My friend started a conversation on her high monthly grocery bill and told me to guess how much she spends. I quickly said, “$1,200” – mind you she is raising three growing preteen boys, and lives with her husband, mother, and stepfather, so basically seven adults. She seemed a little surprised that I was so close. As we continued talking about it, I told her there is no reason to even feel guilty about spending around $1,000 a month on food. Here’s why.
My friend basically spends less than $5 a day to feed each person if you work out the math. Isn’t that incredibly good? I don’t know the exact dimension of her budget, but I do know that even if they eat out 2-3 times a week, they are still eating most of their meals at home or from home. While many of us are not spending $1,000 a month, I know there are many of us who feel guilty about how much money we spend at the grocery store. If you cook 85% or more of your meals from home, have very little food waste, and are giving yourself and your family the nutrients needed, then there really should be no guilt.
Why I Stopped Having a Strict Grocery Budget
After years of writing about how to save money on your groceries and giving advice to friends and family, I will let you in on a little secret. I do not worry too much about what I spend at the grocery store. Obviously I don’t go crazy on what I buy, but I just get what feels comfortable for our family. Some months I might spend $100-200 extra if there are amazing meat (usually organic meat) clearances. Other months, I might spend $100-200 less because I am benefiting from a full freezer. When I had a strict grocery budget, I would miss out on good clearance deals, and I often felt deprived and fell to the temptation of eating out several times a month. If my freezer is full, and I have good, fresh ingredients on hand, there is no temptation to eat out. I can whip up a quick and healthy meal faster than it takes for my husband and I to decide where to eat.
I will let you in on another secret. I rarely ever use coupons or search grocery deals online. I have in the past and enjoyed scoring a lot of stuff for free or cheap. However, now it is too time consuming and I buy very little processed foods. I also prefer to do most of my shopping at Costco and Trader Joe’s. Though, I will go to Vons on certain days and buy as much 50% off meat as I can for the freezer.
Set Your Grocery Budget Based Off of Your Needs, Not Others’ Ideas of Good Budgeting
I share all of this to encourage you to stop feeling bad about your grocery budget if it works well for your family. I probably spend $500-600 a month on groceries for two adults, one toddler, and one baby. Some similar family structures will spend more, and some will spend less.
I could save a lot of money if I ate more vegetarian meals, pasta-based meals, and bean-based meals. My grocery budget would be significantly less if I only bought produce that was in season and only choose cheap cuts of meats. I would save even more money if I made everything from scratch and didn’t rely on shortcuts, such as a bag of diced onions or frozen brown rice. Here is the kicker, I buy and cook what makes my family healthy and happy (well, I am happy because I don’t have to spend too much time in the kitchen). Obviously a package of frozen brown rice and pre-chopped vegetables are dramatically marked up in price, but paying that extra $1-2 saves me from falling into temptation of the drive-thru, which costs more money and offers less health benefits.
Every family’s grocery budget is going to be different based on health needs, income, and preferences. What’s your grocery budget and are you happy with it?
Editor's Note: Did you know about the service called $5 meal plans? For $5 a month, they send you recipes of delicious, healthy, yet cheap food that costs just $5 a meal.
Several of my friends signed up and they are able to eat at home more because the instructions are easy to follow, making everything convenient. The deal also comes with grocery shopping lists, which saves them so much time. Check it out yourself by clicking here and you too may be able to save more and become healthier at the same time.