Food Dollars

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Cherry tomatoes

I’ve noticed that one of the complaints about Food Revolution is that the issue of budget isn’t considered when discussing processed verses whole foods. Note the lowercase there – whole foods doesn’t equal Whole Foods, or as many people like to call it, Whole Paycheck.

Every month the USDA compiles a table of food costs (based on the Food Pyramid) in the country, at four income levels. For a family of two adults and two children under 6, the monthly cost of food in February 2010 ranged from $507.80 (thrifty) to $987.40 (liberal). You can view the tables, which go back to 1994, here.

Now, I’m probably opening a can of worms here, but I’d love it if everyone would share their approximate monthly food cost. Feel free to share more information, such as how much of that budget goes to eating out, liquor/wine, convenience foods, and if you shop at farmers’ markets and the like. Please share even if you don’t live in the United States, but let me know where you are so I can convert the dollar amount.

I’m opening this up to allow anonymous comments. As money is a sensitive topic, I want to make sure everyone is comfortable sharing, therefore you don’t need to leave your name.

On Monday I’ll compile the comments and discuss what we’ve found.

So… what’s your food budget?

13 Comments

  1. I was recently unemployed and in that time couponing became my job. We are married, no kids, and I have our grocery budget down to $200 a month. My husband does NOT like fruits or veggies, so buying them for myself can be a waste, so I’ve turned to frozen fruits and veggies instead of canned.

    1. We recently (on Sunday) went grocery shopping. I hate grocery shopping because we easily spend $300 just for two weeks. Since our son Charlie is on the GFCF diet we HAVE to buy the expensive good food. Recently my husband and I started to eat healthy as well because we have both become over weight and we were unable to keep up with the kids. We used to buy for our selfs the frozen pizza’s, hot pockets, etc., real keep at wal-mart. Our grocery bill went from maybe $150 a month to nearly $600 a month. We are already on a tight budget so trying to eat healthy has been extremely hard. Finding a place that sells great produce is really hard, since all the stores around here outsource and get their produce mainly from chile and mexico. I am hoping to start a garden soon, so in the summer our produce cost will go down!

      1. @Tessa, What are the expensive GFCF foods you’re buying? Just out of curiosity 🙂 It seems like it shouldn’t cost that much extra. I noticed once we cut out the convenience foods our spending actually went down.

        1. @Megan, We get Charlie chips, rice milk, rice cheese, cereal etc., It’s all pretty expensive. For 1/2 pound of rice cheese it $4.99, and thats cheap. We try to stay away from the pre-made food, and I make it all here.

          P.s. So did not mean to make my first post a reply. Apparently I’m not smart enough to figure out how to leave a comment….

  2. I am single and childfree so I’m buying people food for just me. I bring $80 with me to the farmer’s market every two weeks and that buys meat (usually a combination of chicken, shrimp, beef, pork, and bacon), produce, cheese, the occasional goats’ milk, and sometimes eggs (sometimes my neighbor gives me eggs) to last me a couple of weeks. I also go about once a month for a dry goods re-up (pasta, flour+yeast for bread, sugar, canned beans, canned tomato products if I’ve run out of my own, and occasionally yogurt). And occasionally I’ll spend $5 on a gallon of raw milk. So for “groceries” about $160/month + maybe another $50-60 for dry goods, which covers all of my dinners, and lunch/the occasional breakfast on the weekends as well.

    I eat out every weekday at lunch for an average of $12/day. My schedule is kind of insane and making lunch was so burdensome I don’t do it all that often. I know I’d save a lot more money if I did but right now that’s the tradeoff I make till I can move closer to my job.

  3. We spend around $350/month in our house for 2 adults and a 17 month old child who has a VERY sensitive tummy. I buy all organic and go to my local farmer’s markets every week (I am not able to buy everything that I need to solely at the farmer’s markets because my daughter can only eat about 12 foods. They don’t have them all at the market). We buy only sustainable meat and have a vegetarian meal 1-2x/week. We don’t buy anything in a box. I cook everything from scratch that I possibly can. Cooking from scratch, stretching the meat I buy over several meals, and eating meatless a couple times per week are the things we do to stick with our food budget.

  4. Between the two of us, my daughter and myself, we spend about 120-150 dollars on food in a month. The actual budget is flexible and ranges 80-120 per three weeks; it kind of all depends if we buy meat that grocery trip or not. There’s not much canned or packaged goods in there anymore; maybe a packet of pasta or box of cereal, case of canned mushrooms – every other trip – and sometimes a canned pasta for my daughter who loves it. So its mostly produce and bulk goods

  5. There are two of us in our household, and my average grocery spending for 2009 was $375/month (good that you ask this at tax time, since the Quicken category reports are right here on the desk).

    If the need arose, I could cut that probably close to half (fewer steaks and salmon filets, less meat overall, less expensive cheeses, dried beans instead of canned, dried pasta instead of fresh, etc.).

    I have some food sensitivities and find most packaged foods to be pretty gross, so I cook mostly from scratch. I buy good stuff: bulk staples and meats at Costco, regular groceries from the local grocery chain that carries a lot of locally sourced food and has much better quality than the big chains, and an occasional trip to the farmer’s market (ours is Saturday mornings, and it’s just not convenient for me to get there most weeks).

    Dining out cost is on top of that. My husband eats his lunch out most workdays; I treat myself to lunch out maybe every other week or so (my office is at home, so I usually just have something here). We get takeout maybe 1-2 times/month for dinner; actually going to a restaurant and eating there, every other month or so. I have dinner with friends 1-2 times/month.

  6. DH was unemployed last year, so we pared way back. But, I haven’t taken a good look at our spending since he started working again and we’ve gotten back into our normal groove. Now that I’m looking at the numbers, it’s fairly eye opening.

    In the past 6 months, we’ve averaged about $575/month at the grocery store. That sounds like a lot — and it probably is. But, we place a high priority on food. And we spend virtually NO money on traditional “entertainment.” We invite friends over for dinner and games, rather than going “out”… and I can’t remember the last time we went to a movie. To underscore that point, our average spending on entertainment/travel during the last 6 months was literally $10/month. Probably MUCH lower than most people.

    We shop primarily at our co-op, with occasional stops at the traditional grocery store or Whole Foods for odd items they don’t carry. We buy mostly organic produce and local & sustainably raised protein whenever possible (meat, fish, eggs). Our grocery budget number also includes beer, wine, and extra food spending around the holidays when we were hosting gatherings.

    In those same 6 months, we spent an average of $150/month on restaurants/dining out. Considering we eat out once every couple of weeks,and tend to take our lunches to work, that seems about right.

  7. We (just me and the hubster) spend about $300-350 a month on food – and we live in the metro DC region. This is a rough estimate, but we do most of our produce shopping at the asian market – which is loads cheaper than regular grocery stores. About $50 a week is spent at the asian market and the rest is for occasional nights out, coffees, or an occasional “specialty” ingredient (maca, maple syrup -20 bucks a pop-, lucuma…etc.)

    We’re super thrifty though..

  8. I find it really hard to eat healthy but stay on my budget. I try so much to keep a certain budget each month but I always go over each month. I love making homemade stuff and I feel that making things yourself is healthier than getting it from the store and processed. The horrible part is when I buy fresh veggies and fruits but it spoils because we don’t eat it all.

  9. Meg, you know I don’t eat as well as you but I’ve been on junk food longer 🙂 I spend on average 80 a week for me. I so rarely eat out, it’s a splurge for me. One week may be only $20 or so for the basics of milk, fresh veggies and fruit for the week, some cheese and sandwich meat. I make my lunch every day while lots of people at work hit the hot dog vendor or Subway. Other weeks are over $100 because I find I’m almost out of dry goods like pasta, cereal, etc or am buying meats. No farm markets right now here in Nebraska, but soon. Then I know my groceries will go up. Last summer I spent on average $40 a week at the farmer’s market buying all kinds of fresh fruits and veggies as well as farm fresh eggs, pastured meats, home made bakery. I don’t have a problem with buying too much, and do take advantage of the low prices when every stall has thousands of tomatoes, because I can and freeze. Which cuts the food bill for the winter. One CAN do it and cut costs, eat good healthy food with just occasional junk, and live in an apartment. One just has to know where to look, shop seasonally, don’t expect to get a cheap tomato in Janauary… it also takes dedication and determination to do it and stick to your budget.

  10. What great responses you’re getting, Megan! I wish I were better at tracking exactly how much we spend at the grocery store each month, but I’d guess it’s between $200 and $300 for two adults and a toddler. (I’ll be sure to nail down a number before this week’s challenge.)

    I take pride in comparison shopping, coupon clipping and using circulars and in-store deals to find the best prices on food. I wish we could afford to buy only local meat and produce, but we’re mostly a one-income household, which means there’s not much room in the budget. (We can supplement a lot of greens and some veggies from our garden, which makes me very happy.) I know there’s an argument to be made that you can buy totally local on a budget, but there’s no denying that $30 can go a long way at the grocery store. Like everybody, we’re just doing the best that we can, shopping from local farmers when there’s a little bit of extra cash in the pot.

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