How Much Do You Spend on Food?

by Katy on February 26, 2011 · 68 comments

This may take you for surprise, but I’m not a tracker of my expenses. I know this flies against the advice of everyone from Dave Ramsey to J.D. Roth, but I’ve just never been able to make myself perform this monotonous task. However, since I use my debit card for almost everything, I’m not completely oblivious to where my money is going. And when I participated in the Non-Consumer Advocate June Food Stamp Challenge last summer, I was easily able to figure out that my family of four normally spends $450 per month on food, which included coffees and eating out. We were easily able to cut our food expenditures down to $350 for the month, which allowed for a $100 donation to The Oregon Food Bank.

I feel that we neither scrimp and save, nor do we splash out on groceries. It feels right and balanced to me. (And keep in mind that my kids eat as much as normal adults.)

Imagine my surprise when my close friend Rachel recently confessed that her family of four was spending $1000 per month on food. This shocked me because Rachel bakes her own bread, cooks exclusively from scratch and sees herself as a bargain hunter. This actually shocked Rachel as well, as she and her husband just started tracking their expenses as part of an online personal finance class. Then, a coworker of mine, who is a recent convert to the cult of Extreme Couponing, (although always a proud tightwad)  shared that her family of four normally spends $650 a month on groceries. Not so bad by comparison.

Here are a number of methods of how I keep my family’s grocery expenses low:

  • I try and keep my cupboards stocked with general ingredients that can easily be transformed into simple, yet healthy meals. This includes canned tomatoes, canned beans, (although I cook dried beans when I have the time and foresight) and whole wheat pasta.
  • I stock up on sales, especially when they’re loss leaders that I use frequently.
  • I buy fruit and vegetables that are in season, which also means on sale. I don’t buy asparagus on November or blueberries in January. Organic oranges are on sale for 69¢ per pound? Then that’s what we’ll be eating.
  • I do buy organic produce, although it’s almost always the sale items. 79¢ apples or huge bunches of spinach for $1.50 come to mind.
  • I buy specialty ingredients directly from restaurants. This may sound like a pain in the tuchus, but these businesses are within walking distance and the savings are tremendous. I buy a sizable amount of pickled ginger and wasabi from the nearby Japanese restaurant for $3 and enough pepperoni for two pizzas for $1.50 from the Papa Murphy’s down the street. I bring my own Pyrex containers, which makes it all the more brag worthy worth the effort.
  • I do keep a few instant dinners in the freezer such as Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken, (to which I add a couple extra chicken breasts  to stretch the meal) and Potstickers. This keeps us from eating out too often.
  • I buy in bulk. This includes everything from individually frozen chicken breasts from Costco to rice, beans, cat food, spices, baking powder and soy sauce.
  • I take advantage of coupons. No, I’ll never be featured on TV for my couponing prowess, but I do use the once a month $10 off $50 Safeway coupons, as well as deal-of-the-day Groupon-style coupons for local coffee shops, Dave’s Killer Bread and nearby restaurants. I know I’ll be going out for coffee with a friend at some point, so I might as well plan ahead.
  • I pack school lunches for the kids and my husband and I always bring our own work lunches. My work identification can be registered to work in the cafeterias as a debit card from my paychecks, but I have consciously never set this up. Even though doing so would save me 15% off my purchases. Too slippery a slope for little ol’ me.
  • I taught myself how to make certain meals by hand that my family enjoys. I make both sushi and pizza from scratch, which saves a ton.
  • I am willing to prepare and serve simple meals. I don’t need prosciutto and belgian endive to make a meal special.
  • I store leftovers is clear glass Pyrex containers, which ensures that we don’t forget about what yummy tidbits are in the fridge.
  • When we do eat out, we drink water, skip dessert and try to locate an online coupon. I bring my own leftovers container so that the uneaten food can become tomorrow’s lunch.
  • I hardly garden for food at all. I do plant tomatoes and lettuce in the summer using container gardening, but this is pretty limited. My yard is shady beyond belief, so I mostly mooch home grown veggies from my friends.

I try not to stress too much about how much we’re spending on food. (Hence the non-tracking.)We’re not exactly living in poverty and need not hold back from feeding ourselves well. I want to provide healthy, delicious meals for my family. I know we could be spending less, but my husband likes deli meat for his lunches from a particular butcher, and is a fan of Cliff bars. He’s an adult who can make these choices for himself. We buy treats such a mochi ice cream, ($3.50 from Trader Joe’s, which is $1.5 less than the Asian grocery store) and varied snack foods.

I am not interested in depriving my family in the name of proving how I’m the queen of frugality. Nope, I’ll let someone else wear that crown.

How much is your family spending on food? Do you have frugal food practices to share? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy February 26, 2011 at 12:52 pm

My family of 4, soon to be 5, spends $80-$100 a week in groceries, or about $350-400/month. We follow meal plans, rarely eat out, and shop at stores like Aldi and Save-a-lot because I can get nutritious foods for a fraction of other stores’ prices. I should add that our groceries bill includes toiletries, health/beauty items, and baby needs as well.

I can’t fathom spending more than my rent payment on food per month, but a close friend of mine (who has a family of 5) spends $1700/month on food….without ever eating out.


Katy February 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm

What, $1700 a month on eating in?! That’s in-freakin-sane!



Kate in NY February 27, 2011 at 5:46 am

Ok. Here it goes. Gulp. My family of 6 does spend close to $1700 a month on all food, groceries, household items, pets (2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 bunnies and 4 chickens), wine and beer, and hubby’s lunches at work (he tends to buy. in midtown manhattan. we are working on that one).

We never eat out. I cook almost everything from scratch. I bake my own bread most of the time. My daughter and I are vegetarians. I make my own household cleaners. My chickens produce the eggs and we garden. But I polled my (also fairly frugal) friends, and my family is on the LOW end! Suburban NYC. What can I say? Also, I am pretty obsessed with buying organic veggies and fruits (and I buy TONS of veggies), we get our milk delivered from a local organic dairy, I buy only pastured, grass-fed and finished meat for the boys (3 of them, all big, athletic and very hungry!).

I also make organic green smoothies for everyone in the mornings, and that probably adds up to $7 a day right there. On the other hand, no one in the family got sick this winter – and we had a doozy of a winter in NY. Barely a sniffle from anyone! And we definitely scrimp on other items in order to eat this way. Still, we can clearly pare down, and I thank Katy and all the commenters for their advice. First on the list . . . hubby’s work lunches!


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl February 27, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Kate, I pack my husband’s lunch (usually leftovers) and I find that it saves soo much time and effort if I package up his food as I put away dinner. That way it’s all ready to go in the morning.


Katy February 27, 2011 at 2:29 pm

I wish my husband could bring leftovers, but he has no access to a microwave in his job, so it’s sandwiches, fruit & Cliff bars.

I always bring leftovers for my work lunches though.



tea4three May 14, 2011 at 6:13 am

Would love to know what you put in your organic green smoothies?!


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl February 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm

I spend $400/month to feed my family of 6, and that includes toiletries, cleaning supplies, and paper goods (which is mostly just toilet paper. Not giving that up.).

But, none of the six of were born with football-player sized appetites, so that makes it easier for me to work with a low-ish budget.


Katy February 27, 2011 at 2:31 pm

My $450 includes any and all items that can be bought at a grocery store. However, I don’t buy paper towels or tampons or pads. I use a “Moon Cup” which was one of the best one time purchases I’ve ever made!

T.P. I buy in bulk at Trader Joe’s, as it’s 100% recycled content and $3.99 for a 12 pack. I buy two at a time so that I never run out.



Christina September 9, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Wow..i have a family of six. One includes a vegetiarian…how do you mamage a food bill of only 400$ ????????


Christina September 9, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Please feel free to email me on tips


fairy dust February 26, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I’ve tried to pare back a lot. We were spending a couple hundred dollars a week even after our son was out of the house and it was just the two of us left. We don’t eat that many dinners in – but we don’t eat out much either; we just don’t eat dinner many nights. We tend to be low-carbers (I’m a lot stricter about it than hubs), so my breakfast is cheese sticks, my lunch a salad with some type of meat, hubs eats a $2 wave-meal like a Lean Cuisine, we eat nuts and hummus and slimjims or jerky and light yogurt for snacks and lots of eggs on the weekends. That doesn’t sound like it would be all that expensive, and I’m an avid couponer. But somehow, I can’t seem to get our spending for groceries and toiletries/sundries down below $300/mo. And I’ve started tracking every penny with (which I love!), so I see the pretty little charts telling me I’m getting closer and closer to that $300 each day.


Beth February 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm

I spend around $100-150 a month on groceries and another $15-50/month eating out. (Unfortunately food prices in a city aren’t exactly low – I envy the produce prices you’ve quoted.) But the total includes things like toilet paper, tissues, and other non-food items. Most of the meat I buy is local, pasture-raised, which doesn’t come cheap. To afford it, I try save on other parts of my grocery list – matching sales with coupons, often eating meat-free or meat-light meals, and making things from scratch. Cooking dried beans is so easy with a crockpot; I recommend trying it out.


Elizabeth Finney February 26, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Wow, I feel really guilty…. Just tracked January’s spending and we spent around $600 on groceries and $240 on eating out… For our family of four. Trying to get it down, bit by bit. My biggest issue is not having a meal plan, I think. That amount of planning seems exhausting to me but I think it would go far to saving money.


PigPennies February 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I always veer away from pre-made meals, but keeping inexpensive and delicious Trader Joe’s meals around is a great idea. Those would be perfect for the nights I crack and just can’t bring myself to cook. We always end up eating out those nights, which is way more expensive than a frozen dinner even if it’s just the cheap Mexican place down the street.

I’d love if you shared a post on how to make sushi – I’ve searched for good instructions but have no idea where to start!


Katy February 27, 2011 at 2:32 pm

My sushi is rarely symmetrical or attractive, so I may try and find a youtube video to share.



Cyndel February 28, 2011 at 5:36 am

I’d like to see how you make sushi as well. We also make our own sushi (we have the rolling technique down), but we use canned fish usually. For some reason, using raw fish at home grosses me out, but not when I eat it at restaurants. What type of fish do you use?


Katy February 28, 2011 at 7:02 am

When I make sushi I use cooked shrimp and/or “Krab.” (As well as avocado, carrot, cucumber) Although I’ll eat raw fish in restaurants, I distrust the freshness of grocery store seafood.



Dmarie March 1, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I too love it that you make your own sushi! Also would be interested in seeing you make some, especially if imperfect so I’ll see it’s doable! We save by cooking most everything from scratch. Hubby hunts/fishes, which fills the freezer with sustainably raised proteins for him to eat. Since reading “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Foer, I may have to learn to eat wild game myself; cannot bear to buy pork/poultry at the grocery any more. I cook lots of veggie meals, often with our own garden produce, which helps to cut costs.


Jenn February 26, 2011 at 3:36 pm

I have a family of 5. I try to keep the food bill between 100 and 150 a week. This includes toiletries and cleaners. I do cut coupons and I follow websites like and (Chicago Area) I spend about 45 minutes a week on this but I’d say I save between 20 and 40 dollars a week. I tell myself that time is money in this case:)


twyla February 26, 2011 at 3:44 pm

My family – which consists of me & my daughter and her two pet chickens – spend 90-120 dollars every three weeks (as in I only go shopping once ever three weeks). So this includes clothes and non food items like laundry detergent, hygiene, & tp, etc. I feel that this is an extravagant amount. I feel that we could parse it down a lot more. A lot. Like really a lot. Every time I come to the checkout I feel guilty. I look at my load and think: what can I put back?
I saw an episode of extreme couponing and I was like wtf, when did coupon become a verb? Maybe its different in the states though; maybe all the coupons *don’t* say “limit one per household per item”. Coupon-ing just seems like …. a waste of friggin time here: ten cents off toilet paper? ok, I’ll spend twenty in gas to cash that in before it expires. ANd why the *h* are all the coupons on things that aren’t nutritious. I’ve never seen a coupon for 50c off lettuce or broccoli; its always on things that come in a box or a bag inside of a box.,
(ok umm, sorry to rant on your blog and all, this is just something that really gets me).


namastemama February 26, 2011 at 8:24 pm

so totally agree with you. Although, i’ve never seen the show.


Jennifer February 26, 2011 at 3:49 pm

$500 for 2 of us plus baby plus cat, includes food, eating out, toiletries, paper goods, cat stuff, baby stuff, and any household odds and ends…so in reality probably only $350 on food


Mamie February 26, 2011 at 3:55 pm

My husband just spent the last three months tracking our expenditures closely so that we could start doing some serious budgeting. Turns out we were spending around $850/month on food, pet items, and household items.

We are a family of three adults, with a niece and nephew who spend a fair amount of time and eat a fair of amount of food at our house. We have friends/family over for dinner at least every other week. One Sunday in January I fed 12 for breakfast and lunch and 13 for dinner! All homemade food, I might add.

I make most of our baked goods (including bread), we participate in the Bountiful Basket produce co-op, buy MOST food/pet/household items at Costco, and use coupons at other stores with regularity. My husband works from home, and eats breakfast and lunch at home every day. I am an elementary school teacher and ALWAYS pack my lunch and snacks. We don’t buy bottled water or alcohol. We do eat meat (which can be spendy). We DO try to buy organic products and go for quality over “cheap.”

I’m mostly okay with what we’re spending in this area, though I WOULD like to see if we can reduce costs without reducing quality. I’m glad my husband did the close tracking without us changing our habits, because it gave us a realistic picture and a place to start in terms of budgeting in this area (and others).


Kat C February 26, 2011 at 4:05 pm

I am always amazed at how much cheaper food is in the states than it is in Canada – we spend about $140 per week for a family of two adults (includes things like toilet paper etc). I shop at the cheaper stores (and sometimes the more expensive farmer’s market so perhaps it balances out), and we buy beef in bulk from a farmer. But there is a big price difference in the cost of basics across the border! I notice this both when reading blogs, and during my yearly visit to see a very good friend who lives in Philadelphia. (Interestingly all the veggies in the grocery stores in Philly seem to come from Canada, and all our grocery store vegetables here in Alberta seem to come from the USA or Mexico)


Jennifer February 26, 2011 at 4:08 pm

We usually spend $175-$200 a week for groceries these days for two adults and 2 kids. In the past when times were tight, we did mangage with a lot less, but since we are in a more comfortable position now, we don’t sweat it as much. Hubby is a big eater, but I always pack his lunch as well as my own. When I stayed at home with the kids, I was able to shop around for our groceries a lot more, but with working and school and kid stuff, I just don’t have the time anymore. Instead, I do most of our shopping at the discount grocery store and don’t worry about running around to save a dollar or two.


sandy February 26, 2011 at 4:09 pm

I spend about 180 a month on food for my husband and I (it was 150 untill recently). That includes my protein shakes I have to drink every day, brown rice, low carb pasta,, alot of whole foods, sugar substitutesetc. And since we don’t eat cheaper things like white potatoes for health reasons I feel we are doing fairly well. Although my husband still wonders why I can’t do it on$100 a month like I did over 15 years ago.:) I cook from scratch, bake bread, buy reduced produce, meat etc. I have also found a good salvage store that helps alot. I recently bought 25 pounds of vital wheat gluten to use to make a meat substitute from since prices are set to go up. Oh, we also buy a quarter of beef that is grass fed from a friend every 2-3 years. The last time (2 years ago) we paid $2.35 a pound hanging weight.


Rebecca February 26, 2011 at 4:45 pm

We spend about $120 a month to feed a family of 5, two of us eat gluten free, and my middle child is low carb to help with some GI issues. I do use some coupons, but am picky about quality. I try and buy the cheapest price within the quality I want. This includes our cleaning and personal supplies, but we don’t use much.

I am considering upping our budget to $130 or 140 a week as food around here is going up significantly in price. I also garden a lot in summer and can/freeze most of what I grow. We also use pick your own farms to stock up on apples, strawberries and corn which we can or freeze, so we get high quality for low prices. I also bake almost completely from scratch, both regular and GF.


Rebecca February 26, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Ok, I meant $120 a week!


laura February 26, 2011 at 4:47 pm

I spend $100 a week on groceries for my family of 4, including 2 ravenous teenagers. Meal planning, matching coupons with sales and Aldi are my friends. I don’t shop like a “normal” person at all. I stock up on things when they are on sale and try to cook from what’s in my pantry, fridge and freezer, supplementing as necessary.


Queen Lucia February 26, 2011 at 4:57 pm

I try to spend $75 per week for our family of three, but usually spend $80-$90 – I can’t seem to hit that $75 sweet spot. Our eating is very much like yours, Katy, and that budget includes cleaning supplies (of which I buy very little except dish soap and laundry detergent), basic hygiene supplies (shampoo, soap) and paper (toilet paper only – we’re cloth napkin people). My daughter is only 9, so not eating like an adult quite yet! This does not include eating out – which we do about every other week, or my daughter’s lunches, which I buy. I plan meals, cook every night and try to use every scrap of food.

I shop at a NW grocery store that has a rewards card that puts the difference into your account when something you buy one week goes on sale the next week – then you can apply it to your next purchase. Except I never have anything in my account – because I buy everything on sale! I’m always a bit disappointed.


Diana February 26, 2011 at 5:59 pm

My family of 2 spends about $400 on food (though we allot up to $600). We rarely eat out and only buy food that is local, organic, and not packaged. I consider this to be fairly cheap given the quality of ingredients we get. (Trader Joe’s and big box stores are tempting, but there is a huge cost attached to items wrapped in plastic both for health and environmental reasons.)


Beth February 26, 2011 at 6:28 pm

I am totally impressed Katy, and a little bit baffled by my inability to get below $670 a month on groceries. Last week, for example, I meal planned all veggie meals hoping to have an $80 grocery bill and it was $100. It just never seems to go down. Can you give us some example of your meals too?


Lynne February 26, 2011 at 7:17 pm

I aim for $100/week for our family of 4. My strategy is to “double dip” on sale items with coupons whenever possible to keep a stash of items I use all the time. My biggest challenge is getting my husband and kids to understand that when we run out of something during the week they need to be flexible and willing to eat something else. Box of cereal empty? How about some oatmeal or toast? My husband in particular is always quick to want to run to the store and pick up the item, which can blow our budget since he always ends up buying misc. stuff as well.
One thing I’m curious about is why so many folks add household/toiletry items into their food budget. I guess I’ve always thought of these things as a separate category altogether.
Thanks for all the tips, Katy. Very helpful!!


Marcia October 30, 2015 at 2:56 pm

The reason I add household and toiletry items in with groceries is because I buy them all in the same place. When my family were younger, I did shop more at drugstores, etc., but there are only two of us now, and Consumer Reports told me that supermarkets prices on such items are comparable with drugstores when you wait for sale prices. Big believer in Consumer Reports. I can’t be bothered to go to several different stores to save a buck here and a buck there. I use coupons to the fullest extent possible, I wait for loss leader sales. I use the pantry principle (buy on sale and buy enough to last until the next sale). When I run out of something I do without or substitute something else–very very few special runs in the middle of the week for food. I do NOT pre-plan every meal, but I’ve been married for 53 years and I have a freezer and pantry full of food—and we eat leftovers to use things up. I have the experience to wing it at this point. I also want a lot of variety in my meals and have a “regular repertoire” of about 50 meals that I alternate among. (I have had friends tell me they have about 10.) I cook most things from scratch, including bread, and I buy in bulk as much as possible. I grow a few things in my garden and I live in a farming area so purchase some items in bulk and freeze –occasionally can a batch here and there but not so much anymore. I spend around $350 a month plus another $100 per quarter at Sam’s Club for bulk flour and OTC meds. So under $400 a month including everything. We have fairly small appetites now as we are both over 70—and I do watch portion sizes, especially on meat. I package 12 oz of ground beef to a package and it’s not unusual to get dinner for two and one lunch, and even occasionally 2 dinners for two from that amount. We do not feel at all limited on this budget–but we watch what we eat for salt and fat and calories in general, as we both have high blood pressure. We deprive ourselves of VERY little!


Marcia October 30, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Forgot to mention that we also have a cat, and I do not buy organic most of the time.


Marcia October 30, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Also we eat out 1 time per week or less and that goes under “entertainment.”


Canadian Doomer February 26, 2011 at 8:37 pm

We stockpile, so it’s hard to know how much “per month”. In January, we spent a little over $260 – two adults, two small children – but I haven’t added up the receipts for February yet. Yesterday we bought 220 pounds of flour for $60. I’m planning to live out of our pantry for March. Maybe for April, too, but we’ll likely have to buy some meat.


namastemama February 26, 2011 at 8:39 pm

At one point we were buying all organic @ about $800 per month. per family of 4. We are now at $400-500. Much less during the summer as we have a garden. The one grocery that accepts double coupons is only up to $.35 so not a huge help and we have no stores with loyalty cards. i.e Kroger and the like. Trader Joe’s is an hour away and I live in one of the most expensive places to buy gas in the country. I can not imagine spending a great amount of money on crap foodish items and make no apologies for my LOCAL, organic free range chickens or my fair trade, organic coffee. One can still buy and grow good food with a very modest one family income. You just need to know where to shop, NOT in a grocery store 🙂


Martha February 26, 2011 at 9:33 pm

We have a family of 8…2 adults and 6 teens. We rarely have a day without a few ‘Extra’ teens for dinner. I shop mostly at Cash and Carry, or Costco. Our goal is to buy food as close to the natural state as possible so we don’t do prepared or package meals. We spend $500-$600 per month, less in summer when the garden is producing.


Vicki February 26, 2011 at 11:10 pm

I spend about $600 per month for two kids and two adults, but add another $200 to that because I pay for a teen grandson’s food who lives with another relative and also eats at my house daily. This includes paper goods and cleaning supplies. We never eat out and I cook from scratch. Several years ago I spent much less and had all sorts of snacks for the kids. Now I can’t afford all the snacks or all the cleaning supplies once purchased. Beginning to get a little worried here because I only have two grocery stores with no good sales and things keep getting higher but no increase in money each month.


Kristia@Family Balance Sheet February 27, 2011 at 5:02 am

I take $400 in cash out on the 1st of every month. I started doing this in January and it seems to be working so far. I used to use a credit card and pay it off at the end of the month and i was spending closer to $500. That number includes paper products and diapers. We are a family of 4.

I’m not a huge couponer. I use coupons for toiletries more than anything else. I am a meal planner and that has been my biggest cost saver and time saver. Every Sunday, I plan the week’s breakfasts, lunches and dinners and they revolve around what we have on hand and what is on sale that week at the store.

My biggest cost saver is the CSA that we belong to from May to November. Local, organic produce at a fraction of what it would cost at the supermarket.


Annie Jones February 27, 2011 at 5:12 am

We are a family of 2 adults and a 7yo. Our monthly average on groceries for 2010 was $225 a month.

That amount is for food to cook at home only. It doesn’t include going out to eat, pet food, cleaning supplies, HBA or anything like that…those things are all in a different budget category for me.


Shannon February 27, 2011 at 6:16 am

One thing I’ve learned from this blog is that it is worth the trouble to seek out alternative food sources. Recently we made the trip to this country farm market that we’d been hearing about. Their motto is “we make it worth the drive.” Holy cow, they were right! First of all, they sell grocery staples in bulk, packed in thin plastic bags or you can bring your own container. Second, they sell all local meats, some at very low prices (Yesterday their deli had ham off the bone for $2.89 a pound!) Third, they had super cheap prices on grains and staples, like a large bag of steel cut oats for under $2 and free range large brown eggs for $2.29 a dozen. And of course come summer they will have tons of fresh produce. As I was walking into the store, an Amish or Mennonite lady was coming out with some groceries, so I knew it would probably be a good place to shop, and I was right, a week of quality groceries for about $50. We’ll probably go there once a month; they are also down the road from a nice, ancient thrift store, as well as a “Dutch” buffet that my boys just love, so that will make it more worth the 15 minute drive (or in summer we can bike there thanks to a fairly extensive bike path we have in our burg.)
As for our monthly expense, we usually spend around $500 a month on food, including a couple of restaurant trips, that’s for 2 adults and 2 kids.


Kimberly February 27, 2011 at 6:37 am

I’ve been working on not wasting. There are only the three of us and sometimes I would get crazy with the stuff I bought “on sale” or because it “looked good”.

Now, I buy enough ingredients to cook 4x a week and we eat leftovers the rest of the time. I buy fruit 2-3 pieces at a time because otherwise, it’s wasted. If I buy fresh ginger for a recipe, we’ll have Asian flavors at least 2x in the next two weeks to be sure that we don’t waste it.

I decided on this path when I cleaned my fridge last fall and threw away dozens of condiments and ingredients that had far exceeded their use by date.


snailmailfan February 27, 2011 at 7:49 am

I agree with the other Canadian commenter, food MUST be more expensive in Canada then the USA, we can’t be THAT much more wasteful! It seems strange, until you realise that Canada dosen’t have much food processing compared to what it actually produces – a lot of “our food” is grown or raised in Canada, then shipped to the states for processing, and shipped back. (Yay NAFTA) And there are no fresh farmer’s markets in the middle of the winter! So the fruit and veggies being trucked up from Mexico and California and sometimes flown in from South America is all more expensive then if it were grown within the province. (Also, historically, the Canadian dollar has been worth less then the American.)

Of course if one were concentious about sourcing…
but this is the typical situation.

My family consists of one if-theres-no-meat-it-aint-a-meal man adult, myself, my elderly grandmother, who has quite picky tastes and dosen’t eat a lot and ends up generating a lot of food waste, and one puppy. Grocery bills also cover the household cleaning and hygenie products and so forth. We have recently started buying some of our groceries from a more up-scale shop as it’s fresh produce tends to be more fresh, and we had some problems with the service at the other store.

On average, we spend close to 225$ a week, which ofcourse is $900 a month. We do have rewards cards, and try to buy things on sale, but are not avid sale-purchasers.

We almost never eat out. I am not the most experienced cook, but I do try to cook from scratch two or three times a week.

Since stumbling upon the concept of “Food Waste Friday” last week, and bothering to take photographs of what was thrown out at the end of the week, I like to think that i’m being a little more careful in preparing food this week, and hopefully into the future.


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl February 27, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Judging from what my Canadian friends have to say, and from what my parents experience when they visit, yes, Canadian food is way more expensive than American food.

So, don’t feel guilty!


Marianne March 1, 2011 at 5:52 am

There is something called the Canadian Food Basket which is 52 items priced out for your area by your local hospital board. It is equivalent to the Thrifty Food Plan in the States. It is a very interesting exercise – our family of four is expected to spend $980 per month on food on the thrifty plan in our area. Ouch!


Heather February 27, 2011 at 8:10 am

Our family of five spends around a $100/wk. I buy as close to natural as possible. We were vegetarian, but have added a bit of meat(recently bought part of a happy hog). Most of our produce is local, seasonal and organic. No garden just a few containers.


Lucia February 27, 2011 at 8:41 am

I recently came across a website called that will track your purchases for you, the only downside being that you have to register your bank account and credit/debit cards that u use regularly. It will let you budget what you want to spend on each area each month and then let you know in a weekly email how you did that week budget wise. I am experimenting with it now, but hope to have time to devote to it more fully in the future. This might be something some readers would be comfortable with. Before this, I wasn’t tracking anything, and that is dangerous for me.


Ann February 27, 2011 at 9:06 am

We don’t use coupons but do eat locally and seasonally. We have cut down our food expenditures by, frankly, just not buying as much food. We ate down the pantry inventory for about a year and keep that area pretty lean. As we age, we are learning to reduce our intake…our son is grown and on his own, so his periodic visits just put a little blip in the graph. I love all the ideas here!


Stacey February 27, 2011 at 9:25 am

I spend about $300 a month on food/household items/toiletries for myself and my husband. $50 of that is allotted to super amazingly awesome organic dog food, because my dog’s health is important to me. We eat out a couple times a month, but I cook all our other meals from scratch. I could probably (and maybe should) lower our budget a bit, and be willing to eat something like beans and rice one meal a week. I try to buy almost everything organic, which is what accounts for such a large food budget for just two people. Also, we live in downtown Portland, and even things like farmer’s markets, which I try to visit regularly, can be pretty expensive.


Indy February 27, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I spend between 125-200 a month on food for myself, my dog, my cat, and the friends and family who drop in. I pack my lunch for work, though I do eat at the Student run Cafe once or twice a month to support the Culinary program for $6.50 a trip, and I go out to eat one or twice with my best friend where I treat (She’s been struggling with ends meet since losing one of her jobs), which is around $25 with tip per trip.

That budget also includes household cleaning ( I make mine ) personal hygiene products, and my affection for craft beer.

I eat incredibly well. I make my own yogurt from organic milk, and use that for everything from dips, yocheese, smoothies, etc. I bake some of my own bread though when I buy, I get it from the outlet store on the way to work for 79 cents a loaf of whole wheat multi-grain. I’m thinking of taking up some home brewing as well once I have my own house (renting now).

It is little wonder my friends all think I’m a touch odd. I can’t think of any other 24 yo guys who make their own yogurt.


Mary February 28, 2011 at 8:38 am

Wow, I am impressed with the low dollar amounts from most of the readers here. For a family of 2 adults we spend about $500 for food & household paper & cleaning products. We buy a lot of our food from a local on-line farmers market so it may be a little more expensive but it’s straight from the organic farm. We have a couple of splurge items: Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (my husband is addicted) and really good cheese. But, we almost never eat out since we both like to cook. After reading all of your amounts I’m really surprised about how much we spend!


Jeanine February 28, 2011 at 9:28 am

We spend about $450.00 a month, and that’s for 2 adults, and 2 kids. We also potluck with my sister two Sunday’s a month, and that’s another 3 adults.

I must say though, 100.00 of that is for non food items from Sam’s Club.

We probably get 40% of our meat from the Reduced for Quick Sale section at my DH work. We only get unground beef from there…no poultry or pork.
We get 30% from our own land/hand….we hunt deer, quail, and wild hog. We also fish and shrimp.

Like Katy, we buy in season produce, fruit year round, and basic veggies only in winter. We have almost a half acre that we use for a garden, and we let it “bake” during the cold months…

I do use coupons, and I do stockpile. My job requires several lunch meetings…out of the office, so I do spend there.

I’d love to do a meatless day, but my husband is so not.having.that. :*(


Angela@MyYearWithoutSpending February 28, 2011 at 10:07 am

Sometimes I wish we spent hundreds of dollars a month on groceries, because that means I could wake up right now and cut hundreds from our budget. My mother spends $1000 a month just for my dad and her. One month it was $1900 and she said that must include wine! All I could do was laugh at that statement. Almost our entire monthly budget, spent on food and wine.

My husband and I have spent between $250 and $400 a month for food, depending on our finances. It averages around $350 but for the past year I have usually gotten it down to around $320. That amount does not include drugstore items, alcohol, or eating out. We rarely eat out these days, maybe $50 a month at the most but I count that as “entertainment” instead of food. We eat a lot of meals from scratch, and a lot of vegetarian meals. No packaged foods (almost) and an emphasis on health. I buy a lot of produce, often local and organic.

I do a lot of the same things as you, Katy. Like buying in season, buying on sale, etc. The biggest savings for me are not wasting food, and making crockpot meals and soups that can be used for 2 or 3 meals. I think one thing that is overlooked in some of these discussions is portion size. Eating a smaller serving over time is going to decrease your overall grocery bill.

Last month I spent $215 on groceries by eating out of the pantry. I started using up canned goods and food in the freezer, and just bought meat, eggs, dairy, and lots of produce throughout the month. We ate like kings! It is not hard if you have good recipes and plan some of your meals. I know it’s harder with kids, but the same principles can be used.


Queen Lucuia February 28, 2011 at 11:01 am

Angela, good point about portion size. I really began saving money on food when I realized how little we actually eat compared to how much I thought we needed. Add what we wasted each week to that, and there was significant room for improvement.


Sue February 28, 2011 at 11:09 am

I spend between £500 and £550 a month for my family of five (including 2 teenaged boys). Apparently that’s about $812 -$893.

I make everything from scratch, baking all our bread, making jams and other preserves and some soft drinks. I but about 8 bottles of wine and 8 small bottles of beer each month. I pack lunches for kids and husband. We eat meat twice a week and fish once or twice a week. This allows me to spend more on good quality meat and fish.

We eat out very rarely and when we do we always have dessert and drinks because it’s a treat. Eating out does not come out of our food budget.

I understand that food in the UK is generally more expensive than in the States.


Sue February 28, 2011 at 11:36 am

I should add that the £550 also includes toilet rolls, shampoo, detergent etc etc.


Linda March 1, 2011 at 4:50 am

I spend about $50-$70 per week not including going out a few times per month. I use coupons (recently started), I buy produce at a local fruit market (super cheap) and I just stock my pantry. I buy meats only on sale and stock up when there is a really good sale. Veggies and fruits on sale. I make breakfasts, pack lunches and make dinner for my family at least 5 days each week. The rest of the time we eat leftovers. We still throw away too much food. If we did not waste so much food, I could get my bill down to $40 – $50 per week for 4 people. The bunnies, deer , etc love my house with all the food that goes into my compost.


Linda March 1, 2011 at 4:55 am

Sorry, I have 2 adults and 2 teen girls in our family. One is on a gluten free diet.


Jessica March 1, 2011 at 5:42 am

For two people I spend about $400-$500 per month, counting only things that are eaten (so vitamins are in, but other “grocery store” items like toilet paper are out).

I shop at our farmers market, food co-op, and Whole Foods for anything I can’t get at the previous two (best example are sliced lunch meats/cheeses).

I don’t buy prepackaged meals, frozen meals, or 99% of the processed foods out there and I buy about 95% organic. I don’t think I spend too much – food is the most important thing that I buy.


Elaine March 1, 2011 at 11:42 am

Katy wrote:

“I am not interested in depriving my family in the name of proving how I’m the queen of frugality. ”

This reminds me of a show on PBS a few years ago. Three families lived like pioneers from spring until fall. They had to do everything the way the pioneers did. In the end, they were graded on how well they did. This included having food left over. One woman was accused (by another “pioneer”) of not giving her family enough food the last week or two so that she would have the most food left. She really wanted to be the pioneer queen! (Her husband ended up leaving her.)

I see this as a balancing act. I’m frugal and as nonwasteful as possible. I often either postpone purchases or completely change my mind and don’t make purchases. However, if there’s something I really want, I can usually get it without going into debt. That’s the big thing to me.


tea4three May 10, 2011 at 11:45 am

Oh my gosh!!! I am waaaay beyond the average! For a family of three, we spend an average of $1,000 a month. This does not include eating out or lunches, which is averaging $700 per month. We don’t buy too much organic or go to Whole Foods because it is too far away. I shop mainly at Dominicks/Safeway because it is close. We don’ buy a lot of junk food, I cook alot, averaging 25 hours a week in the kitchen preparing and cleaning up after meals (hence the eating out bill, I spend way too much time in the kitchen!) It has always amazed me how people can eat well and not spend a lot of money. I don’t usually cut coupons because it doesn’t seem worth it: Driving 40 minutes (and paying all that gas) to get 15 cents off of a gallon of milk. I also have specific items that I like, say for example Naked drinks, which are healthy but extremely expensive, but when I try to find something cheaper that is just as healthy, I can’t. I read the ingredients for everything and try to buy items with the least amount of preservatives, artifical ingredients and High Fructose Corn Syrup, which are usually more expensive. I don’t buy prepackaged food, except for a few items at Trader Joes. I also, don’t buy vegetables just because they are on sale or cheaper because they always seem to be just trying to get rid of it because it is moldy, wilted or limp (half the stuff I wouldn’t feed to my tortoise). I don’t feel like I am being picky, just want the healthiest and freshest food I can get for my family, but I feel like I have to pay the price to do that. Any suggestions for me?!?


tea4three May 14, 2011 at 6:27 am

Would anyone be willing to share some of their recipes? Maybe if I had some recipes that were quick, cheap and healthy I wouldn’t spend so much money!


kfaith82 May 14, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I’ve been keeping track of our food budget for the past couple years and we certainly are spending more. It’s just me and my husband and we’re averaging $140/week! That is just food and I shop to make sure I get fair deals but good quality produce. I get the staples (soda, water, cheese, cereal, etc.) at Target but then get produce at my local farmer’s market. I’ve been getting organic meats and fish at Fresh Market which is not that expensive compared to most supermarket brands. I cook dinner 7 days a week and we only eat out maybe a couple time a year. This price does not include our wine budget which would be quite high. Considering we rarely eat out, we both eat breakfast and lunch at home, I think we are being quite frugal. I tend to not skimp on good flavor so if I want to get fresh mozzerella or prosciutto from our local Italian deli, I’ll get it but use it in several recipes.

Not sure how to cut back more. I use coupons whenever possible but most of those offers are for products we don’t use. Any advice would be appreciated.


PAKoch September 30, 2011 at 7:40 pm

We are a family of 3 and in the last 6 months we have averaged $1,200 per month in groceries. That does include some non-food items like soaps, paper plates and toilet paper. Last month we were able to keep it below 1,000. The goal is to keep in under $ 500 / month.


Jennifer January 19, 2013 at 5:16 am

I have a family of four, myself husband and two kids that are 13 and 10, and and also 2 dogs and 2 cats. We spend about $800 on everything per month (includes cleaning products, pet food, and paper products). We rarely eat out, I plan meals every night. The recipe planning takes only half-an-hour a week, and I make my grocery list based on the meals I plan. I do buy in bulk, and this seems to help. I also buy meat when it is on sale and freeze it. I make a lot of things homemade. I buy fresh produce, what is in season. I work full-time so I don’t get into couponing and going to several different stores. I don’t buy only organic foods, just can’t afford it.


Amory January 25, 2013 at 3:39 pm

It is interesting to read the wide range of what people spend – a reflection of what is being bought, and where, I think. Where I could do better is less waste – which is really a challenge when you are trying to maintain a high quality diet with fresh unprocessed foods. I try to throw away far less than I used to, making my own stock, saving cooked rice for stews, juicing overripe perhaps but not rotten fruit or vegetables. I have so much cooking experience, a broad vocabulary of meals, that I am much less afraid to spontaneously buy what looks good and then figure out what to do with it. I just have to commit to making that fresh thing soon! I do have some good leftover recipes – curried chicken for example is a great way to use up leftover chicken, and there are great ways to take a little meat and make it go a long way. Or quinoa – yes high protein grain and Patricia Well has a great recipe in her book “Salad as a Meal” involving parsley and cream/milk.

Still, for a family of 6 (I am writing this with my hands dried up like prunes from all the washing up for the month! and no eating out) in the NYC metro area, I just calculated I spent about $50 a day this month, which will be about $1500 when we are done with January. It seems crazy! But I think it works out to about $3 per meal on average, when I figure in a little bit of extra shopping my husband does. It’s still better than half of what one would spend eating out. It’s labor intensive, though. I do go to Whole Foods but am keeping a weekly shop there to about $200. The rest of the time I shop A&P with a card. I do think many Americans are over proud of spending less on food, and though I would like to do a bit better, just can’t imagine not eating a very healthy diet.


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