23 answers

Food Budget

Hi moms,
I would like to create a budget for our family, I'd like to start with food budget first because it seems like the least transparent item. Our other expences are predictable from month to month. We are a family of 4 with kids and me eating mostly at home and husband takes lunches to work almost every day. We do eat out on the weekends but we have sertain favorite places and it is easy to budget for that.
So my Q is: How much do you think is acceptable to spend on the food for a family of 4 on the weekly bases? If you have a budget yourself, how do you deal with items you are not buying frequently? Like some expensive sauses, or vine, or smoked fish? How do you approach sale? For example, if you see something on sale do you buy it even if you do not need it right now or you stick to the budget and pass it on untill the next time?
I really want to learn from someone who succeded in food budgeting, it is very hard for me to controll food spending. Also, I cannot be too strict because if the children want something specific - I've got to have it.
Thanks to all who will share their wisdom.

1 mom found this helpful

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Featured Answers

I'd say 50-100 a week is a good estimate for a family of 4.
That's about what we do depending on what is on the menu.

I don't follow a budget so I can't answer that portion of the question, but I do a lot of strategic shopping to try to keep costs down. I stock up on items when they go on sale. I use the couponmom.com website to help me better understand the sales at my local grocery, drug and discount stores and how to match them up with coupons, rebates. I take advantage of coupons, rebates and loyalty programs. I have a stand-up freezer to keep meats and frozen foods so I can stock up when they are on sale. I also use it to keep make-ahead meals for later use. By doing this I don't feel as wasteful when I buy something special that isn't on sale or if we try a new product and don't like it. Best wishes to you!

More Answers

- use cash - we take out 2 weeks worth of cash every paycheck. For example: take out $300 cash on payday. Use $100 per week or groceries, $50 per week for gas and the other $50 for miscellaneous (i.e. eating out)

- start a change jar. Now that you're using cash, you have a lot of loose change. At the end of the month, cash in the change and do something with it that's not in your budget (i.e. eat out an extra day, take the kids bowling)

- you didn't mention how old your kids are, but when you're on a budget, they are too. If they want something "specific" make them earn allowance and pay for it themselves, or let them use the change jar for it if they are doing their chores like they're suppose to.

- Try generic. If there is a generic or store brand, I always try it. If I don't like it I won't try it again, but if I do, it can save a lot of money. Try to buy the most generic products you can.

- buy non-generic when it's on sale or you have a coupon. For example: I only use Scott tissue. A couple times a year they are on sale for ridiculously low prices. When they are, I buy a 6mo supply. If I run out in between, I buy a small pack at a time because I know they'll be on sale soon.

- Plan your menu ahead of time. If you know what you'll be eating for breakfast lunch and dinner throughout the week, you know exactly what you need from the store and stick to it.

- Eat a snack before you go to the store. If I go grocery shopping when I'm hungry or thirsty, I'll buy impulsively.

- Do your homework - look in the paper or online to find out what's on sale that week so you can set a game plan before you leave the house.

- Got to more than one store. I buy my cleaning products from Dollar Tree or Dollar General. Then I go to Food Lion and buy what I need that I know is on sale from doing my research. Then I fill in the rest (mostly generics) at Wal-Mart.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful

We're a family of 4 - but the youngest is 1.

We spend $80 a week on food. Weekly food planning is key. We rarely eat out - maybe once every other month. We enjoy cooking, and cook most things better at home than out.

I work full time and pack a salad every day - using really good ingredients (blue cheese, feta, walnuts (not all at once).

We do a monthly CostCo run that's $200 - that includes diapers and that's typically where we purchase our meat.

Do the weekly meal planning.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Plan your meals for the week and shop accordingly. By getting your kids whatever they want, you are allowing them to drive your budget. If you want to control the food spending, you are going to have to tell them no more often. If they are old enough, maybe they can get odd jobs (mowing lawns, walking dogs, etc) in the neighborhood and earn the money for their special treats. It'll mean more to them, and it won't destroy your budget.
http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/70dollarmenu.htm

1 mom found this helpful

I am a family of 4 and have learned to live very lean due to tight economic times. Once a month my husband will drive about an hour into Boston to a place called Roxies - it is a huge meat wholesaler. He can buy for $130 what I would spend close to $350 at the typical grocery store or Sams. It is enough meat to feed us for a month and it is very good quality. He also will get veggies while there - 2, 3lb bag of potatoes for $2, 4 pack of peppers for $1.50 . . .

I would see if there is something similar near you.

I also use all leftovers and do a crock pot soup 2 or 3 times a week. I make bread from scratch and in the summer we have a veggie garden in garden deck pots!

Between the meats and the regular trips to Super Walmart (where the prices are awesome), I spend about $450 a month on food.

:)

1 mom found this helpful

I cannot answer for your budget specifics, but I can suggest shopping for basics such as noodles, cereals, garbage bags at Aldi's, much more reasonably priced. Go to Sam's or Cosco for quantities and wach for buy ones, get one free at places like Jewel or Dominick's/. Centrella foods have expensive meets, try local cultural stores for some meats, you will be surprised as well as the lunch meats. We go to a Fruit Market where we purchase Deli meats and it is probably only $2.00 a pound as opposed to places like Whole foods where I saw the prices are out of the wall. It depends on where you shop. There are four of us, 2 grown sons included and we probably do spend half the amount of money than most people. We have done this for years because we are not worried about name brands. Although beer and wine we might.
I think as far as an amount goes you know how much is able to spent and we do not. So budget the amount according to your paycheck. Pick an amount and see if you can stick to it.

1 mom found this helpful

I don't really feel like I can give you a giudeline for what to spend or how much food your family needs- Teenagers eat more than little kids, growing kids playing sports etc. need extra fuel. You have to figure out what you can AFFORD to spend each week first and then tailor your buying from there.

The best piece of advice here I can totally recommend and say that we do is the WEEKLY MEAL PLAN. Seriously- it makes such a huge difference just knowing what you are going to make and what you need to buy for it. I have two kinds of buying I do: Staples, and fresh items for dinners and lunches.

1)For Staples for your pantry, etc. check out a cooking magazine website like Rachel Ray or Cooking Light. Both have excellent lists of staples to keep on hand to make other meals with, (like tomato sauce or onion soup mix, etc) and basics (like a couple kinds of pasta, beans, olive oil, canola oil, etc) spices, flour a few cans of soup, etc.
Every month I try and just go through the cupboards and use up some things that have been in there for a while. I also try to keep at least one 'emergency' dinner option on hand- soup or even a frozen pizza. We don't use them often, but on a hectic night or if you are sick, that can be a lifesaver.

2)Fresh Items of course include bread, lunchmeat, cheese. veggies, fruit, milk, yogurt, etc. But also cereal, things that we use up just about every week. Get your whole family to go through the pantry and the fridge with you and figure out what is REALLY getting eaten each week. You may be surprised at how much extra you are buying and how much is going to waste!
For example- if you buy a pound of lunchmeat for sandwiches each week, and always throw out a few slices because they go bad, then adjust your order to 3/4 pound. If your kids always eat up the apples for lunch and snacks, but oranges sit until they are dried out and hard- stop buying oranges.

It's really critical to get your kids on board if you are packing lunches. My son was taking his lunch - and just throwing out the bits he didn't want to eat! I had to really make it clear to him that I wasn't going to get MAD- but he had to tell me what he really WASN'T eating, just so we could adjust his lunch so it would be better. It took a little while, but it turned out even though I thought I was packing the right amount- I was giving him way more food than he could eat. I made his sandwiches smaller, adjusted what I was giving him and now he happily eats everything in his box with no wasted leftovers!

3)Look at how your family uses food and who eats what and how much.Last summer we cut high fructose corn syrup completely out of our diet and started to really watch things like sodium and carbs. My 10 year old son learned to read nutritional labels, and after about a month's worth of shopping and comparing products, etc. we have our food purchases down to what we really like and need. He really LOVED helping me shop and loves to check labels for me- I feel like this is teaching him such better nutritional habits because we are THINKING about what we're buying- not just tossing things into a cart!

4)Look closely at your treat purchases- they are often the most expensive items and the worst for you! I am not saying never buy chips or ice cream, etc. But if you are buying little individual packs of things for lunches- stop! Get the full size and divide them up into baggies. Your kids can reuse the same bag for crackers or cookies in their lunch. Or buy little tupperware containers and reuse those instead of replacing baggies.

We buy ice cream- but it is a treat we save for about 2 nights a week. I also buy potato chips, but my son isn' allowed to snack on them after school. We save them for watching a game on the weekends or watching movies. I've pretty much stopped buying cookies.

Since we're trying to lose weight (not my son, but I made it clear that we are a family and he has to eat what the grownups eat, lol) we only have cookies if my son and I MAKE them from scratch. This has cut down on food costs, but again, it is a lot healthier and I've dropped a lot of weight because of it.

5)For my meal plans, I use recipes I find online, but also I get a couple of cooking magazines. I got a Recipe Notebook from Borders ( they are almost always on sale really cheap). It's just an office file like people use for card collections, etc. with those clear plastic sleeves in it and any regular size magazine page will fit. I go through my magazines and cut out any recipes that I think I'd like to try.

I ask my son and my fiance about new things " Would you guys eat this?" and cut those out. The notebook has dividers for things like Appetizers, Main Dishes, Veggies, Desserts, etc. so it is super easy to file and find the recipes- and that way you also have the magazine picture to guide you. one of the other great things is that we have tried so many new ideas- it has really gotten us out of that rut of making the same couple of things all the time.

Again, doing this has absolutely saved us money. I think I paid like $8 for the notebook! But we buy what we need to make the things we pick. I write out a little sticky note on the fridge with the days of the week and the recipes and then make my shopping list.

If this all sounds like a lot more work, I gotta say, it honestly wasn't! It has made the shopping and cooking so much simpler and my son and fiance (who were sort of dubious about these ideas at first, lol) totally jumped on the bandwagon and now they actively participate in the system! Success! :)

Good luck- you can do this too- you won't regret it!

1 mom found this helpful

I saved a lot by planning inexpensive meals and cutting out the junk food. I looked at my grocery bill and most of the money was going toward chips and soda. Those are expensive items! And they 're bad for you.

Instead of buying those packaged desserts (for $5 s box!) I make one dessert a week. I've found cupcakes and muffins are wonderful because they are a single serving so they can be taken to work, school, etc. I also make Rice Krispie treats (with the generic rice krispies, there's no difference!) We don't eat chips anymore, they have MSG in them anyway and that causes you to eat more and more. We pop popcorn for munchie snacks.

Take a look at your grocery bill and see what the big ticket items are. Then see if there is a cheaper alternative. At first my family complained that there weren't any Little Debbie or Hostess goodies in the pantry. But now they LOVE the fun desserts we make!

I also started making my own laundry detergent. At $15 a bottle it was getting ridiculous! Now I make my own for a fraction of the cost an it only takes me 5 minutes to make a batch that lasts me a while. The initial cost was about $15 and it has lasted me months and months.

Is there a cheaper place to shop? Out here I shop at Woodman's and I save so much! At least $30-40 per trip. At Jewel salad dressing is $3.99. At Woodman's it's $1.50. At Jewel potatoes are $2.49. At Woodman's that same 5-lb bag is $.99. At Jewel, Langers juice is $4.99. At Woodman's it's $1.69. So you can see how the savings add up as you go!

Good luck! And plan those meals and stick to your list!

Updated

I saved a lot by planning inexpensive meals and cutting out the junk food. I looked at my grocery bill and most of the money was going toward chips and soda. Those are expensive items! And they 're bad for you.

Instead of buying those packaged desserts (for $5 s box!) I make one dessert a week. I've found cupcakes and muffins are wonderful because they are a single serving so they can be taken to work, school, etc. I also make Rice Krispie treats (with the generic rice krispies, there's no difference!) We don't eat chips anymore, they have MSG in them anyway and that causes you to eat more and more. We pop popcorn for munchie snacks.

Take a look at your grocery bill and see what the big ticket items are. Then see if there is a cheaper alternative. At first my family complained that there weren't any Little Debbie or Hostess goodies in the pantry. But now they LOVE the fun desserts we make!

I also started making my own laundry detergent. At $15 a bottle it was getting ridiculous! Now I make my own for a fraction of the cost an it only takes me 5 minutes to make a batch that lasts me a while. The initial cost was about $15 and it has lasted me months and months.

Is there a cheaper place to shop? Out here I shop at Woodman's and I save so much! At least $30-40 per trip. At Jewel salad dressing is $3.99. At Woodman's it's $1.50. At Jewel potatoes are $2.49. At Woodman's that same 5-lb bag is $.99. At Jewel, Langers juice is $4.99. At Woodman's it's $1.69. So you can see how the savings add up as you go!

Good luck! And plan those meals and stick to your list!

1 mom found this helpful

First- If you are serious about setting a budget, you are going to have to be strict. There really isn't any way around that.
Second- Meal plan. Sit down on one night a week (I do it on Saturday, because I'm boring). Write out the meal for EVERY night that week. Include the nights that you eat out. Come up with several different lunches and simple breakfasts.
Third- Take stock of what is in your pantry. I can't tell you how many times I've bought something at the store (baking soda, whatever) that I later found buried in the shelves. It adds up.
Fourth- Buy only what you need to make the meals that you have planned. The only time to deviate is when there is a particularly good deal (like under $1 a lb. for chicken breast).

I spend $80 a week for our family of four. We eat out at least once a week. I don't like leftovers and my family won't eat soup so I try to keep the meals simple and easy. There are many websites about budgeting if you want to google it.

1 mom found this helpful

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