Thursday, August 23, 2012

How Much Should I Be Spending on Food?

Are you frugal?

Last month I spent $440 on groceries for two people.  This just seems excessive to me.  My husband tries to comfort me by saying, "That's only $220 per person.  If you consider we each eat 93 meals a month, it comes to just $2.37 a meal".  

This sounds good on paper but isn't really accurate. First, we rarely eat breakfast unless you count coffee.  I don't make good decisions without coffee. I'm not saying I make good decisions with coffee but at least I make poor decisions faster.

Second, that figure doesn't really account for all the times we eat out. When I say "doesn't really account" that means I didn't include it at all. We spent $232 on eating out in July.  If you include this amount, we spent $3.61 a meal, which is a lot to pay for a cup of coffee. That's why this blog is called "seeking" simple, not "Found" simple.

So I am always asking everyone I know, "How much do you spend on groceries a month"? The answers are amazingly diverse. This question tells you a lot about people. Some will tell you they honestly don't know. Others say "Around so and so..." or "Probably about..." which is the same as "I don't know".  Any figure they throw out is really just a guess and I just automatically double whatever figure they say in my head.

How do I know this?  Because I used to do the same thing.  When I actually started keeping meticulous track of the amount I spent on groceries each month, I was shocked because it was double what I assumed. Now, if someone tells me they spend $541 dollars a month on groceries, I know they really do, because it is a specific amount.

Another thing I have learned is that almost everyone thinks they are frugal yet most of us are not frugal. The United States Department of Agriculture keeps track of these kind of things.  (USDA's Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, June 2012 (  According to the the USDA, you are THRIFTY if you spend less than this amount each month on groceries:

Family of 2..................................$376.40  
Family of 4..................................$547.90

The USDA categorizes food expenditure by age and gender and breaks it down into "Thrifty", "Low-cost", "Moderate-cost", and "Liberal".  My $440 fell about half way between "Thrifty" and "Low-Cost". If you include eating out, I have edged over into the Moderate-cost area.  According to the USDA, I could do better.  

Look at the chart I have linked above to discover how you are doing.                 

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