How Much Do You Spend On Food/Groceries Each Month?

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe (Photo credit: epSos.de)

I haven’t read this book, so this is totally hearsay, but I read on another list I’m on that in this book - the author states that the average American spends 5% of his or her income on food.

I have been mulling that over in my mind for the past few weeks… wondering how that makes any kind of sense.

Let’s take the amount of money we bring in each month. $5411.00. I decided to start with 20% and was right on the money. 20% of our monthly income is $1084.00. Exactly what we spent on food in the month of October. That breaks down to $270.00 per person.

Let’s consider that we only spent 5% on food for the month. That’s $270.00 per month. That breaks down to $67.50 per person per month.

This has long been a frustrating topic for me. How in the world do people get by with spending such tiny amounts on food? I once read a book where the author stated that she spent $10 per week on food for her family of four, and would never, ever spend more than $10 per week. The book was I wonder if she succeeded at that goal? I don’t know if this is the same author, but here is a book that claims the same thing: Feed a Family of Four for As Low As $10 Per Week: And Enjoy a Nibble of Independence (Paperback, 1991) Author: Jenny Phipps, Marlynn Phipps

I wonder if their children go to public school, eating breakfast and lunch there, and then they don’t consider that to be money spent on “groceries”. Or do they eat out almost every night of the week, not categorizing that fast food as “groceries”?

Or do they simply eat such tiny amounts or so poorly that they are in poor health for the lack of “real” food?

I don’t know that stating that the average American spends 5% of the income on food can even be a rational way to figure it out, because it’s all dependent on how much you make. What if you make minimum wage? What if you only bring in $1000 per month? Can you manage to feed your family on $100 per month? How? What do people eat who eat that cheaply? Cereal for every meal? With powdered skim milk? Half a peanut butter sandwich?

To spend $1000.00 on food each month, at the rate of 5% of one’s income, you would have to make a whopping $20,000.00 per month. Not hardly likely for most Americans.

We home cook most of our meals, and Mr. A and I take leftovers for lunch each day. Sometimes I eat lunch at work (free). We typically eat three meals each day, per person.

Here are some links I found to eating cheap on a tight budget:
Hillbilly Housewife’s Low Cost Emergency Menu $45/week
Feed Your Family For Under $10 Day
How To Feed Yourself for $15 a Week

Maybe for December I’ll try to keep a detailed listing of all the food we buy for the month and figure out exactly what we’re spending our money on.

Be sure to participate in my poll where I ask how much money do YOU spend on food each month?

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6 comments to How Much Do You Spend On Food/Groceries Each Month?

  • Anonymous

    My husband and I have an income a few hundred short of yours (I currently don’t work), with just the two of us, we spend between $500-$700 on food each month. We know this because we’ve kept a detailed Excel sheet for our budget for about 2 years now, we even have standard deviations figured out and graphs.

    Based on our monthly food spending, we fall under the most liberal food budget plan as set by the USDA. I cook all of our meals, and my husband goes out to eat about once a week at work, and we go out to eat maybe once a week, tops (and not usually anything fancy).

    I usually don’t have pre-fab or processed foods in my shopping cart, everything is fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, etc. The only exception is bread and cereal, and they are a little pricier since we buy 12 grain and Kashi.

    Aside from that, I think my husband and I eat very “well”, both in quality of food and nutritional value. We don’t always buy name brand either, nor do we always buy organic items.

    We do have access to the tax free commissary on the military base, but it is small and we supplement by going to other grocery stores.

    I’ve read about books on lowering food expenses to unimaginable amounts by clipping coupons and other methods, but when was the last time they had coupons for fresh meat and produce (aside from buying in bulk, which we don’t usually have room to keep)?

    I just recently began using software to track my recipes and eventually I want to track prices of everything we buy on a usual basis. I studied Economics in college and I think it’ll be interesting to track the kind of inflation the feds are reporting on our personal household level.

    Fortunately we don’t have any debt so our spending is more flexible than other households, but we do plan and budget extensively on a monthly and yearly basis.

    It still baffles me occasionally though, living in West Texas where expenses are low, how much our receipts add up. I think my goal for this year is to bring down our monthly food expense to $400-$450.

    [Reply]

  • Mrs. Accountability

    Dear Anonymous, thank you for your comment. It is reassuring to know we’re not the only family spending large amounts of money on food. I really think people who spend small amounts of money on food, eating foods like ramen noodles, and macaroni and cheese will pay for it healthwise as they grow older. Our bodies can only take so much abuse before we start being sick frequently due to lack of nutrition. Kudos to you for not having any debt and thank you for posting! Mrs. Accountability

    [Reply]

  • Anonymous

    You just have to be careful. I'm currently a grad student living on $75/month for food. I scan the fliers each week to see what is on sale where, clip coupons, know which grocery store has the freshest produce (so it lasts longer without going bad), purchase smaller amounts of fresh vegetables which can go bad every few days in order to eliminate waste, and batch cook recipes around the cost of the ingredients that are on sale that week. As much as I enjoy meat, I've realized that it is so much more cost effective to use that money on other food items. Instead, I rely on canned tuna, imitation crab meat, nuts, cheeses, tofu, and the dynamic duo of rice & beans to get protein each day.

    I don't eat mac and cheese or ramen noodles, I just don't have as much variety as you probably have in your diet. One week I will make enough gazpacho to last lunches and dinners that week (freezing some of it), and another week I will focus on tuna salad sandwiches with really fun sprouts and interesting spreads. I would say in the average month I have about ten meal options available.

    These are the options I currently have:

    - Muesli with Hazelnut Milk or skim milk
    - Cornmeal mush (blue or yellow)
    - Oatmeal
    - Pancakes (the hubs makes them every Sunday)

    - Tuna Salad w/ rocket, sunflower sprouts, clover sprouts, wasabi mayo, tomato and/or spring mix on whole grain +flax bread
    - California Rolls (tasty and fairly cheap to make!)

    - Mushroom Risotto w/ white wine and garlic
    - Thai Green Curry w/ tofu, onion, kabocha squash, green pepper over sticky rice
    - Rice and Beans with fresh homemade salsa
    (I bulk buy the rice and the beans, making it probably the cheap standby)
    - Pesto Penne using canned pesto and freshly grated parmigiana regiana

    - Black sticky rice pudding with fresh sliced mangoes

    Of course, had I half the opportunity, I would spend 300-400 on myself so that I could buy fresh seafood, have more options each meal, not have to spend so much time researching my menu each week, buy exclusively organic vegetables instead of a mixture, and get an extra container of Nancy's organic cottage cheese from Sunflower markets each week, because it is glorious.

    All in all, variety enhances health, so I realize my menu will never be as healthy as someone who can afford to spend more, but for spending $75 or less each month on food, I eat pretty comfortably.

    [Reply]

  • Anonymous

    I also wanted to say that I do think the 5% rule is ridiculous. Even I spend three times that.

    [Reply]

  • undercover vixen

    i spend 40 bucks a month..yhis is because i am being extra frugal..notmaly i spen 75 buks

    [Reply]

  • We spend about 100 a week on a family of three, but we do eat well.
    stacy recently posted..Paleo Fast Food -For the Caveman on The GoMy Profile

    [Reply]

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