After spending close to $200 at the grocery store (AFTER COUPONS), I realized that it’s time I take a hard look at my food budget.
Our food budget used to be $100 per week. That was when Hamburger Helper and frozen pizza were on the menu more often than not. Now, as I’ve grown to enjoy different foods and try more things, our food costs have exploded to almost double what they used to be a few years ago.
So what’s up? Well, first I need to clarify what all I’m including in this budget. What I forget to remove are the toilet paper, paper towels, plastic products, and random things we buy when we go to the store that isn’t necessarily considered “food.”
Take those out, and I still find us a good $30-40 over our old $100 budget.
But is $100 a week reasonable for two grown adults?
A while back I was reading a post from Katy She Cooks about grocery budgeting. In it, she quotes Michael Pollen who says that in 1969, Americans spent 17.5% of their income on food. Today, we spent just 9.9%.
I did the math and found out that at about $125 a week, food is 12% of our budget. At $150 per week, it’s roughly 15%.
Honestly, take this into consideration – very rarely do I eat out for lunch. I used to buy at least $20 worth of Starbucks a week. Since we moved (and I live so close to work with no Starbucks in between), I spend $0. Instead, we use the coffee machine at home and make a fresh pot every morning. I’m also buying food for breakfasts, snacks, and drinks during these weekly grocery trips.
Take $150 and divide by 7 for a number of days in the week = that’s $21 that we’re spending on food PER DAY, total. That includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between for the both of us. Technically, that’s $11 per person.
Obviously, there’s variation in there. Sometimes we scratch a planned meal and order a pizza or go out to eat. Sometimes I buy a sandwich for lunch, a diet coke here and there. I haven’t included those costs in our weekly budget unless we plan on eating out.
So am I really that far off, or should I consider backing off and adding a few more “cheaper eats” into our menu? I’d say a little of both.
Things I could improve on:
- Taking an inventory of what foods we need to eat out of our pantry that could become full meals
- Freezing leftovers
- Realizing what dinners will make leftovers and what ones won’t
- Being less choosy about name-brand/organic/whole grain foods
- Buying frozen vs fresh
- Using what’s in season, when it’s in season
- More meatless meals
Things that I don’t want to change:
- Buying Grade A, Organic, free-range eggs. Even though they’re just for baking, I prefer this over the “regular” ones at the store.
- Trying new things and new ingredients, even if they don’t work
- Buying bulk for items we use frequently
- Utilizing fresh produce whenever applicable
- Buying quality product over price – generic isn’t always the best answer
- Buying local whenever possible, a tough one for me
Ultimately, we do try to add one meatless meal to the menu each week, but if I make a day out of it and turn it into a priority, it will be a standard on the weekly menu.
So from here on out, I’m going to propose two objectives – a weekly meatless meal and a weekly “cheap eats,” where I focus on the bottom line. This should be a nice challenge and make me think a little harder when I plan our weekly menus. I’ll catch up with you after this Sunday when we go shopping again!