Monthly Grocery Budget

From the Poll-a-palooza (now closed–thank you for voting!), I see that many of you are interested in actual numbers. The grocery/household budget that my husband and I set at the beginning of 2008 is $600/month for two adults, a 5-year-old and twin 2-year-olds. I lump grocery and household together so I don’t have to dissect receipts, meaning that my $600 goes not only towards food but also health and beauty products, cleaning products, paper products (TP, etc.), and diapers for twins. We also entertain occasionally, bring meals to others, and buy food to donate to our local food bank.

For reference, the USDA suggests that my family could eat their “low-cost plan” for $743/month. I chose the”low-cost” column because I do make a lot of my own food and avoid processed and convenience foods that I imagine are part of the “moderate” and “liberal” plans. Remember, though, that they are only referring to groceries/food.

Now that we’re more than halfway through the year, I’m looking back at that number and think we estimated well. I’ve gone as low as $379 (April) and as high as $975 (July–which I still don’t understand and really think is human error–dear?). My average for the eight months so far this year is $516, under our planned budget. When you factor in the high cost-of-living here in the Washington DC Metro area, I am very pleased with the results. A couple of thoughts:

  • I’ve tried giving myself a strict weekly budget, but it doesn’t match the way I shop. If ground beef or chicken is at its lowest price, I’ll buy enough for a month or two, to last me until the next sale. That would throw a weekly budget awry, and it’s why some months are low and others high; many weeks of the month I don’t need to buy anything but perishables like milk and produce.
  • We actually eat a lot more than $515 worth of food a month. Remember that I spend pennies on the dollar at CVS, where I buy groceries in addition to the health and beauty products. I also collect gift cards for the grocery stores and Target through pharmacy coupons and points programs.
  • We’re not perfect! If it makes you feel better, we’re spending $100-$200 per month on eating out. I think that’s a lot, and each month I’m trying to find ways to cut that down. But sometimes Mommy needs a break, and Mommy wants someone else to prep, cook, and especially clean up after the meal. [idea for future post noted]

Most importantly, remember that it takes a lot of WORK to spend this little. You know from reading here, I spend quite a bit of time researching deals online, clipping coupons, and shopping at several stores a week, but I have the time to do it. I feel strongly that as a stay-at-home-mom, the way I “make” money is by saving money on our budget. It is a lot easier, faster, and more convenient to pick one store and buy everything there (and trust me, I’ve had weeks I do that too). By trying some of the strategies I outline here on the blog, such as meal planning, stockpiling, and couponing, you’ll find a balance between time and money that works for you and your family.

Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this! It can be discouraging to read posts by super-frugal women who feed and clothe a family of 12 on $.27 cents… in a bad week. You’re doing great!

    My family has two active adults and one ravenous teenaged boy; the USDA thrifty plan for us would be $113.40 per week for food alone (the liberal plan would be $223 — can you imagine?!) I use a budget limit of $100/week for the same inclusive category you have: food, paper/storage, cleaning products, cosmetics, health, etc. Some weeks I buy what we need for $70, sometimes it takes $115, but it averages out to less than $100.

    You’re right about it taking a lot of work. I cruise the blogs every day, maintain my coupon stash, spend time submitting rebates and tracking offers, clip and sort loads of coupons, and generally spend 4-5 hours on Sunday just mapping out the best deals and my shopping plan for the week (at 3-7 places, including drugstores).

    As a stay-at-home mom, that’s just part of my job. It’s not for everyone, but the trade-offs are worth it for my family.

  2. Oh, gosh, I was drinking when I read your opening–spittake! Thank you for the laugh.

    It sounds like you have a system that works for you, but how can your teenager help out to save you some time? I get my 5yo to cut coupons and help me sort, and he knows he’ll be in charge of figuring out the CVS deals once he has a handle on math.

  3. Stubber Budgeting says:

    Wow, even for a family of 2, the “Thrifty Plan” is $78.10 so I guess I’m not doing too badly with my $50 a week budget.

    It’s great to hear that you aren’t super strict, and give yourself leeway to buy things when they go on super-sale. I’m the same way.

    I do the same… speaking of which, there are 6 lbs of ground beef in my freezer from a post you wrote a few weeks ago… I’m thankful that you are in the DC Metro area. Less bloggers around the mid-atlantic. =)

  4. David J. Montgomery says:

    Our monthly budget for food and drugstore stuff is $800/month. (Two adults and a 2-year-old.) We usually go over that, though, by some amount — the siren song of eating out lures us every time. (But I do love it so.)

  5. Gina,
    I love your blog and visit often. It sounds like you and I grocery shop in much the same way. I have a rough dollar figure for each week, but I rarely stick strictly to it. I too stock up on meat when it’s on the best sale. I’ve been doing the same on summer produce – I bought 20 lbs of grapes when they were $0.99!

    I have a few “blog” questions for you which I won’t list here. Where can I email you?