Wednesday, April 1, 2009


My mom emailed me the link to this article:

Trim the Fat Out of Your Food Budget, by Lyle and Tracy Shamo. The article mentions a government finding on what a family of four spends on food each month:

"For a family of four, the government estimates that spending ranges from the thrifty $524 per month to the very liberal $1,014 a month. (see How much should you spend on groceries? Associated Press, March 15, 2009,"

Seriously, the "thrifty" spends $524 per month?! As a family of SIX (of course now we are a family of seven) we spent $350 a month on food. Out of that $350, we easily had $50 every month to put towards food storage stuff. So you could say that we spent $300 on food every month. AND it was a good amount; I felt like I had a decent amount of money for food. (I buy milk and I don't bake bread...though I do know how to make bread, I am just being lazy.)

Of course I can't buy everything I'd like and I cook and bake almost everything from scratch. You may argue that my family of six (now seven) doesn't really count because I have small kids. But I think my sister would vouch for me when I say that my girls are good eaters and if you combined all of my kids together I am sure we could count as a regular USA "family of four" or even more!

I don't know who the government is surveying, but it sure wasn't me or my sisters. And I want to clarify, I am not trying to say anything about what you spend on your food. I just think it is weird that the government thinks spending $524 a month on groceries is being "thrifty." I think it's fun to spend money on food and when we are financially secure I for sure will increase my food budget.

I keep forgetting to mention that I appreciated everyone's votes in my vehicle survey that I had up a few months back. It was fun and interesting to see people's vehicle status. And thinking of that, it makes me curious about how much all of you spend on groceries each month. Feel free to leave your anonymous answer by participating in my survey. I only want to know what you spend on groceries--not toilet paper, toothpaste, laundry detergent, etc. Also, if you eat out and that is part of your food budget than include it, but if not, don't. For myself going out to eat can sometimes fall in the food budget and other times fall under the budget category of date/activity money. (We don't go out to eat much these days though!)


Shannon @ Lifelong Impressions said...

OK girl. Here's a Q for you. Does your hubby eat lunch for free on base? That can be a considerable amount of money for most families especially if they are out and about all day long without a fridge or microwave.
In March we spent $740 on food which included one trip to Florida in it. We went out to eat together four times other then the trip. My husband spent about $100 on eating out lunches during his 15 days working 12 hour shifts which usually require 2-3 meals during shifts. He also took most of his meals and was given discounts or free food from people during those shifts (without asking because they can't). Some of this figure may include non food household items like laundry soup and such. We also have joined a food co-op with the girls at church to get cheaper produce. I also tried shopping at Aldi's last month. I think most families do not make things from scratch. My hubby doesn't eat veggies so that does add some difficulty to our shopping, definitely he wont eat most food storage items, and we have to buy a lot of processed or prepared foods for him.

Unknown said...

WOW! When you come back home, we need to get together! I need to know how you and your family eat off of $300/month! Our family uses about $800 or more per month, and sometimes I am making that money stretch. Yes, we do go out to eat, but we've cut that down a lot! Probably less than $100/month. Congratulations on being able to budget so well and stick to it! I need in on your secret!

Mari said...

I don't think I could give and accurate amount since my budget is a Walmart budget and includes Laundry detergent, shampoo, etc. We also have three people in our family that drink soy milk that is far more expensive than cows milk. I also cannot give up fresh produce. It is more expensive but to me necessary.
I think it is great that you only spend that for your family of six! I think it is definately on the conservative side.

Mike said...

You can also cut a lot of money out of the budget if you use cloth diapers. Definitely worth it if you have more than one kid in diapers and 6 or more months left of diapering the older child. You have almost 100% savings for the baby and any subsequent children. Also if you make your own baby food then you can save a lot of $$$. Deb spends $360 per month for her family of five (this includes a preteen that eats a ton, fresh produce, laundry detergent etc.). Way to go Ruth on your budget! FYI Ruth's twins eat a TON. Breakfast, 2nd and 3rd breakfasts, snack, lunch, snack and dinner, then they like to finish up anything that is left. Wow!

The Letterman's said...

I would say those govt numbers are pretty conservative. My family of 4 probably spends around $200(especially when you're just talking food, no paper goods etc) but that's with very careful coupon clipping (5 papers) and careful shopping. It's alot of time and energy to get it that low which most really don't have time to do, what am I talking about either do we but I've made time for it cause it's so fun to leave the grocery store with a cartful of grocries for $30 !

Mari said...

Okay I definately need tips from your sister Deb, if she can spend $360 for a family of five (which is what I have) and that includes detergent and the such. I spend $40alone on Jacob's pedasure drink and another $40 on milk (and that is because milk is cheaper in UT). Yes, although cloth diapers are more work they do save money.(Also Ruth, did those figures include $ for diapers for your twins?)

Three Little Men and a Little Lady said...

I was checking out the other comments and wondering if your $350 included the laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene goodies...or are you talking just food. I spend between $150 - $175 a week - but that includes everything with lots of fresh fruits and veggies - and soy milk. Regardless of your answer - I know I could be a much better steward with our money and am taking up the challenge to find ways to save more :0)

Lee-Ruth-Clark-Cal-Shanna-Haley-Elden said...

My $350 only includes groceries and food storage. I have diapers, household items and personal items in a different category. Lee is close to work so he eats lunch at home. He either has a sandwich or leftovers. I also don't use cloth diapers...though I probably should. But now that Elden is my last, I am just going to stick with disposable diapers. We rarely go out to eat. This year when Lee and the boys have gotten food at a fast food place or here at the cafeteria at the hospital, we have taken it out of our food budget.
We don't have to buy any special food items either like soy milk. That for sure would be expensive! Basically the only snacks we have for our kids are things like pretzels and graham crackers, and fresh fruit about once a day, sometimes twice for the girls. I do buy drink boxes and fruit snacks for Clark's lunches, but at home my kids don't normally have those things for snacks.
I do use coupons, but only the ones I can get at the commissary. I don't have a subscription to a paper, so I can't get them that way. But the commissary (the on-base grocery store) usually does a good job at having coupon fliers available, plus in-store coupons all over. I use them when I can.
This has been very interesting! I've really enjoyed it. Thanks for all of the comments!

Melissa S. said...

Family of six in Johnson City (Aleeya was pretty young though so you could argue family of 5) was 250$ a month on food. Here in Winston-Salem with Brooks slight pay raise we do $400 on food (only food, food storage and eating out). But that also includes the Bronson's lunch meal tickets at school. I feel like I have a TON of money for treats now and I splurge on juice now (I know, crazy). and NO we don't get WIC. :)
Frugal at 524?!?!?! Crazy. But you know we think alike Ruth!

Liz said...

Yay, 3 lbs, how exciting.

So on to food. I am so jealous. I spent almost 700 last month on my family of 4. That did include household items and toiletries, but still I know I can do better. I'm going to start getting really serious about clipping coupons and shopping the ads. It just take so much time to be thrifty.

maren bosley said...

Hey Ruth! It's nice to hear how others are doing things and whether or not we're on the high or low end. Our food budget is $300/month. That does not include household items (toilet paper, diapers, laundry det., etc). For that we spend about $80/month with 2 kids in diapers. I shop at Aldi and Costco which has SAVED me! My husband, like yours, just takes leftovers for lunch. We only eat out once a month (for our date night) and usually with a coupon or something. We do get pizza two nights out of the month--but we get it free in exchange for art classes my husband teaches our friends kids. (the dad of the kids is manager of a pizza place). That has saved me too because I have those couple nights a month where I look forward to not cooking! Nate has been the biggest expense with his formula! When he was on nutramigen we were budgeting $160 a month for him. Scary! Now that he's on Target brand we budget $60 a month and that's going to end in a couple of months when he hits a year old. We can't wait!

robbienmeri said...

Ruth - I love all of your posts on budget and finance. We think the same on this stuff. We spend $150/month on food with 2 boys. It could even be less, but my freezer must have ice cream in it at all times. ;) We only go out about once a month which is in our dining out category which gets $20/month. Like you most of our meals are prepared from scratch. Prepared, processed, and frozen meals can be more expensive. My meal planning is based on the deals of the week. I stock up on meats and freeze them when they are on sale. I usually won't buy a fruit or vegetable unless I know it is a decent price. I can always find some fruit or vegetables for that week that don't cost too much. We have this great store here now called Sunflower Markets that has great cheap produce. I think it is all in the planning. Like you I look forward to spending more on food in the future and being able to buy more expensive cuts of meat or buying certain fruits and vegetables when they're not in season, but we are on a tight budget and I don't feel like we want for food. About the cloth they really save money? How much does it cost for a diaper service? And if you wash them yourself, how much more does it cost you per month in water, gas/electric for hot water to wash it in, detergent, and your time to clean them? It would have to be significant savings for me to leave behind disposable diapers.