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What is your grocery budget?

post #1 of 68
Thread Starter 

I keep going back and forth between thinking that our grocery budget is totally outrageous and thinking that it is just what things cost and unavoidable when you want to eat really high quality, healthy foods.  We are a family of four, two adults, a four year old, and a 1.5 year old.  Typically we spend about half of our income on food I think, which is like $400 every two weeks or $800 a month.  Is that insane?  We are always feeling like the money just disappears these days and when I look at our bank statements we are spending the most money by far on food.  Eating out is a second to the grocery budget but we have cut that down more easily by just not going out.  What are your grocery budgets and what do you do to keep the quality up and the cost down?  

post #2 of 68

that actually does seem a little high to me...i probably spend that amount - or a bit less and i am feeding a two plus sized parents, a 16 yr. old daughter who has a digestive disorder and needs specialty foods...and a 13 yr old boy ...who, thankfully, has not started to eat us out of house and home just yet - and our 7 mo old...who is eating, but its really negligable

im typically spending  about $125 at the regular grocery store every week

$25 at the health food store every week

$35 at the produce store every week

$75 at the BJ's - (Cosco) once a month

I have  a set amount for what i will pay for certain foods - i stock up when on sale.


post #3 of 68
Thread Starter 

Do you eat meat?  We buy all of our meat from BJs (wholesale like Costco) because they have organic chicken and ground beef in bulk there but it still adds a good chunk to our bill.  I think about $300 a month goes toward our bulk purchases at BJs and they other $500 gets spent mostly on produce, some dairy, and bulk bean items from Whole Foods.  I wonder about luxury items like arborio rice, wine for cooking, butter and oil, etc.  They are kind of expensive relatively speaking and we do use them a bit liberally.  


Do you think that you could give me an idea of what you would expect to have in your cart for a $100 shopping trip?  I wonder if I am accepting prices that are too high or something.  

post #4 of 68

We used to spend 1K per month on groceries- since I stopped working we've whittled that down to $400 per month for a family of 4. No, we don't eat organic and no we don't shop at the high end or specialty stores- but we do eat well. I think it's wonderful if you can afford to spend the extra money on organics but in all practicallity it's paying more for less food. We are blessed in that I am an above average cook and baker and can make most of our foods from scratch- we also live in relative proximity to a lot of farmland and spend our spring, summer and fall shopping from the farms instead of the grocery store. I hate coupons and refuse to be one of those crazy-running-to-30-stores-per-week ladies just so I can save $10. I like our grocery budget and think it's a very reasonable #.

post #5 of 68

I think that's totally reasonable.  I have a family of six, four children 17 to 2 years old, we eat almost entirely organic.  We eat meat and dairy, but also lots of whole grains and beans, and fresh fruits and veggies.  Our monthly food budget is at least $1500.  We rarely eat out.  Mostly we cook at home.  I have decided that eating well and healthy is a priority for us, and that I'll cut back on other stuff.  Of course, I have friends who watch the sales more closely, grow their own food, buy in large amounts, etc who spend less.

post #6 of 68

We have a family of six, with all of us eating every meal at home (we homeschool). We spend $250 per week. We buy ALL organic and only eat meat 4 times a month. We eat like kings! (and wouldn't touch the food budget, everything is budgeted around groceries)

post #7 of 68

That seems a little bit high but not outrageous. If that is what it takes to eat healthy, then so be it. But you can always look for ways to save money!


We are also 4 (two adults, a 3.5 year old, and 1.5 year old). BUT my husband is a chef and works long hours and eats at work a lot. Another BUT - my mom lives with us and mostly buys her own food but sometimes eats our meals. And one last BUT - my 1.5 year old nurses more than he eats.


Our grocery bill is all over the place. Sometimes I do a great job shopping and other times I way overspend. I would guess on average that we spend about $550 a month on groceries, give or take.


Ways to save: Check out all of the groceries in your area and see which one has better prices. It might be worth it to drive a little bit out of your way to go to a much cheaper store.


Buy day old bakery items (bread, pastries, etc). At my local grocery store I even find day old whole wheat bread and sprouted grain products at 33% off!


Check out the damaged goods section. If there is a canned or boxed good you were already going to buy and you can find it dented and half off then get it!


Stock up on good sales. Sure, maybe you prefer fresh veggies to frozen, but if you see the frozen stuff on sale stock up on it. Then when there are no good fresh veggies at the store for a decent price you can tap into your frozen supply.


Coupons! Coupons coupons coupons! You don't have to become a crazy coupon lady, but just printing out some good ones can save a lot - ESPECIALLY if you get the item on sale + coupon. PM me if you need a list of good coupon/deal sites. Most coupons, sadly, are for junk food. But when look harder you will find coupons for household essentials, and I have even gotten fresh fruit and fresh meat coupons!

Think about the quantities you buy. Buying in bulk is usually a better deal -- if the item won't expire. But if you are consistently making dinner, having leftovers, and eventually chucking the leftovers that don't get eaten maybe you need to buy a little bit less.


And one last thing - Don't go into the store 100% of what you are going to cook. I go in with a list of staples we need, and then I check to see what kinds of veggies, fruits, and meats are on sale. I decide on what I am going to cook in the store.


Good luck!!

post #8 of 68

I aim for $100 a week in groceries, that being said my old budget a year ago or was about $200 a week.  Now sometimes it is less, the last couple weeks we have been trying to clean out the pantry so definitely alot less maybe soon the farmers market will be open and should save even more for us.  I try to stock up on items I know I use, I almost use coupons for everything I can, the key is to stock up when on sale, each week there is about 10-20 I can spend on stock up items especially, meat.   For me is varies from week to week I also menu plan on sundays which helps me use the food I have.


post #9 of 68
We spend about $200- $300 a month on groceries for two adults. DS is almost a year but he still doesn't like eating solids. And we spent about $30 eating out this month.
post #10 of 68

We live in a medium sized city in Michigan.  We are a family of 3 - two adults and a two year old. 


On average we spend about $200 a month on food.  That is between buying our meat and eggs from local sources, lots of organic fruit and veggies and staple items at the grocery store.  I would say that 75% of what we buy is either organic or local.


My hubby eats out quite a bit for lunch and I tend to graze during the day.  We cook maybe 3 big meals a week and then smaller meals the rest of the time.



post #11 of 68

We also make all of our cleaning products; laundry soap, fabric softener, shampoo, conditioner, hand soaps, facial moisturizers. Because these products are many times food, they are included in our grocery bill.

We do not have health insurance, so it is very important to us that we do not eat industrialized food. We don't miss the industrial food at all. It has been a slow process, over two years, and it has become very obvious how bad our old food tastes and makes us feel when we eat it now. We have found that it is a very minor difference between organic prices and non-organic prices. It is suprising how our pallets have changed and how much more satisfying simple food has become.

post #12 of 68

I spend some where around $800-1000 on food a month roughly.. And that is for a family of 3 (My husband and I and our 5 month old). I spend about 100 a week at the local farm for eggs, butter, milk and some meat. (Fresh, local, and organic.) I typically by organic and in the summer months I buy local and organic. I cook almost every night and we do eat meat.

post #13 of 68

I spend about $125 per week for a family of four. I make all of our bread and yogurt from conventional (cheap) ingredients, make all of our snacks, etc. And, we're vegetarian. The $125 includes household stuff, not just food. I shop at Aldi mostly, pick up stuff at Sunflower Farmer's Market, and odds and ends at Dollar Stores and the 99 Cents Only store. I do plan the meals for the week, so I don't have a lot of waste.

post #14 of 68
Thread Starter 

Thank you so much for all of your replies, this stuff is very helpful for perspective.  


I have been trying to use more frozen produce and that has actually been a really good thing.  My daughter, the baby, loves frozen blueberries which are like $2.00 for a big frozen bag that is like twice the amount of a pint that runs for $5+ at Whole Foods.  I decided that any produce that is super expensive and/or that spoils quickly and may not get used in time must be frozen.  We have been trying to make larger meals that offer lots of leftovers for lunches to keep us from running out to buy prepared foods that are costly and not as healthy and that has also helped.  And right now we are growing some lettuces and all of the herbs that I use.  I also make our stock and bread as often as possible.


I have a couple of questions.  What are your top choices for coupon sites?  Usually I find lots of coupons for breakfast cereal, packaged breads, lunchables, etc.  I have a really hard time finding deals on like coconut milk products, organic cheeses, etc.  What criteria do you use when evaluating whether a co-op will be a good fit for you? I always hear people say that they can save you so much money but I get really nervous about not having control over what comes in my share.  What if my family won't eat it?  What if there are things in there that are good but I am still missing enough staples that I still have to go to the store to stock up?  And how do you balance getting the best deal-which I agree usually comes in bulk-with keeping your foods fresh?  

post #15 of 68

I spend 400 per month to feed 2 adults and 4 children. No organics, meat probably 4-6 times per week (including chicken, fish, some beef, and pork). I would say a healthful diet, plenty of fruits and veggies, few processed foods, and large portions. 

post #16 of 68

It sounds like you have a fairly reasonable budget for food. 


I buy my meat in bulk from Costco about once a month and spend about $200. In addition to that, I spend about $120 per week for groceries at Trader Joes or Henry's. Feeding a family healthy foods is expensive. But the alternative (being overweight or sick all the time) is more expensive. 


It's all about compromises. I spend more on groceries, but I spend less on things like household cleaners ( I only use baking soda and vinegar to clean my house). I never buy soda or alcohol. We never eat fast food. We go to the park or the botanical garden for fun, instead of Disneyland or the mall. We buy our clothes at Target instead of The Gap.  I have made healthy food a priority. It does cost more, but it's important to me. 


We have a vegetable garden in our back yard, but after two years I am still spending more on soil amendments, fencing, bird net, and supplies than I would if I just bought the veggies at the store. For me, the garden isn't about saving money, it's about teaching my daughter about what real food looks and tastes like. 



post #17 of 68

Sacrificing in a few areas and planning meals carefully, I spend $100-$120 a week at the grocery, fam of 4, two of which are young like yours. Also DH eats out $100 to $200 per month though he shouldn't go over $100 according to budget. I get organics for the fruits and veggies that are worst for pesticides, and for eggs since the taste and health are huge difference there. I shop at the farmer's market when there's an abundance of fresh stuff and I can make it there (April-Oct), and I grow some veggies out back (enough to keep us in green beans, summer squash, tomatoes, and carrots through summer, this year potatoes and hopefully lettuce too). Starting last year we've been better than breaking even on the garden if you compare to regular priced organic produce. I feel like I should be able to whittle it down to $80 a week but we refuse to let go of some luxuries, like juice, lots of butter, meat main dishes 6 days a week, cold cereal...

post #18 of 68

That does not sound crazy to me. 


We are a family of 6, 2 adults, and 13, 9, 7, 2 (9 is a boy). We spend anywhere from $200-$500 every two weeks, with milk and bread, and more fruit pick ups in there. 

We eat meat, not all organic. You would think living in the midwest meat would be cheaper........it is getting closer in price to the local organic meat we used to buy when we had the money. 

I do not buy boxed or processed food and try to buy as local as I can. I will not run from store to store, it is enough to go from Costco to the grocery, to target or some other place for misc. items. We do use mostly homemade cleaners and go to the health food store for a few things. Even when I was in a CSA and a local home delivery program our food bill was the same. Mainly it is the fresh veg and fruit that kills the budget. 

It is nothing for my kids to eat a 2lb box of strawberries in 2-3 days. Add in the apples, oranges, bananas, blueberries and yogurt. You are already around 100 in just fruit alone. 


We do eat out some, mainly just my husband and I sharing some time at the local sushi place. This is usually the only time we get with each other, well and the 2yr old. 

We do eat very well, and I have gotten by with $150 every two weeks for all of us when my husbands commissions are not there. 

post #19 of 68

I've found that how far your grocery budget will go varies GREATLY depending on where you live.  My budget is about $550 a month including household items and I am seriously struggling to stay in budget (read:It's not happening).  Our family is DH (likes lots of meat, very little grains, won't really eat legumes) Me (currently off top 8+corn, nursing), DD, age 2 (On the GAPS diet and always eats a ton), DD, 8 mos(doesn't really eat much yet).  I am working on getting mostly organic meat and produce (at very least for the dirty dozen).  I make my own cleaners and cook entirely from scratch.  I've spent an extra $80 or so of my birthday money in the last month on food/household items and we are still over budget.  A year and a half ago when we lived in Colorado $550 would have gone a lot further. 

post #20 of 68

It's just my DH and I right now, and we have a pretty large garden, so our monthly spending is not very high, maybe $150. (We also live in a country where whole foods cost less than processed, so that helps.) Anyway, I just wanted second sarkell's statement regarding menu planning - it has helped me a lot! I read about 200 food blogs -- delivered to a feed reader, so I just skim for what's interesting -- and I save interesting recipes in my bookmarks folder on delicious.com, so I can have access to them anytime, anyplace. I tag all recipes, for example Baba Ghanoush (just made it, so it's in my head :) ) is tagged as main.meals, vegetarian, dips, and frugal. I can then search by whatever tag or combination of tags that I want, so when I'm looking to cut my food budget, I often look for main.meals + frugal. I usually plan for the week or, if I'm feeling motivated, up to a month in advance. I bookmark the week's/month's recipes locally, sorted by date, and write out shopping lists for the week/month. I really like this system, and it has definitely helped me be more organized and in turn save some $$$. 

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