I like having things close but in order to shop once a month, the store would have to have everything in stock. We moved 4 years ago to a smaller town and EVERY week when I go to Wal-Mart they are out of something I need and usually buy. Brown rice, distilled water, blood sugar strips (glucose meter), etc. My MIL was just here and I think she frowned on my stashes, but I really don’t know what will be gone from week-to-week. The last 2 weeks basic Chex cereals (wheat, corn, rice) were out of stock b/c they’ve been marked down to $2 for the holidays. 🙂
We have spent 120 a week for a long time to feed two adults and two children but it has been creeping up and up. This January we are upping our budget for groceries and cleaners to 160 per week. We buy mostly organic but I make all our bread and treats and stuff.
I spend about 40/week per person but that’s because I have a gluten allergy and eat organic meat, produce, and dairy. I also work from home and cook almost every night so I don’t feel bad having a slightly higher than average budget knowing that it would cost much more if I ate out regularly. I also think the real test of an accurate grocery budget is waste, are you throwing food out at the end of the week or is your fridge bare? I feel on target when we don’t go over the cash envelope and aren’t throwing away food at thr end of the week.
Hmmm, I think I may need to switch over to a cash envelope system for groceries. We just keep going over!
Lisa, you make an excellent point about waste. That is the fastest way to cut your grocery budget (and carbon footprint!)– don’t buy more than you will use.
My grocery budget is just food. And what your budget should be is going to vary, depending on how much your income is, how important “nicer” or more convenient food is to you, etc.
Personally, we spend less than $20 per person per week. We spend $480 per month, or less than $120 per week for a household of two adults and seven children ages 12 down to 1. I make most things from scratch, and we buy cheaper foods, but still eat healthy. The first few years of our marriage, we were very low income, living debt-free without government aid, and trying to save up for our first house while I became a stay-at-home mom. Those habits were ingrained by then, and now that our household numbers 9, more expensive groceries would quickly add up. We’ve relaxed a little bit in recent years, but spending significantly more on groceries would be more stress to us than pleasure!
$480 is awesome!! I would love to hear more about how you menu plan and what typical meals look like!
Do tell!! We are about to retire from the military and lose a significant amount of monthly pay! If you are able to feed a fam of 9 for that our fam of 5 should be near half!!! Please share what works for you!
I think with a larger family, you don’t really have to add the same amount for each additional person. At some point there is some overlap and your cost per person drops. Of course, all bets are off once you have several teen boys!
Would also love to hear how you menu plan and how you do such a great job with being frugal with a large family!
I would also love to hear how you meal plan.
I do a grocery budget and then a non-grocery budget. Groceries meaning food, drinks, etc. The non-grocery items are things like toilet paper, deodorant, soap, etc.
Susan in St. Louis says
That’s what works for us too – I call it “grocery” and “household”.
Actually, the best way to set a grocery budget is to look at what you’ve already been spending. This is pretty easy if you normally pay by credit card or check – banks almost universally keep track online and you can look up how much you spent, when, and where. If you find that you’re spending $500 a month at the grocery store, that’s a starting point. If you’re spending $800 a month, that’s also a starting point. From there, you can start either breaking down each receipt (some stores do this automatically, separating out the receipt into sections for grocery, household, pharmacy, etc.) or just lumping it altogether into “household costs.”
I actually found the easiest way to budget for our family was to split our expenses into four parts:
– fixed mandatory expenses (mortgage, insurance, etc.)
– variable mandatory expenses (utilities, groceries, etc.)
– fixed discretionary expenses (magazines, Netflix, etc.)
– variable discretionary expenses (eating out, gifts, “fun money”)
From there, it was a lot easier to see a) what we spent, and b) what was flexible and might be able to be cut. It was also less work than a really strict budget – I don’t want to have to sort out whether I bought paper towels with the grocery or the household money, I just wanted to be able to track it all and see what we could cut.
That’s what’s working for us, anyway – you may find something completely different works for you!
Thanks for those tips Wendy, gave me a few ideas!
I do think that statistics show that most households can stay at $120 per week . I have been tracking 78 families in various states and cities we are all doing about the same $120 we all have various systems but it all lands about the same. My family of 9 I do $120 per week (however, anytime anyone asks what we want for a gift I ask for food or food gift card in this way we eat at a much higher level) (I also accept free food and I do this a lot) . I think that tracking your own is a great idea for a starting point that is what we all did. All 78 families group everything purchased for the home we do it this way $100 for food $20 for everything else we include even filters for the heat air, dish soap , paper products etc. (every family buys different items but we are all sticking to this budget and keeping each other accountable)
Great advice thanks! We are a family of 7 spending about $160 a week and I’m happy with it but would like to start breaking it down and looking at what is paper stuff, etc. Thanks!