Food Budget - Tempe,AZ

Updated on December 09, 2014
K.H. asks from Tempe, AZ
20 answers

I am trying to create a realistic budget for my family and the biggest area that I'm struggling with is food. What is a realistic amount to budget for groceries every week for a family of four? I've tracked my spending and it's pretty erratic. Some weeks I spend $75, some $150. I plan our meals out weekly and that has helped out tremendously with our spending. We rarely eat out (except for Friday night pizza nights which are sacred!). My kids are small so it's not like they eat huge amounts. However, both my husband and I enjoy quality food and try to eat our meals as "whole" as possible. That can be more expensive since whole foods tend to cost more than processed food, but that is something we're willing to do for our health and to set a good example for our kids.

What do you spend a week on groceries? Is $100 a good target for a budget or is that totally off? Any tips on cutting spending without turning to poor quality food? Thanks in advance!

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answers from Washington DC on

We are a family of 5 living in the DC region. Fortunately, I am able to do the bulk of my grocery shopping on base, so that saves me a TON. Even with that, I budget $700/month for us. We do eat out a couple of times per week - normally one lunch on the weekend and a quick dinner on busy weeknights. Those funds are not included in that budget.

My boys are 7 and 9, but absolutely growing and sometimes eat like teens. My daughter is 11 and a competitive dancer - she can out eat the boys at times!

ADDED: The $700 is everything we need. Including shampoo, toothpaste, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies,'s all in there.

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answers from Washington DC on

when i had 2 teenage boys and a floating army of friends here all the time my grocery budget skyrocketed. i reined it in by shopping in bulk as much as possible, including buying shares in cows and pigs so i could afford healthy meats, and hitting the farmers' markets hard when they were in season.
now that it's back to just 2 of us i'm having a hard time remembering that i DON'T have to buy cases of everything!
:) khairete

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answers from Boston on

I think the trick is to eat in season as much as possible, because food that is transported a long distance goes up in price. That means, for example, no strawberries in the winter, period, unless you are willing to eat the frozen variety (good in smoothies, for example). They have more nutrition out of season anyway. Then shop the specials (taking advantage of the store's loss leaders and not succumbing to the high priced stuff they hope you will buy because you saved so much on the loss leaders).

Coupons are usually for processed foods, but if you use the store coupons in the circular and look on the manufacturers' or suppliers' websites for additional coupons, you can get stuff relatively cheaply. But you have to trade your time for the money.

The other thing is to make more stuff yourself - for example, dried beans and chickpeas are about 4 times less expensive than the ones in the can. But you have to plan ahead and soak or cook overnight, then freeze part of them for the new time. Crockpots are great helpers. Beans are cheap sources of protein so put them in soups as well as Mexican style dishes.

You already plan for the week, so do that with the store circular and look hard at various ways to use the same food. For example, a roast chicken can be a great meal, with the leftovers being chopped up into fillings for chicken salad sandwiches, taco or enchilada fillings, and soup.

Canned tomato sauce/puree is way cheaper than jarred pasta sauce if you're willing to throw in your own seasonings. Set some of it aside and use it to flavor rice (use a little in place of some of the water) or on top of enchiladas. Enchiladas are my "refrigerator clean out" meal - large tortillas with a stripe of refried beans (I freeze the rest for the next time), some leftover beans, a handful of frozen peas and corn or peppers/onions, a little grated cheddar on top with some sauce. Depending on the age of your kids, they may be able to help put the different items in the tortilla - which makes them more likely to eat it.)

If I make pasta, I make a little extra and we put it in soup or on top of salads. If you use your extras really carefully, you really wind up with the fixings for 5 nights and then the other 2 nights are with the leftovers.

Eggs are relatively cheap and pretty versatile. WE make a lot of quiches and frittatas, and I've seen mini-frittatas made in muffin pans. You grease the cups, put in whatever you are trying to get rid of (diced peppers that are getting a little wrinkled or soft, a few stray diced tomatoes, a little leftover meat, onions, mushrooms, spinach, whatever) and then pour beaten eggs (with or without milk) on top and bake in the oven until set and lightly browned. They're cute, kids like them, they make good hand-held or on-the-go breakfasts, and you can adjust them for some people's food preferences/aversions. It makes a light supper too with a salad and some crusty bread or plain toast.

Their are a lot of cooks who show ways to make a week's worth of meals in one family-oriented day. Rachael Ray is one but there are others. You start out thinking you have enough for 4 meals, but because of the way you combine and disguise, you have 7 distinctly different meals.

I found, when we started cooking this way, that we threw out a lot fewer leftovers and saved a bunch of money.

Good luck!

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answers from Jacksonville on

Honestly, you will get so many disparate answers/responses to this... it just is so variable depending upon where you live and what you consider healthy meals.

At our house, we don't eat casseroles (generally). If we have a meal at home it typically consists of a meat (grilled or baked), a green veggie or salad, a grain (sometimes--either corn or brown rice) and sometimes a baguette of bread with olive oil. We do not eat a lot of pasta. We do eat chili with organic chips or baked potatoes, with shredded cheese.

But, I have teens, so it take a lot more food than you normally would need. We also eat out a lot--which sometimes makes planning meals difficult, b/c if I buy fresh veggies/salad components, they don't always last from one mean until the next, due to kids after-school schedules/activities, and husband's work schedule. We pick up dinner out several times a week.

We also pack lunches for husband to take to work (fairly elaborate salads with spring mix, red bell pepper, carrot shreds, cucumber, sweet onion, cherry tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, sunflower nuts, and ham/turkey), and school lunches for teen daughter who will not eat a school lunch (fresh apples, peanut butter pod/cups, pretzels, mandarin oranges, peanut/mixed nut packs, etc).

And depending on what you do for breakfasts, you could spend or save a lot of money. Prepackaged cereal and milk can get expensive if you eat it every day. But a carton of eggs is less expensive, and better for you, if you make eggs and a piece of toast.

I also have a husband who makes protein smoothies DAILY. Smart balance peanut butter, greek yogurt, whey protein powder (chocolate), banana... and snacks on cups of greek yogurt for his daily dessert. He takes Zone bars to work for a snack.

All very healthy. Also pretty spendy to keep stocked on a regular basis.

But, if you chose to have your household snack on baby carrots, you could snack a lot less expensively, and buy that item in bulk more easily than I can buy Zone bars.

So, my point is, there is no real way to answer the question. It all depends on the choices you make, what your household budget is, where you live and food pricing, what might be called "reasonable."
I spend a ton of money on groceries every month. No one in my house likes a bagged apple (they are almost always bruised and mushy, and no one eats a mushy apple), but everyone eats apples.
@IamAKat: that was my first thought, too-- what leftovers from a roast chicken? There is no such thing at our house.

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answers from Wausau on

My grocery budget increased quite a bit once my kids hit the preteen/teen age. I generally spend $600 on a normal month.

That is grocery food only. I know some people lump things like detergent and toothpaste in their 'grocery' budget, but I have a separate category for non-food things.

Restaurant/takeout food also has it's own category.

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answers from Iowa City on

My budget is $200 per week. That includes food items, paper products, personal hygiene items and pet supplies (2 dog, 2 cats, 2 guinea pigs). Some weeks I spend a bit more, some weeks a bit less. I cook from scratch most of the time. We have a family of four. We have at least two meatless days per week for health reasons but it cuts down on cost as well.

I think $100 is doable if you shop sales, don't have pets and if you don't buy soda, beer, etc.

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answers from San Diego on

I agree with Isn'tthisfun? on so many things.
A lot depends on where you live, where you shop and what your family will and won't eat.
Here, I would rather spend a little more on something that I know everyone likes and will eat all of instead of trying to save a buck buying what's cheapest or on sale and have it all go bad because no one likes it and won't eat it.
My kids aren't picky eaters but they recognize when one thing tastes a lot better than another and prefer a nicer experience while eating instead of eating whatever out of necessity.
We have a number of allergies in the house which also means we can't pick and choose what's on sale or whatever.
I have to laugh when people suggest ways to use left over chicken when buying a roast chicken. We buy one from Costco and there is nothing left after we feed the 5 of us. We add salad and sushi if they have some when we're in.
Also, are you including only food items in this budget or also toiletries, toilet paper and paper towels, laundry soap etc? Are you just looking at the grocery bill without breaking it out into what's there? $100 for a week for our family for everything from the grocery store is not realistic.
Food is really one of the hardest places to cut from. You need food that your family will eat and is healthy for them. That isn't inexpensive to do. Best thing to do it look at what you eat and cut out any waste you may have. If you throw out half the apples because people don't finish them, stop buying those apples and try another type you do eat all of or don't buy apples at all. By buying only what we eat I know I am saving money in the long run because there is no waste.

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answers from Columbia on

Truly, I couldn't tell you. Your food budget is going to be influenced by the consumption of your family, where you shop, the cost of living in your area, and how you cook.

In mid Missouri, I shop mostly at Aldi for our family of 2 adults and 2 teen boys. I buy a lot of fresh fruit and veg, a lot of dairy, a lot of meat. I don't buy a lot of boxed meals. I cook whole foods. My last trip (I shop for 2 weeks at a time) was $190. I usually budget $400 per month for groceries, but try not to spend that much. :-) But in Tempe, I don't know if $400 would be enough.

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answers from Beaumont on

Anxious to see your answers. We are also trying to eat as "whole" as possible with 2 teenage boys and we spend about $150 a week. Another challenge for us is that one child is allergic to corn, wheat and dairy so things need to be homemade with special flours etc. adding to the cost. It's a challenge however, planning is essential. A few times a month we get a roasted chicken and use the leftovers for Mexican dishes and freeze the rest.

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answers from Washington DC on

We spend too much. But some things to consider are your location. Where my mom lives, prices for everything are much less than prices here. When I moved from PA to DC, my individual single person bill doubled.

Some things to consider are price per quantity, coupons, who has the best deals on the most items you use, stocking up when things are on sale (especially goods that will not go bad, like the vinegar we use for cleaning, laundry, etc.), freezing portions of larger meat packs for later use, and buying in season or buying frozen for veg. I find it not worth my time or gas to go to 10 stores for a few cheaper items. It costs me more to run around than it does to pick one store that usually is better priced for most things.

You say you don't buy processed, so you are likely avoiding sodas, chips and other packaged goodies already. Something I do for my DD is buy the big bin of raisins and then dole them out, which is less expensive than buying snack packs. If your favorite store has an app or a scanner, use it so that you know what you pay when you get to the checkout vs being surprised. When I do not use it, I spend more. When I bring DH along, he tends to spend more/choose more, so if you find you spend more when hungry or with the whole family in tow, let DH do bath time or something and you run out for your stuff. We shop with a list mostly, and that really helps, too. No need to buy mustard if we have some at home. To be honest, I do not split my budget into "food" and "toiletries" so my mileage may be different than yours if you are not including shampoo and cat litter.

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answers from Chicago on

I use to super coupon, and even then I couldn't get food and toiletries under 100 a week. We eat whole, some organic. I tried hard too, but then decided it was too much damn work, and my time is worth something. I mean really, I spend $12 a week just on milk. This isnt negotiable to me because I'm a vegetarian and I will only drink milk from happy cows.

Food costs are very dependent on location. I do my budget based on percents. A lot of websites tell you what a realistic percent of your income should be for food. Food is a big item, so I think we all think we can save big bucks on food. But realistically, food is a big budget item.

Do a google search for what a realistic percent of income on food should be.


answers from Norfolk on

Your budget for food will have to increase as the kids get older.
Teenage boys can scarf down whole meals and hardly stop to chew.

It does depend a lot on where you live and where you shop.
what will help you is regular meal planning.
People talk about Monday night meatloaf, Tuesday pot roast night, etc. Regular nights for cycling through your typical repertoire of meals.
This helps you with planning and shopping.
You try to buy what you need once per week when it's on sale and you shop around your selection of local stores for who has the best prices for the things you need - eventually you just know where to go.
Eating out once a week is just expensive.
We were doing that but cut back to 4 or 6 times a year.
You can make your own pizza at home or augment a store bought pizza (I like to add cheese and oregano) and it can be just as good (sometimes better) than going out for it.
Beans and rice will help you a lot - they are easy to prepare and are so versatile.

Here is an example of weekly meal planning to give you an idea how to do it:



answers from Denver on

I know for us, 2 adults, one preschooler, that $100 isn't realistic as we also try to eat whole foods, minimally processed. I do save money with coupons for the processed foods we do eat and use checkout51 and Ibotta although that doesn't make much of a difference. We are spending about 125-150 a week. You might do a better job of meal planning then us, though. I get our organic meat at costco which cuts costs and try to do a couple meat free nights a week.


answers from Washington DC on

I live in Northern VA and for my family of 4 (kids are 7 and 9 and eat like they are having growth spurts 24/7). I spend about $175 on average per week. We cook all our meals at home and pack lunches for work and school. We eat out about 2-3 times a month.



answers from Cleveland on

If it makes you feel better, I think we spend between $300 and $400 a week. I don't know how you do it for $75 some weeks! So you may not be able to keep it to $100 a week, especially as your kids get older. The number I gave doesn't include going out to eat but does include items like toilet paper.



answers from Albany on

100 bucks a week beaks down to $14.25 a day to feed 4 people 3 meals and snacks. Or $3.50 a day to feed 1 person 3 meals and snacks. Does this include essential non-food supplies like TP? This seems very limiting and would take a lot of creativity to adhere to. Our family consists of 2 adults, one child, and and an orange cat. I always make lists when I go to the market and do not throw out food. We eat a lot of fresh food. I use the grocery ads and create my meals based on what's on sale if I can. I try to keep my budget at $250 a week. This includes groceries and most non-food household items. Does not include wine ;) We sometimes struggle to stay on budget. I would use coupons and sales. Buy bulk when on sale. Like chicken and freeze. Write lists and meal plan. Chili and soups are great cheap filling meals. Research recipes. Good luck!



answers from New York on

Here's a link to someone who manages to do it on the cheap, with the use of coupons etc.

We try to save on food costs by making use of frozen fruit or veg, buying our meat when it hits the low end, and tracking sales cycles. A can of plum tomatoes can sell anywhere from $0.88 to $3.29 depending on when you buy it. We stock up when they are at $0.88.

F. B.


answers from Lake Charles on

We budget $250 a week, two adults, two teenagers, and an 8 year old. $200 for food and $50 for non food weekly. Target is a very high priced store in comparison to Walmart. Even some groceries are less than Target. What I do is look at the ads for the week. If I have to go to more than one place to get items, I will. I also clip coupons on I am a newby at clipping coupons, but I have saved us over $20 this week. It doesn't seem like a lot but it all adds up over time.

Another thing, I make a menu every week and post it on the fridge. I then make my grocery list by the menu. I try very hard to make meals from what I already have in the pantry or freezer and buy the rest. It's fairly easy to do once you look in your pantry and figure out what ingredients you already have. One thing I have learned is to eat more veggies and rice and allow the meat to be more of a side item. Let the veggies and rice be the star on your plate.

Look on pinterest for easy meals and frugal meals. Also google those things as well. I have found several easy, low cost meals just by using the search engine.



answers from Des Moines on

I think the answers will GREATLY vary with location as grocery prices change!!

I live in the Midwest and for my family of four (2 kids under 5) we spend about $175 a week. I know people do much better than I do. I meal plan every meal and shop at cheaper places so I'm not sure how I do worse than many others in my area but I am also not wiling to shop around (time!)



answers from Oklahoma City on

I would think living in AZ you might be able to garden? That could help you save money but it takes a great commitment and does cost a bit to get started. I did an above ground garden with small hard swimming pools, the ones that Walmart has for around $10. I drilled holes in the bottom and put gravel then dirt and manure and some other stuff. I had a gardener friend helping me and I did it just the way she told me to.

I didn't have a single plant produce. I spent a lot of money I didn't have and didn't have anything to show for that money or time spent.

If you can garden and have a good chance of actually growing some good food then you can save some money that way.

I think your budget of $100 could be a good one if you do only one meal per day then graze left overs on the weekends.

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