Wanna know something funny?
We’ve established a grocery budget for every month since we’ve been married and I don’t think I’ve ever truly been able to stay under it, EVER! haha. I even feel like I’m fairly frugal in my money-saving strategies. I look through the coupons we get in the mail to see if there’s a deal on something we actually use or eat, I’ll take advantage of good sales going on and stock up in bulk (one of the big suggestions to saving money on groceries), and I’ll avoid getting items sometimes that I think are too expensive that week. I also think of all the times I’ve gone to the grocery store in my life (a bazillion!) that has helped me understand more about pricing on items and how it compares to each store. I just think for not being an extreme coupon-er I’ve done a good job in buying our groceries. However, when it comes towards the end of the month and I see I’ve gone over, I still kind of beat myself up about it!
Comparing budgets to what we hear
Over the past two years we’ve heard here and there what other couples’ grocery budgets were and we would compare ours to it. The thing i forgot while comparing, was that very low budgets take sacrifice somewhere: sacrificing higher-priced fresh produce, sacrificing name brands, or sacrificing time in finding the deals and coupons. Every family is going to differ on what they want to sacrifice or not sacrifice. Maybe some families have a very low-budget because they don’t get as many fresh produce, or they stock up on things that are cheaper that can create more meals like rice and pasta. That’s fine! That was actually Trevor and I at first, but then our routine had to change with my new picky taste buds, and with doctor-prescribed diets. Circumstances like this can further complicate a grocery budget.
The average American family…
This week in one of my social work classes, we had to determine living expenses for a family living under a certain salary. When it came to determine how much this little family would spend on groceries and we all started saying numbers that were based on what we spend ourselves, I started to feel so much better about how much I spend on groceries! Some people who are single said they spend $150 a week on food (they said they eat healthier and get more fresh produce). My professor even said for her and her husband and one adult, her groceries total about $1000 a month… Yep, I started feeling PRETTY GOOD about myself at that point, haha. This discussion inspired me to actually research what the averages are for a typical couple spending money on groceries each month. Here’s what I found out:
A healthy diet for a family of four would be anywhere between $146 - $289. (pricing depends on how liberal the plan is) Source: USA TODAY, 2013
A couple between the ages of 19 and 50, on average spend $391 each month on groceries (thrifty plan), $500 a week (low-cost plan), $623 (a moderate-cost plan), and $781 (a liberal plan). Source: USDA December 2014 report
When I compare our grocery spending to these averages, we are lower than the “thrifty” category, which makes me feel proud of what I have done. I mean, I could probably do better, but I don’t like being frustrated on the last week of the month when we are out of certain items, and I don’t want to go to the store knowing I’ll go over the budget! Seeing that we are under the national average doesn’t make me feel like I have an excuse to overspend now. It just helps me breathe easier knowing I’m doing my best to save us money.
Decide what is best for you and your family
While it’s great to know what the rest of the country is spending, you and your husband need to decide what is best for you and your family. Each of us are going to have a different grocery budget because we have different wants, needs, goals, and incomes. Talk about what is important to you right now - health consciousness, food that is quick and on the go, inexpensive, etc. I’ve learned from budgeting that parameters have to change based on needs, and that our finances are our own decisions. So decide what is important for you as a couple or family, and feel good about it. :)