WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

What is a reasonable grocery budget?

Posted June 27, 2013

Ever wonder if your grocery budget is on the frugal side or not? Some of you may not even have a grocery budget. Creating a frugal grocery budget isn't hard to do, but it will help you to live more comfortably within your means, which is priceless! Here are some tips to creating a frugal grocery budget, including those I discussed on WRAL-FM this morning.

What is a reasonable grocery budget?

Well…..that all depends. There is no “right” amount to spend that applies to every family. There are too many variables that come into play such as the number of people in the family, allergies, type of diet (vegetarian vs. heavy meat eaters), coupon use, geographic location, amount you eat out, shopping options, etc.

Some experts say $15 per person per week is a very frugal budget. Others say more like $20 per person is reasonable. In a survey by The Dollar Stretcher (a fabulous resource for frugal living ideas), the average family of 4 spent $121 per week - $30.25 per person.

My budget is $80 per week, which includes food, cleaning, health and beauty and paper products. For our family of 4, that’s $20 per person.

Here in the Raleigh area, there are so many shopping options and fabulous deals every week. Most families of 4 should be able to spend much less than $121 per week by using couponing, store promotions and meal planning techniques.

Step One
The first place to start, when determining how much to spend on groceries, is to take a look at your current grocery spending. How much are you spending right now to feed your household each month?

**Important: Track how much you spend per week for at least 2 weeks. If you have receipts from the past couple weeks, use those. If not, track your expenses for the next 2 weeks. Include all those trips through the drive-through and any meals eaten at restaurants for a true picture of how much you spend on food each month. Don’t forget vending machine expenses and money you give the kids for school lunches and trips to the mall food court.

Do your homework on Step One and you are well on your way to saving lots of money on groceries each month.

Step Two
The result of Step One is that many of you will be SHOCKED! All those trips to Starbucks, McD’s and the vending machine add up quickly. Until you have an accurate account of how much you spend on food each month, you won’t be able to make the kind of dent in your grocery budget that you want.

Look at your expenses to see where the money is going. Are you spending a lot on fast food, expensive cleaning supplies or lunch at the nearest deli? You may find some surprises. Look for ways to target those areas where you know you are overspending. Bring lunch and snacks from home, only buy cleaning supplies on sale with coupons or make your own. Examine where the money is going with a fine-tooth comb.

Step Three
Slowly lower your grocery budget each month for the next 6 months by incorporating couponing, store promotions and meal planning techniques. I’ve read that lowering your budget by 5% each month is a good place to start. The ideal weekly budget for your family should allow you to eat well-balanced, frugal meals without having to spend every waking moment searching for deals. The less you eat out, the lower your bills will be and the healthier your meals will be.

Like all things worth doing, setting and sticking to a grocery budget involves discipline. Set your goals and stick to them every week. By the end of the six month period you should have found a comfortable, realistic grocery budget that allows your family to eat well and to be good stewards of your hard earned income.

Feel free to share your weekly or monthly grocery budgets below. It helps if you also share how many people you are feeding.

As I always say, it's your money - spend it wisely!


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  • Rolling Along Jun 27, 2013

    Anybody else growing their own? We use non GMO seeds and replant every year. Tomatoes, Okra, Squash, Cucumbers, 4 different types of melons, onions, kale, potatoes and the list goes on. We plant using a modified Square Foot Gardening method, we start getting fresh veggies in mid April and they don't let up until November or December. Our budget for a family of 4 adults is about $60 a week including a dog and cleaning supplies.

  • Oxymoron02 Jun 27, 2013

    PRGuy, local produce lasts longer in my fridge, because it is more freshly picked than what I find at the grocery store, it is a better value because more of it gets eaten than gets wasted. And because it was picked ripe, not ripened with ethylene gas, it actually tastes like food, which is a good part of the value that I am more willing to pay for. Supporting the local farmer is bonus.

    Did you know the average farmer sees 8 cents of every dollar you pay for the products you buy at the store? That's insane to me.

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Jun 27, 2013

    PRGuy - I totally agree. We always buy more from the local veggie stands in the summer and while my produce budget goes up during that time. I offset the cost by using coupons on all the non-food items and most of my non-perishable food items.

    Thank you to everyone who has shared your budgets! I love reading them!

    chicnrdu - you could definitely get your budget lower than $800/month for a family of 4. As you mentioned, planning is the key. Make your list and pull your coupons before you go to the store to cut down on extra purchases. Use the deal lists from here on the blog to get the lowest prices. Meal plan so you don't end up doing take out or fast food often because you don't know what to have for dinner. Those are my quick tips to get you started. :-)

  • ncveteranswife Jun 27, 2013

    We spend $150 a month for my husband, me & 2 small dogs. We cut back recently due to the dogs now mostly eating (blue) dry food instead of cesar wet food everyday. Also, we were purchasing groceries for my husband's grandmother, but now her son has taken over that responsibility, so we have cut back because of these 2 changes, but we also buy a lot of fruits/vegs at the corner produce stand to support a local farmer which cost more, but if we had to drive to buy fruit/vegs at a grocery, we would spend the same in gas.

  • meredith88 Jun 27, 2013

    Our budget is $100 a month for myself, my husband and my brother-in-law who lives with us part time (aka, he stops by when he's hungry and out of money). That is for food, paper goods, and personal care products. We also budget $50 a month for dog food, chicken feed, and supplies for our other pets. Most months we come in under budget in both categories :) However we are blessed that neither of us have major food allergies that we have to plan for in our budget. We save as much as we can in the areas we can control so we have more money for the areas we can't control and the things we want to spend more on.

  • chicnrdu Jun 27, 2013

    Looking at all of these numbers... I could really save alot of money if I would sit down and plan better... I probably drop 800 a mont for 2 adults, a teenage boy and a preteen boy (who is only here part time) and 2 large dogs... Now I am curious to see how little I can do this in...hmmm

  • PRGuy Jun 27, 2013

    I've been tracking expenses for years to help our family with budgeting and taxes. While I recognize this forum is about thrift and saving money, I'm okay with a slight increase in our grocery budget. The reason why is that we've been shopping more at local farmers' markets. Yes, it's often more expensive but it supports local farmers and I know the food is fresh. We balance that with clipping coupons, perusing circulars and going to places like Aldi. My point is that spending extra at farmers' markets helps the local economy and more often than not delivers better-tasting and fresher foods.

  • Savvysaver Jun 27, 2013

    My family keeps a spreadsheet of every monthly expense - groceries, eating out, hobbies, gas, mortgage, clothing, insurance, cell phone bill...etc. We average $95 a month on groceries for a family of 3 - myself, my husband, and our son. That includes health and beauty items and paper products. My budget is $150 a month, sometimes I'm under, sometimes slightly over. I shop the sales and use coupons. We average $20 a month on eating out! We're unlike many couples are age in that we don't go out and we don't have Smartphones...we'd rather save money than spend it!

  • sunnyside Jun 27, 2013

    Just as a point of interest, the "thrifty food plan" used by the USDA to determine maximum Food Stamp allotments allows for $200 per month for one person, $367 for 2, $526 for 3, and $668 for a household of 4 people. This amount is only for humanly edible food - no paper goods, cleaning supplies, etc. Sounds like many of us are much more "thrifty" than that! And I'm not trying to start anything, no political ranting/bashing, etc. Just saying...

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Jun 27, 2013

    SingleLensReflex.SLR - my family is not an oatmeal eating group (especially in the hot summer months) so we would certainly save money...on buying oatmeal! lol