Pondering the grocery budget . How low per person is reasonable?
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  1. #1
    Registered User joyofsix's Avatar
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    Default Pondering the grocery budget . How low per person is reasonable?

    I'm always depressed when someone says they get along fine on $50/month or something. I need to look at this on a per person basis. I'm buying for 9 people. Probably the equivalent of 7 adults. I spend $165/week. That is also HBA. I'd like to get it down but it seems if I spend less we really are close to the bone. I want to increase stockpile and so need to 'find' an extra say $15/week. What do you think? $18 per person? $20 per person. Are we just really spoiled? I make all our treats (cookies/cakes) and most bread products. I do buy some bags of pretzels and crackers at Aldi for lunches and repackage in gladware containers. Thoughts?
    Mom to Emma, Spencer, Connor, Lily,Fletcher, Amelia and Adeline.

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    Registered User frugal is fun's Avatar
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    I think if you really want to get to a certain dollar amount you need to plan your meals ahead of time and figure out exactly what it will cost.

    You can do this just by using the normal meals you prepare or take out the lastest sale flier and plan your week around whats on sale.

    start a price book if you haven't already and keep track of who sells what for less and take note of when certain things go on sale.

    I don't think you can just throw out a dollar amount if you don't have a plan.

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    Registered User dcompton's Avatar
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    I think it is impossible to set a figure that applies across the board to everyone.

    I think, most of all, where you live has to be factored in. I'm in Louisiana and carp at prices, but when I visit DC I am in absolute sticker shock at what groceries cost there. Double yikes! I could not begin to have the same budget for the two places.

    Also, what you eat/want to eat/can eat. That will be different for everyone.

    Lifestyle. I make some choices for convenience food that another might not because sometimes cooking from scratch is just beyond the limits of my time, energy, or what I can face on a tough arthritis day.

    I would just say to look at what what you usually buy and see if there are areas you can trim within your limits of tolerance and maintaining as healthy a diet as the budget allows.

    If we knew where you lived, someone in your area might be able to make more realistic dollar suggestions than someone in a very different region.
    Donna

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    Registered User Josephhgoins's Avatar
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    I think a significant amount depends on where you are located. I grew up in rural Appalachia and didn't move out until I was 30. When I turned 18 my Mom assigned me the task of shopping for and buying the groceries. I learned several tricks quickly. When I did move out 2 years ago I was feeding 3 adults a dog and a cat on about $20.00 per week. Of course we only ate one meal in the evening together and had leftovers for lunches or breakfast the next day. The animals got a good quality name brand food.

    A big help was a garden that I grew every year and canned or froze as much as possible. I also stayed away from prepackaged foods. Everything was made from scratch thus limiting the number of items that were purchased and increasing the quantity I was purchasing of each item. This allowed me to utilize bulk buying. In lieu of loaf bread, rolls, cakes and pies, I purchased Sugar, Shortening, and Flour and made the things myself. This isn't as time consuming as you would think as long as you plan ahead. A bread machine and food processor are great inventions.

    Another tip was we stayed away from elaborate meals. Most meals consisted of a casserole, soup or stew with bread. Of course when there were occasions to celebrate, we went all out.

    I only purchased on sale. Period. I also made myself think through each purchase, "yes per ounce this huge tub of sour cream is much cheaper than the smaller one, but will I use it all before it goes bad?" (Of course the answer is yes, who doesn't like a sour cream pound cake?) I also purchased half a hog once a year and had it processed for freezing. It was incredibly cheap and was always handy.

    Now that I live in a very large city my food budget is much more than it was. I now average about $125 a month on groceries for just me and my cat. Of course here I can't grow a Garden, so I have to just watch sales and clip coupons. I also have some expenses that I didn't have at home. (Kitty litter for one is darn expensive for what it is)

    Have you thought of cutting back a little by doing one pot meals once or twice a week? Maybe rethinking your menu's all together? A fully loaded baked potato with cheese, sour cream, bacon bits and butter can easily be a good inexpensive meal in itself.

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    Registered User frugalfranny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dcompton View Post
    I think it is impossible to set a figure that applies across the board to everyone.

    I think, most of all, where you live has to be factored in. I'm in Louisiana and carp at prices, but when I visit DC I am in absolute sticker shock at what groceries cost there. Double yikes! I could not begin to have the same budget for the two places.

    Also, what you eat/want to eat/can eat. That will be different for everyone.

    Lifestyle. I would just say to look at what what you usually buy and see if there are areas you can trim within your limits of tolerance and maintaining as healthy a diet as the budget allows.
    Yes, the above states some really good points.....and all true.

    Re-evaluate your current buying 'trends' and see where you can cut back.

    And even though you are in an apt., unless you have no outside entrance/connection, you can still grow tomatoes.......in a pot. There are TONS of things that can be done with them.....from freezing to canning and all sorts of recipes for use.

    My first thought is to 'think big pot' meals when cooking for that many and probably one area to cut back is meat. We all eat more meat (unless vegan) than needed and it is expensive. There are many other cheaper types of protein.....beans, cheese, eggs, etc.

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    Registered User Thevail's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joyofsix View Post
    I'm always depressed when someone says they get along fine on $50/month or something. I need to look at this on a per person basis. I'm buying for 9 people. Probably the equivalent of 7 adults. I spend $165/week. That is also HBA. I'd like to get it down but it seems if I spend less we really are close to the bone. I want to increase stockpile and so need to 'find' an extra say $15/week. What do you think? $18 per person? $20 per person. Are we just really spoiled? I make all our treats (cookies/cakes) and most bread products. I do buy some bags of pretzels and crackers at Aldi for lunches and repackage in gladware containers. Thoughts?
    Let's just say I envy their discipline... but not their menus..

    You're looking at roughly $73.33 per person per 4 week month.. We spend about $66 per person per 4 week month also including HBA at our house, and we're not living the Rockafeller life.

    I assume you live in a fairly sizeable home and with that many people, don't forget that that's just more dish soap, floor polish, shampoo and razors than anyone else is buying either.

    Cut expenses where you can, build a stockpile, etc. But really.. don't freak if your expenses are more than other peoples.

    They're also less than a lot of other peoples.. I mean, at that rate, you'd be feeding just the two of you for only $146.66 /month, which is pretty respectable. It just seems like a lot because you're buying for so many.

    As for the stockpiling fund..

    The way I tend to do it is to set up a $50 stockpiling fund for the month, and then use that buy things when they go on killer sale.

    Some months, no sale.. no spend. But that means that there's $100 the next month.

    I think if you wanted to take this route you'd need to go with at least $100 to begin with just because of the sheer quantity involved.

    Also get an friend, relative, or someone to go with you to the "limit 5" sale and come right along behind you with another 5 of whatever because for a family that size you'll need to buy a huge amount of each item to stockpile. For me 5 cans is a stockpile.. for you that's just dinner.

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    Registered User Emjo's Avatar
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    I think everyone has given you good advice so far...I am only feeding 2 adults and 2 small children, and there is no way I could feed us for $50 or whatever a week. Not with where we live (Canada - land of crappy coupons and higher prices) and the way we eat (my 3 year old lives on fresh fruit and yogurt). I think if you are already scratch cooking and buying produce in season there isn't much else you can do.

    My latest trick is watching for meat sales...sometimes I luck out and catch the meat dept guy putting the 50% off stickers on stuff, and then I stock up. I also snagged a turkey for 96 cents a pound just before Canadian thanksgiving and cooked that up this weekend...at least 2 meals, a few lunches/snacks, and a big pot of turkey soup for like $9.

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    Yes, I did feed myself for about $60 a month for a while. The food was not the healthiest. It was also just me to feed and it was a couple of years ago. Before prices skyrocketed.

    I do not know where you live but it sounds like you are doing really well feeding 9 people on $165 a week. That comes to about $18 per person/week. Where I am that might be one bag of groceries. And NO, I really can not think for the life of me why you would think you were spoiled.

    Are there any other areas in the budget you can find the extra $15/week for stockpiling.

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    Registered User Elizabeth CM's Avatar
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    I think this discussion always resonates because food shopping is a soft cost - one we have a lot of control over, unlike the mortgage or the vet bill. But it's important to remember that groceries aren't just a limbo game of "how low can you go" - food is beyond sustenance - it's health, it's hobby, it's affection.

    We are a family of 3 plus critters living in view of Sears Tower, and I pay myself $175 a week as an operating budget as a SAHW & SAHM. This includes all food, HBA, dinners out, gas & oil changes for my van, most entertainment, clothing, birthday gifts, and what-have-you that falls under my umbrella as chief operating officer of the home.

    Many weeks, our straight food costs run about $70. Most of our food comes from Aldi's, supplemented with Trader Joe's and the local grocery store (always with sales or coupons). I make everything from scratch, I use a crock-pot 2X a week at least, and I do OAM cooking. I stockpile.

    But still, there are $150 grocery weeks. And a couple of times a year even a $200 week. When everything runs out at once, plus some crazy sales I can stock up with... these things happen.

    I got so desperate last year to save money on groceries that we all began to feel stressed at mealtime. The food was cheap and tasted that way. Family dinners that had been joyful and bonding time became something we trudged through in 10 minutes flat, with me watching portions like a hawk. I was afraid to try new recipes because I didn't want to potentially lose the money on ingredients if it didn't turn out.

    Something finally gave, and it was such a blessing when it did. I stopped beating myself up over every penny and decided to just see what would happen. Cooking became fun again, the pantry and freezer are stocked, we're happy eating back at the table as a family, and we've even lost weight (more salads!).

    Here's the kicker - When I finally sat down and did the math, I realized that we only spent about $70 total more on food in the past 6 months than the 6 months before. For about $12 a month, it's been a world of difference. And what's more interesting is that our entertainment ran $40 under budget (we celebrated a birthday at home with a special dinner instead of going out) so the net to the budget was only $5/month.

    Bottom line? I think there is more to food budgeting than cost. YMMV, but for us, we saved a lot more by making sure our spend truly fit our life.

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    Can you afford to pay what you're currently paying? Is it vital to cut costs or can you continue with the budget you have? Are you unhappy because you've read about someone else being able to live on less and you feel like you should be able to do the same?

    I think it's always a good idea for people to watch their budgets, try to find good deals and make the most of their money. In my opinion, if you're able to afford what you're spending right now, you're picking up tips that work for you to save money each week and no one feels deprived then you're doing a great job with the shopping. It sounds like you're already doing lots of good things with baking at home, buying in bulk where it makes sense and watching what you spend. Do what works for you.

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    Well, I'm single and still think I spend way too much on food. Keeping track of all my receipts seems to be helping though.

    Buying in the bulk department has helped me. Just a note though, I don't buy anything in the bulk department that will not be cooked to kill germs. Too many people in those containers.

    I buy the regular rolled oats in bulk. I find anything else like the instant oatmeal has all the nutrition taken out of it and I'm hungry again in 15 minutes.

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    Registered User littleplum's Avatar
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    My rule of thumb is $20-25 per person per week.

    For my husband and I, that comes out to around $200/month, averaged over the whole year. Next month, we are going to spend way over that, because we are getting ready to buy a side of beef for 2010.

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    There are SO many variables. But you can look at what you are buying and try to find ways to buy cheaper. Do you use coupons, do you buy store brands, do you have a variety of stores to choose from, do you have grocery salvage stores available to you, do you stock up/stockpile/buy in bulk?

    I didn't cut my grocery spending to the bone over night. It happened gradually. I only found salvage stores a few months ago. I buy coupons on eBay for things we buy regularly and stock up when on sale.

    I do most of my grocery shopping at Kroger and use my Plus card. They send me coupons in the mail for things I have purchased in the past from them. When my grocery purchases add up to $100 I get a 10 cent a gallon discount on a tank of gas. Their gas prices are already the best in the neighborhood without the discount. I also pay for my groceries with my PayPal debit card as credit using existing cash in the account and get 1.5% cashback. The money in the account earns interest (not much right now). I have earned almost $1,500 in cashback for things I was going to pay cash for anyway.

    So everything I do adds up in savings. This quarter I get 5% cashback on grocery purchases when I use my Discover card. I pay it in full every month. The 3rd quarter of the year is 5% on gasoline. I earn several $100 in cashback from Discover every year. I just apply the cashback to my balance.

    I just keep plugging away and looking for ways to save money.
    House - Start $127,944 Balance $105,032

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    Registered User annymoll's Avatar
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    Gosh, I always thought you were doing a great job, and I still think so.

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    Amy Dacyczyn writes that they buy basic ingredients on sale, and that they then cook from what they have in the house. She does not menu plan, only the evening before they decide what to eat the next day. From the basic ingredients they have in the stockpile, they can make anything they fancy.

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