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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Food Budget

My friend Mariah wanted to know what other families' food budgets looked like because she's having issues paring hers down. So I got to thinking about how much we actually spend on food, where we buy it, and how much our resulting meals tend to cost. I am a little surprised it is so high! (These numbers are my estimate based on what I am used to forking over at the cash register...and includes non-food household items like cleaners, toiletries, etc.)
From these numbers I can make "per meal" calculations based on my eating at home roughly 19 times per week (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), Dave eating there 8 times per week, and Eddie 16 times per week. This food budget does NOT include: coffees, cookies, and lunches I buy at school a few times a week or any weekend eating out we do.

These tallies seem like a lot. In fact, from all the home economics reading I've done over the last several years, $3/home cooked meal IS a lot. Most people aim for under $2. But since I make all our own food from scratch, we're heavy on produce, AND our meals are super flavorful/inventive I'm actually okay with it. I could probably cut this expenditure by at least half if we ate really boring meals ( touts this practice as a money-saving tactic...but her family doesn't mind "plain" food. I just can't handle that, since cooking is a passion/hobby of mine.)

So here's what we actually spent last year, according to our online records (with our estimated non-food costs deducted from the Costco category and what is hopefully an over-estimate for the cash category).Not too surprisingly, we spent about $31 a week at cafes and restaurants. I bet the 2011 amount for this category will be a lot less than this since we really don't go out much anymore because it is just too hard to do with Eddie. Honestly, we avoid eating out with Eddie at all costs these days. He doesn't sit still so one of us ends up entertaining him outside while the other one eats alone. So when we do eat out together, it is usually Costco pizza once a week. Who knew a toddler could curb your dining habits so much?
One caveat to all this is that we live in Northern California where everything is relatively expensive.
  • A gallon of non-rBST milk is $2.89 at the regular store or as low as $2.30 at Costco in a two pack.
  • "Good" apples range from $0.99-1.20/pound on sale.
  • A pound of sharp cheddar is about $8.
  • Our favorite (cheap) cut of beef steak is Chateaubriand and runs about $3/pound at the regular grocery store.)
I could also squeeze in junk food like crackers, chips, sodas, etc. for almost nothing if I used coupons and haunted stores for sales...but we don't like those foods AND I don't have time to clip coupons at this point in my life. Actually, if I didn't force Eddie to eat so much fruit and cheese for his snacks and instead gave him crackers all the time, our budget would probably drop noticeably!

And speaking of which: my "per meal" is artificially high here since I didn't deduct the cost of the snacks we eat (fruit, cheese, occasional crackers, etc.).

How much do YOU spend on food each month?


Team Roy said...

I LOVE that you did this post. Kyle and I have a strict budget that we stick to. Household goods are included in our grocery budget though. So diapers, wipes, shampoo, dishwasher detergent, etc...all considered "groceries". We set our limit to 500 a month. We eat at home a lot, and usually go to Costco for hotdogs and pizza for a treat out :) We probably won't eat out at a real restaurant as a family for years. We have a lot of left overs, which Kyle takes to work. Some dinners are less taxing to make than others though (we had grilled cheese and tomato soup the other night). And like you guys, Kyle is often gone so our meals and food intake changes regularly.

We also shop at the on base commissary. Much cheaper prices and NO TAX - huge help. We get Charlie's milk, eggs and a few produce items at Costco.

200 bucks a month is allotted for eating out. We aren't close to using all of it usually. But that's where cafe's, snacks out, anything not from our house goes.

Loved seeing how you guys spread it out. Hope I gave some interesting insight as well.

Team Roy said...

Oh and we do cut coupons. The commissary. For name brand things like Quaker Oatmeal, soaps, some frozen veggies, etc. It DOES make a difference. But its a new things we've started, and I accepted the job of getting them since I am at home with the kids with no income. Might as well try to save!

Mariah said...

This does make me feel better. Our milk is about 3.49 a gallon here (at least the kind that I don't think tastes disgusting. I use to follow blogs that did lots of couponing but they never seemed to ever get anything I normally buy-doritos,soda, rice o roni, sugar cereal

Kelly said...

Very interesting! We don't budget, which is probably why we can never seem to get our monthly spending down enough to put anything into savings. It used to be so easy before baby!

After this post though, I think I'll take a closer look at our grocery spending.