Have you ever wondered if you’re spending the “right” amount of money on the food you buy for your family? I bet you have! We’re going to get into how to make a food budget, how to know if you’re being realistic, and talk about why where we shop has become a status symbol for so many of us.
Creating and sticking to a food budget is one of those things that we feel like we should do as adults. And honestly, it’s a necessity for any of us managing household expenses, but it can be so hard to get a grip on expenses and feel like we know where our money is going. It can also be more confusing when you factor in the cultural status that shopping at certain stores affords us—I mean, have you ever stopped to think about why you love shopping where you do? It’s actually a really interesting exercise!
How to Make a Food Budget
For me, coming up with my food budget takes these factors into consideration:
- How many people are in the family and their ages.
- How many meals do those people eat at home.
- How many meals a week are typically eaten at a restaurant (or as takeout).
- Do we have priorities in terms of organic and sustainable food.
- Which stores are we able to shop at.
- How much meat do we like to eat each week.
- What’s my range of available income to use towards my food expenses.
- Which lower cost pantry staples can I use each week to allow more funds for fresh produce, dairy, and meat.
TIP: I use the YNAB budgeting software, which is so helpful in tracking and allocating funds for every sort of expense in my budget.
Food Budget Calculator
If you want to try calculating what your food budget should be, you can try using this calculator from Iowa State, which is based on data from the USDA as a place to start. (It’s such a fun tool to play around with!)
USDA Food Budget
Did you know that the USDA releases a food plan each month that shows the average cost of feeding a family at home? These are the figures that feeding a family should cost if you’re doing all meals at home and eating based on the principles in MyPlate. There are a few different levels of the plan including Thrifty, Low-Cost, Moderate, and Liberal, and it’s broken down further by the number of people in your house.
This doesn’t adjust for where you live or where you shop, but it’s VERY eye opening when it comes to the actual cost of food. It actually helped me to relax a little bit about what I’ve been spending on food—especially in the context of food being a very important part of my family’s health and wellness. (And since we like to use our food dollars to support sustainable farming and local farmers when we can, which can cost more.)
Definitely take a look at this if you feel like you’re spending too much just for some perspective on what might be normal. (P.S. The calculator above this image is based on this data!)
How to Save Money on Groceries
While we did discuss how we find it interesting that slashing food budgets and saving on food has become a status symbol in some circles, there are many of us with real needs to cut costs. And the cost of food can so quickly spiral! To help with that, I did compile my best tips for saving money on groceries to give you some practical ideas.
Remember that the cost of food will vary, and will sometimes vary a LOT, depending on where you live and the options for buying that you have access to.
Links from the Episode
P.S. I’m also happy to answer any questions about my disappearing gluten intolerance if anyone has any!