48 answers

What Is a Reasonable Monthly Food Budget?

I am completely obsessed with lowering my grocery bill and wonder how others are doing it.

We had a surprise expenditure in March that shocked me into reality about how much I am blowing on convenience food (takeout from Panera and other places) and not having a plan before going to the grocery store. I was totally shocked when I added up our food expenditures for March. I included grocery store purchases, takeout meals, a few meals out, and my husband's lunches out during his workday and the figure was nearly $2,000 for my husband and me, and our 12 and 14 year old kids. Granted, I have never been budget minded, have rarely thought or planned dinners ahead, have rarely gone to the store with a list, and pretty much always ended up buying many things I don't need.

So far this month I've spent less than half of what I normally would by planning dinners ahead and shopping with a list and buying ONLY what's on the list. I refuse to scrimp on health, though... I buy organic and local whenever possible. But I'm skipping the convenience items (like frozen organic burritos for the kids lunches--they are expensive) and take out. We're vegetarians, so I don't have the expense of any meat, fish, or foul, but fresh fruit and vegetables aren't cheap. I make my own bread and yogurt and we eat a lot of grains, beans, pasta, and nuts. I don't buy things with artificial ingredients or high-fructose corn syrup. Unfortunately healthier food costs more, and again, I just will not scrimp on my and my family's health.

I think I'm on the right track, but I know I can do more. Summer will be better when local produce can be bought inexpensively from farm stands and farmer's markets. In the mean time, I'm not buying packaged cereals (again, expensive!) and instead am cooking up oats for breakfast. I'm baking a lot of different kinds of muffins for snacks, and trying to use up what's in the fridge and the cupboards before I shop. Fortunately our kids like healthy food, too.

What does everyone else do to save money or stick to a food budget each month? Maybe if we share tips for saving money and healthy eating we will help each other stay on track.

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Wow, it's been great reading everyone's comments, ideas, and suggestions. I am really pleased with my own progress so far and will definitely incorporate some of the ideas that have come up here. I am really in awe of some of you women that manage to feed large families on what seems an impossibly small amount. I can see that it takes dedication and creativity, and I appreciate your willingness to share your tips here. Thank you!!!

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Hi! I don't know what I spend a month but I do have a few tips. 1. I make my own pancakes and muffins and freeze them for a quick breakfast. 2. I make cookies and snacks and place in small snack or sandwich bags for additions to bagged lunches. 3. I make extra for dinner and fill divided plastic containers that microwave well with the leftovers for my husbands and my lunches. Hope this is helpful.

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Wow! I know how easy it can be to spend more than you planned. Christmas is the hard holiday for me, I have a habit of going overboard and it can seriously hurt our bank account.

My husband and I sat down and worked on a yearly budget. We look over our budget every three months to make sure we are still on track. We looked at how much money is coming in and listed all of our fixed expenses (mortgage, sewer-water-trash pickup, electricity, etc.) Then we looked at our other expenditures (groceries-which includes any cleaning chemcials needed, car expense (oil, gas, maintenance), home maintenance, etc.) We worked to figure out what we might need for the year and then broke it down into monthly (and sometimes weekly) expenses. We also made sure to budget for family vacations, gifts (including extended family and Christmas), emergency fund, etc.

We made sure to pay ourselves, $10 a week allowance, for those things that we wanted that are frivolous. I have discovered if we didn't pay ourselves then we overspent dramatically without realizing it. Now we know how much is in our own envelopes at any given time.

Then we made envelopes for those budgets that we needed to be accessible, and I get cash once a week from the bank. Those budgets are dogs, allowance (we each get our own envelope), eat out, and groceries. I made the envelopes out of scrap fabric and ironed on Velcro so the change doesn't fall out.

Now, if I don't have the money I don't buy any extras. I have been known to ask a grocery clerk to put a few things back because I couldn't afford them for the week.

Most weeks I come home with $5 or $10 extra in our grocery pouch. I save this extra money for when there is a huge sale on the foods we use regularly.

My son has 7 food intolerances so we buy mostly organic foods, but I am able to feed our family of 3 for $150 a week. We can't use coupons very often because I buy unprocessed foods and companies don't make coupons for fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. =) But I use them when I can.

I hope my story helps you figure out where to start. Check out the FlyLady website: www.flylady.net. She has a FACE your finances control journal that breaks the process down into manageable steps. The link directly to her list of journals is: http://www.flylady.net/pages/control_journals.asp

The FACE is the first journal listed.

Good luck! I hope you find financial peace.

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Well, I long to eat the way you do, although we do eat meat etc. and my dh has Crohn's and lives on fudge bars *sigh* and my son 6 yo is especially picky and can't eat any sugar and my daughter is willing to try stuff, but doesn't necessarily like a huge variety. We live on food stamps and get $280 but we also spend some money. I order grains in 50 lb sacks and grind them with my vitamix. I get a lot of my beans from food pantries, which aren't organic but I'm sure you could order them in quantity. I bought giant mason jars that hold almost 50# and they all back my couch and look kinda cool! I grow our vegetables as best I can, but I also have bought veggie shares from CSA's many years. It's awesome! even if you live in the city, many of them will have local drop off sites. we never eat out, we have chickens to get our eggs, I keep playing with the idea of breeding one of our goats and milking her... lots of responsibility there though and I'm not ready to take it on. Hope something there was helpful!

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Sounds like you are definitely on the right track if you've already reduced your spending by half. My husband and I are big Dave Ramsey fans. We are new students of Financial Peace University.:) What he suggests is using ONLY cash and the envelope system. We do budgets bi-weekly with a great worksheet he has on his website. Here's a link:

http://www.daveramsey.com/media/pdf/fpu_monthly_cash_flow...

We watch every penny. I am a stay at home mom (journalist on a break from the biz). We have two little boys and two cats. Hope this helps!

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I certainly don't want to sound harsh, but perhaps you need to look at the nutritional value you are getting from Panera and other take out places. I think the extra money you're spending on organic and whole foods (which are good) is being wasted when you add up the junk you're getting with the take out. You are putting so much effort into feeding your family healthy stuff, and then having a couple meals per week that are less than healthy. I think you could save a lot of money if you skip the take out, and then relax a little (only a little) on the groceries. I can only guess that you would find you are getting healthier meals (averaged thru the whole week) for less money.

Does any of that make any sense whatsoever? LOL

~L.

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I'm a grandma and vividly remember the last REAL recession this economy had in the 70's. At the time I was a divorced mom with one child. The popular thing then was "food co-ops". Something I'd like to see come back. Families numbering 25-30, as a group, would rotate 4 or 5 shoppers from that group to purchase fresh produce from Eastern Market. We would barter on case pricing. All the goods were divided up at one of the member's homes with volunteers bagging. The program saved me a lot of money and we ate healthy. However, it is all about cooking at home.

Hi L. D--I just read in the paper that a family of four averages $900 per month on food, but I can't remember whether or not it included eating out. One of the easiets ways to reduce spending is to not purchase convenience foods, healthy and organic or not. Having said that, I do like to have a few convenience things in the freezer for emergencies, but I only purchase those when on sale. As others have suggested, make extras when cooking and then freeze leftovers for another meal when not used for lunches the next day. Also, consider reducing the amount of animal protein you eat. I am not a vegetarian, but I am intentional about eating more meatless meals. Purchase organic animal products only. They are more expensive but you should be eating less of them for optimal health so your expenses should actually go down. I have lots of other tips so feel free to contact me if you would like them. In health, D.

L.,

I am interested in the responses you get. We live on one income and I am always running to the store or Sam's club because we have ran out of 1 or 2 items for the week ( I never walk out of the store with 1 or 2 items thou). J.

I cannot tell you what a good mynthly budget is but try these websites.

www.menuplanningcentral.com/MealsForYou
www.kidapprovedmeals.com/HappyKids
www.dinewithoutwhine.com/MealsMadeEasy
These sites have helped me in the past so check them out.

It sounds like you have gotten many sensible ideas already and most of them my family does too. I have 5 boys, my husband and myself and we spend $400 a month for groceries. Some of the things we do is shop at the discount stores like Aldi's and Sav-a-lot, also there is a day old bread store near us and they have a brand of bread that has no corn syrup for $.69 cents for a 24 oz loaf.
I also try to stock up when something I use regularly is on sale, for instance last week Spartan Peanut Butter was on sale for $.97 cents a jar instead of the regular price of $2.29 so I bought 15 jars. PB&J is a staple in our house! So watch those fliers and if its a good price stock up!
Another thing I do is keep a running tally of prices as I add things to my cart, that way I know just about exactly where I am money wise as I make my way through the store.
A good place to pick up cleaners for light cleaning is a Dollar Store, and they have good light bulbs for $1.00 too.
We also put in a garden and freeze and can produce when its plentiful. We have pear trees and a good friend has some apple trees and gives us apples in the fall, which we can too, but you can visit a local fruit orchard and buy fruit in season by the bushel and its much cheaper in season. We also pick our own strawberries and blueberries in season too, but even if you go to the orchard and buy them pre-picked its still cheaper than most grocery stores.
Lastly making food at home from scratch is a big money saver and making several batches at one time is a time saver too. I have found that the longer you do it, the better you get at it. Theres nothing like a little experience to find out what your family likes and what is easiest for you to do. Good luck to you!

I'm sure a lot of this is repeat...but I've been trying to cut expenses as well. I went back through the last 6 months and added up what we spent in groceries, toiletries, cleaning stuff etc. Then I averaged it out per month. We now get cash out and put it into envelopes to use. We also have an envelope for "fun money" or "eat out" money. It is definitely a modest amount so it causes us to think twice before we stop and pick something up. Often I am surprised at how quickly I can make a meal from scratch when a few months ago I would have assumed I didn't have time to cook. I also encourage my husband to either take a lunch or come home and make something, thankfully his schedule usually allows this.

Recently I started cutting coupons as well. Often it is for unhealthy items which I try to avoid, but I just got 3 tubes of toothpaste for free using a $1 off coupon when they were on sale for $1 at Meijer. You can't beat that. I also got a few snack items and I can't believe it's not butter products for free or less than $.50. I also have started making a detailed list to shop off of and I also carry a calculator with me when I shop so I know what I'm spending as I pick things up. That way if there's a good sale or I see something extra we might enjoy I know if I can fit it into the budget.

I hope this helps...good luck! Don't expect to cut it hugely overnight, do it in moderate intervals so you don't give up in a month or two!

Have you ever heard of the program, "Saving Dinner"? It's by Leanne Ely (I may have spelled her name wrong), but she will provide you with a year's worth of meals for about $25. I am pretty sure there's a vegetarian plan, also. I know she did write a book entitled, "Saving Dinner the Vegetarian Way", that you can buy either online or in bookstores (I have seen it at Borders). Hope this helps!

You have already gotten a lot of great ideas and I don't want to repeat anything, so I will just add a budget note. Eating out is included in our entertainment budget, not our food budget, which makes it easier for us to know each month how we compare.
It also showed us how lame we were spending so much money on food eaten out. It made us want to be more fun and do stuff rather than just eat out.

Hi L.,
I have a family of 4 and spend about 500.00 a month on groceries. I also try and stay away from anything that is processed. My boys also like healthy fruits, veggies, beans, ect. I always bring a list and go on a full stomach. If it isn't on my list I don't buy it. My boys have even caught on to it. My oldest will tell my youngest that it isn't on our list. It's pretty cute. We used to go out to eat a couple of times a week and I would also stop and get coffee and then I added up what we were spending. I was shocked and cut out all of the things that aren't needed. Good luck.
Chris

We're a family of six and with eating out and groceries we spend probably about $1,500.00 per month. I find it's cheaper for the kids to buy their lunches at school, but thankfully they prefer to take their lunch. I think the best advice I have for saving money is to buy in bulk when items are on sale, use coupons and don't buy it if you don't really need it. As long as it's non-perishable I'll buy 10-20 of the same thing when it's on sale. If you keep a regular eye on the grocery fliers you'll see that most things go on sale every few weeks so when you buy a bunch of one thing when it's on sale you won't have to buy more in the non-sale weeks. Plus when you buy in bulk you don't have to worry about running out of things. At any given time my pantry probably has enough non-perisable stuff in it to make about 20 complete meals.

Holy Moly! I almost fell over when I read $2000! :) I also feed my family all homemade food and nothing processed. We eat lean meats though. We are on a military budget and I can't afford all organic but do get as much as I can. My budget for a family of 4 for the month is $800 and this is actually a lot more than my friends spend, but I like lots of fruit and veggies like you and it does get expensive. We do not eat out at all except very special occasions. Look for a food co-op in your area. Many are run through churches (you don't have to be a member). Most I have seen lately offer organic options too.You usually have to spend 1-2 days a year volunteering to pack up and hand out food. If you live near any small farmers you can often buy direct from them to get organic dairy, which is super expensive in the stores! Or fresh eggs. I often buy frozen organic fruit because it is usually cheaper than fresh and sometimes goes on sale so I can stock up. I find I rarely clip coupons because they are all for processed foods that we don't eat. We don't eat organic processed food either, just meat, veggies fruit etc... The more you cook yourself the cheaper it is - I cook everything except bread and when I'm in a pinch before payday I cook that too. I also grow a lot of veggies and herbs myself. Herbs will grow in pots inside through the winter. I make my own "convenience food" for those hectic nights to keep myself from going out unplanned. If I make chili or soup or anything that freezes well I double the recipe and freeze a few small containers. If we want a "special" dinner for a birthday or something we take a picnic to the beach/park and watch the sunset while we eat our homemade food. I won't lie though there are plenty of days when my kids just get a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. I just get the kind with no hydrogenated fat and don't beat myself up about the imperfect lunch. After all, I grew up on food that wasn't organic and I have not keeled over yet somehow. I have to be realistic about what I can afford and make due sometimes to make that budget. $800 is about 40% of our take home pay so it is a significant part of our budget. But we choose to live without things like cable so we can afford the healthy food that we love. Good luck - hope my too long message helps!

hey L. D
that sounds like alot of money on food there is seven in my family plus the extra kids i feed ever nite and i only spend eight hundred a month i have 5 girls and husband and at least one of my daughter friends are over ever nite of my life to eat

We spend about $400/mo for 3. We eat out about twice a week (once during the week and once on the weekend)ad this is not included in that figure. I guess if you did, it would be about $450-475. We ususally stay under that unless we splurge and eat out more. One place I love to shop is Aldi. I'd never heard of it until one opened up in Clawson, but I know there are others around. Check it out!

Hi! There are 4 in my family and I spend about $400-450. I usually go weekly and spend $100. I plan everything out for the entire week!

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We save 150-300 a month on coupons and coupon availability, buk buying, 2-1 buys, and more. We stopped shopping at Wal-Mart completely.

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I share your pain! This is a constant battle for us also. With your healthy lifestyle it makes it even harder, unfortunately. My husband get paid once a month and I usually do a big trip at the beginning of the month and then supplement through the month for perishables. Also, I've tried once a month cooking and that can help also, when you have a month (or even two weeks) of dinners in the freezer it's easier to focus on saving on the day to day breakfasts, lunches and snacks. I don't know if they have a vegetarian version, but I'd highly suggest just starting to do double batches of things and freeze one for later. Saves time and energy, money too since you know your freezer is stocked. Good luck! Please let us know what happens. I'd love to get some more ideas.

2,000 dollars thats alot!!!

Kudos on your eating, that is great, way to be healthy and feed your family healthy. I know it is expensive to eat better. I am on a tight budget for groceries we spend about 125-150 a week for me my husband and 15month old, but that usually includes non food items we need each week as well, such as diapers etc...

I could spend much more and eat much better but we don't have the money right now. If we did I would probably spend around 200-220 a week and I don't think that is over spending that would just be getting all organic and the other healthier things we eat.

I'm really lucky in that my husband does most of the meal planning and cooking. We always figure out our meals and snacks for the week before we go to the store and always go with a list. Typically, we spend about $50-60 each week for my husband and I (we have a 5 month old who's not needing any groceries yet). We resist buying anything that is not on the list, unless its on sale, then we tweak our list or buy it if we will need it anyway in the future.

We go out for dinner once a week, all other meals are made at home. My husband makes his lunch the night before - never eats out for lunch during work. Once in a while we go out for lunch on a weekend, but like I said most of our meals are eaten at home which saves a LOT of money. Going out is too expensive.

We also buy organic produce and try to eat healthy and are pretty successful at keeping our food costs down. We are always on a budget and have a lot of practice. My husband likes the challenge of bargain shopping!

Good luck!

I am right there with you!!! I spend A LOT on food, especially all the grass fed beef, free range eggs, and free range chicken. Did you know that in the summer you can buy a share of an organic farmer's produce? You choose an amount that is appropriate for the size of your family and once a week you pick up a HUGE bag of whatever is in season. It is AWESOME and you really save by avoiding the grocer's markup.

Your letter took me back to when my kids were small and I too was trying to keep my food budget low, but trying to make sure my family had good food and healthy snacks. I guess the main thing that I did was to check the store ads for what was on sale and that helped me to make my dinner list for that week. I also made them snacks like you are already doing. It's just something simple, but it did help me out back then. Good luck and it sounds like you're doing a great job already.

I have a husband....7,6,4 yr. old sons...and myself. We have a budget of $100/week for groceries. This includes the toilet paper/paper towels/cleaning supplies. Take $100-$150 cash with you to the store...and add up what you're buying as you go. Once you hit that magic # - you're done. It'll take some time to get used to it....and will probably take some time in the store to get your shopping done....But you'll quickly decide what are "needs" and what are "wants"...Hope this helps!

Hi! I don't know what I spend a month but I do have a few tips. 1. I make my own pancakes and muffins and freeze them for a quick breakfast. 2. I make cookies and snacks and place in small snack or sandwich bags for additions to bagged lunches. 3. I make extra for dinner and fill divided plastic containers that microwave well with the leftovers for my husbands and my lunches. Hope this is helpful.

Your grocery budget can be as high or as low as you want it to be! Back "in the day," there were 3 adults and 1 child in our house and I fed us all on $25.00 a week. I'm not cheap lol, we seriously had no money. I poured over the local grocery store ad and made up healthy meals based on what was on sale. I bought as much fresh as I could and lots of bagged frozen chicken breast. So, whatever you set your budget to be, you can do it!

I could write forever on this topic so I'll just give you the main points:

-Only buy items on sale when you know it's a good price.
-Combine sale items with coupons whenever possible. Use couponmom.com to help checkout if coupons are available on products and where to find them.
-When it's a great sale, buy in quantity, but only on items you know you like AND will use.
-Buy seasonal produce (when it tastes the best and is priced the cheapest)
-Grow some of your own produce.

It is harder to cut costs on organic and fresh foods but it can be done. Pricewise, Trader Joe's is great for organic items, although, I'm pretty positive they don't have any downriver. Personally, I stick to the dirty dozen when it comes to organic. I'm comfortable with that and it helps save me a bit.

Good luck.

I just want to say you are doing beautifully!
Just the commitment to organics, local produce and reducing/eliminating boxed anything from the stores sets you miles apart from most.
It helps to have the kids help you in the kitchen as they really love to create and it is so bonding at any age.
Cook in double batches so you don't feel like you're in the kitchen 24/7.
It's also fun to find new recipes and cookbooks to keep things interesting for your family.
Give yourself a pat on the back for a stellar job!
Warmly,
C.

My husband and I just recommited to our household budgut. For the Month of Feb we didn't change any of our spending habits, we just kept every reciept and entered them into the excell budget that my husband has created. Wow we were shocked at how out of control our spending had gotten. So back on the budget wagon we go!
I was able to cut our monthly grocery bill by a third...
On Thursday, the day before I shop, I clean out the fridge, and reorganize the pantry. Then I sit down and look through the grocery adds. After that I make a weekly Menu. Lastly I make my grocery list. I am now grocery shopping once a week! The best part is that for the last month and a half I have not run out of anything that I need and my meals are alot more creative!
That is the FLYLady way to shop! flylady.net
I just made a batch of peanut butter balls healthy, cheap, and yummy!
Blessings,
K.

One thing I'd suggest, especially since you're vegetarians, is actually a purchase but it will save you hundreds in the short run (at least it has for us). Find yourself a Tupperware distributor and buy these, well I don't know what they're called, but they're designed to stay in the refrigerator and keep produce fresh longer. They're miracle workers, seriously. I'm no big Tupperware person, but I bought these after being dragged to a party and they saved us $$ immediately. We never throw away old produce now. Stuff lasts forever. It has to do with the material, and the design of the container and these vents that are either open, shut, or halfway shut depending on the type of fruit or vegetable. Good luck! I also have to watch our food budget because we live in Calgary and food is so expensive. A gallon of milk is $4.00 on a good day, and organic is $5.40 for a HALF gallon!

I've had this same problem. I found that canned items are really expensive. I was buying a lot of canned beans and such but switched to dry because cans add up. Also, where do shop? Harvest Health is generally more expensive than meijer but some things are actually cheaper! Rice milk is cheaper at Harvest Health - and some of Meijer brand organic items are actually kind of expensive. Do some research. I can usually keep our grocery bill around $400 but we only have one child and she's two. I think the main thing would be to cut way back on take out and snacks - that's what'll get you. Good luck!

My mouth dropped when I saw 2000 a month. I don't even think I have enough room in my home to hold even 500 a month in food. I would have a lot of wasted food. We are a family of 7 with 3 that visited every other weekend and half the summer. My boys are ages 7 and 14 and the 3 girls are 15 13 and 9. I can feed everyone on a monthly budget of 280 a month. I do shop at sav a lot and aldi's and I look for the sales. Your food bill is about what I pay in car payment, house payment, car insurance, utilities, and gas to fill up the car. I could not imagine adding on another 2000 to my monthly expenses. This year I want to grow my own tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, and carrots. Good luck to you on your new budget.

What is reasonable depends on your eating habits, size of your family & of course how much you can afford. Right now I am on a very tight budget and am trying to spend around $40/ week on groceries. I have an 11 year old and an 11 month old daughters, along with my husband and myself. Needless to say, sticking to that budgeted amount is difficult, but I pay with cash and when I'm out of money I have to be done shopping. I always check the local ads and make a list before I go to the store. I guess sticking to a food budget is something that is difficult to do unless you have no other choice.

$2,000--WOW! That is a lot! We usually spend about $600.00 at the grocery store each month and about another $200.00 on dinner/lunches out--so that makes it $800.00.

I too buy lots of fresh fruits and veggies--I usually scimp on the cost of non food items at the store. I do always plan meals ahead and always go to the store with a list--it does help. I get coupons on line too.

Also go on a full stomache and know your local store when they stock and have their specials--it does help:)

L.,

I found that to be true about the shopping, so I changed my habits more because of lack of funds. So I major grocery shop once a month period. When things are gone they are gone. My children have learned to make things last and enjoy what they have. The only things that we pick up throughout the month are milk and bread. We all bake more and are eating healthier because the eating out has almost deceased. I bake goodies instead of buying them. Buying in bulk does help and instead of throwing away left over I make them into mini portions and freeze for later. Hope this helps and good luck.

When I recently began tracking my monthly grocery expenditures I also was appalled - we were at around $1,200 a month, which I knew was just ridiculous. So I began the envelope system. Last month was our first month on it; I began the month with $800 cash from the bank and kept it in an envelope in the kitchen. The idea behind the envelope system is you spend less if you use cash instead of a debit card or check and you're more aware so you can stop impulse buys. It worked pretty well although we also use our cash for gas money too so this month I began with $900. I've read it can take a couple of months to figure out exactly how much I need for the budget but I can see where it works! I use this for all things bought at Sam's Costco and the grocery store so this ends up covering dog food and even laundry soap.

Like others said, I also stock up when things are on sale often buying the full 10 items on a 10 for 10 (that I know my family will use). For other big families who eat meat - I also have found a farm and buy half a cow and half a pig every year so except for chicken and fish I've cut meat out of my budget. You end up paying around $1.50 a pound for even the porterhouse steaks that way.

I also started taking a lunch to work - I was finding that by eating out I was spending between 5 and 10 bucks a night at work and I was getting bored with the menus. Good luck!

We spend about $500-600 for a 2 adults and 1 baby eating table food.. that includes eating out. We eat out maybe 2x a month.
I plan all of our meals and make a grocery list.

I spend about 500 a month to feed a family of 4. I have an infant - eating baby food. and a 2 year old.

Your kids are older and eat more.. but I dont think your food bill shourl be tath muchmore.

It is a great idea to use up what you have.

Also plan a weeks worth of meals and make your grocery list to include the items necessary. Of course you always have the basic staples.. flour sugar canned and frozen veggies..

WOW! That's a lot! We generally spend between $400-500/month and my husband thinks that's alot. My husband is able to expense his lunches, so see if your's can do the same. Watch the sale flyers and use coupons whenever possible. Sticking to the list is always a good idea. Though sometimes I forget things and don't remember them until I get there. Kudos to you for trying so hard to keep your family healthy. I know that I'm looking forward to the opening of the farmers markets.

I have to be honest, my mouth dropped when I read $2000.00. I have a family of 4. Granted I don't have teens that generally are non stop eating machines. Our budget for grocery store purchases, which includes diapers and formula for one child, is typically around $350.00. Then we have our take-out/dine in budget which is usually about $100.00. So total under $500.00 for the month. I prepare almost all meals at home. Often if I know we are going to have busy week I will make 2 dinners on one night. Like..make a fresh chicken salad for that night and have something in the crockpot going for the next night that all I'll need to do is reheat. I do daycare and typically have 5 children at my house, sometimes 7- so lunches are always in the house. Cheap stuff like PBnJ and MacNcheese. My husband takes food from home for his lunches with the occasional eat out. Usually I prepare meals ahead of time for him or I make extra of the dinners and he takes that.

I also think it depends on family income and how much on the go you are. Since I'm home it is easier for me to sit and prepare food where as you may not have much home time so bringing home panara. When I worked we did eat out more because I didn't feel like cooking. But once I found the time and found the recipies I liked it all fell in place easily. Good Luck!

Hi April,I am impressed with your healthy eating habits. I know what you mean about buying special foods. I don't eat sugar and my daughter can't have dairy. So food gets to be expensive. I am also an aspiring writer. In fact God called me out of a good job to do it and I am single. So I am on a strict budget. At my church we have a class called Crown Financial. They teach us that everything is Gods..not ours, so this puts things into perspective for me. Before I spend anything I stop and take that thought captive. I also write down everything on a note book paper of what I'm spending. I only alow myself 70$ a week on groceries. I look for sales and shop at Walmart. If you are interested in Crown Financial you can listen to it on 99.7 fm Familylife radio @ 10:30 am during the week. God bless and good luck with your budget and your writing. C.

I have a family of 5 and we eat meat and don't spend that much. Besides the suggestions you've already received about shopping sales and using coupons, you should buy a bigger freezer. Since Michigan's growing season is so short, you could buy fresh produce and freeze it and extend those locally grown products through the long winter. Our freezer is just about empty of vegetables and fruit we froze last summer. This is easy and cheap compared to canning, etc. Also remember that most of the cost of food is from the store, the restaurant and transportation. A farmer only get 3$.035 out of a $3.00 box of corn flakes.

Wow! $2000 a month for food? That sounds like a lot to me. We are a family of four. My husband, myself, our 5 year old son and 3 year old daughter. I am able to feed our family plus two nephews I watch on weekdays for about $65 a week. My secrets are; coupons, (coupons.com and coolsavings.com are great) buying a lot of the things I use when they go on sale, cooking from scratch, avoiding prepackaged convenience food, I have a large garden where I grow my own fruits and veggies that I also freeze and can at home for the entire year! We order pizza or take out once in awhile, like maybe once a month. We save dinners out for special occasions.

It is all about watching the ads and cutting coupons. You see what is on sale in the circular. Then you see what coupons you have and you make a list. First filling in what you MUST have and then plan a menu around what is on sale and buy only what's on the list. I like to write the price of each item, or what I am willing to spend on a given item, next to each thing on my list so I know exactly what I am going to spend before I even get to the store. You would be surprised how much money you can save if you just do a little homework.

Good luck to you!

J.

Have you got a Trader Joe's store near you? I even buy holistic food for my dog there. What about a food co-op? I belonged to 2 when my kids were small. They do require some time from you or your husband, though. I used to get my older kids involved. Can you put in a garden this spring? Even growing salad fixings in big pots would help cut your costs.

Sounds like you're making a lot of progress. There are some great cookbooks around these days for your food tastes. Also recipes on line. Never shop when you're hungry. Carry healthy snacks in the car so Panera doesn't call to you as you go by.

Will your hubby take packed lunches at least part of the time?
Mine started taking coffee in his travel mug vs. buying fancy coffee out somewhere - not always but every little bit helps.

Get the kids involved in planning meals. Maybe they can cook some nights.

You're on the right track! G. B.

Dear L. D,

First, what is a reasonable budget is going to be different for each family because many factors enter in: monthly income, allergies, likes/dislikes, what is already on hand, how busy the family is, etc.
Secondly, I am working on asking God to help me with this myself so what I am telling you is also being listened to by myself. Pray before you spend any/all money whether it be by credit card, debit card, check-book, or cash, etc. Ask God what would HE wants you to spend and on what.
Thirdly, go through all your cupboards, refrigerator, freezer, any place you store food, and take a written inventory of of what you have (good idea to do this with laundry soap, shampoo/conditioner, toilet paper, i.e. non-food items). I have often bought things I forgot I had and therefore wasted money on them. Some things were so old I had to throw them away and that wastes money as well. If you keep a written inventory in your purse at all times, then when you shop you can see what you have and actually need. My mother in law always keeps a note under a magnet on the kitchen refrigerator that she writes down whatever she uses the last of and then she knows she needs to replace it when she shops again.
We buy all our fresh produce at the low-cost grocery stores in our area because they cost less there unless something is on a sale at the name-brand grocery stores. In my area they are called Aldi and Save-A-Lot. I see people with very expensive vehicles at these stores because they have discovered how cheap fresh fruits and vegetables are there.
If you have a bread store in your area, sometimes it is cheaper to buy your breads there. They are not fresh but if you can get used to bread that is a little firmer, they are just fine. This day-old bread makes even better french toast and bread crumbs than the fresh bread.
The only draw back to shopping at Save-A-Lot and Aldi is that you have to bag your own groceries. They have a counter you can easily do this at. You can take your own grocery bags with you or buy some there. We save so much money at these two stores that it is worth the inconvenience of bagging our own groceries. They sell even some name-brand foods at lower prices than the regular grocery stores. Check them out. You may get a pleasant surprise.
Also, most stores have marked-down produce somewhere in the store and you can save money buying them. Sometimes it requires you cut off a little bruise area or spoiled area, but most of it is good and they lower the price to sell it quickly.
Our family is low income and we used to only spend about $300 a month on an expensive month for three of us. We don't eat much and many months it was only about $200 and that is with meat. If you change your thinking you can save lots of money with some practice. It just takes time to change over how you think.

Hope this helps.

L. C.

Two words for you.... Cost Co. It has made a HUGE difference in our grocery bills. They have a lot of organic products (soups, dressings, vegetables...)as well and they have great pasta!!! They also have nice produce and we love the organics green beans you can purchase in the frozen food sections and also they have big bags of frozen berries. I can't say how much for sure it has saved us but it has been a lot. Also, my husband takes lunch to work everyday (once in awhile he treats himself for lunch out with the guys) but he will take a salad, a wrap with organic lunch meat, organic torilla chips, an apple, an orange and some yogurt. That saves a ton of money. If you think about it lunch out everyday at $10 per day (lower end) at 20 work days a month - that's $200 per month ($2400 per year), then if you get coffee or anything else out... it adds up so fast! Another thing I do is make homemade granola which lasts a while. Good Luck ~ Hope this helps!

HI L.
We sound like we have the same style of eating. I spend 500.00 or less a month. I cook all our meals, and make a lot of it from scratch. My husband takes his lunch, or can stop home and cook for himself. You can do some pretty fancy things with bean and rice. Like Indian food, I'll send you a recipe.
Shop at Trader Joe's if you have one. :) A. H

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