How much do you spend on food?

I feel our food( not eating out) expense for 2 people in Northern California is just too high we spend about $700 per month.  This is not shopping at high-end stores this is purchasing from Wal-Mart and Costco. What do others around the country spend on groceries?

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  • I'm right there with you! I posted this in my journal a few months back, but I'm pretty sure it's only gotten worse since then.


    We track Groceries, Dining Out, and Food for Work separately, but these are our total. Under $700 was the best month we had the first half of the year (we moved and bought a house so I don't even want to look at the second half).

    It's just my husband and I, but back when I was meal planning I could keep food costs below $400. Getting back down to that, or at least closer to $500 is a huge goal for 2019.

  • Thanks for sharing your info it is really hard to compare your expenses when you only have government data to compare to.

  • My household of two adults averages $350 in Montana, but I am both an avid cook and a skilled meal planner. And work very little ATM. When I return to full time employment after the new year I expect a decent bump in the groceries for when I don't have the time and energy to devote to meal planning and scratch cooking. I'm expecting more like $450 a month, and very likely some more dining out as well. 

    So $700 does sound high to me, but costs vary more by the types of foods you buy than where you buy them. I do shop at mostly higher end stores, buy organic produce exclusively and prioritize some pretty expensive local proteins. But I cook from scratch, which is way cheaper than processed and prepared foods. Most of our grocery budget actually goes to produce, and we eat meat only a few times a month. Lentils and beans don't need to feel like pauper food!!

    You have to find the balance for yourselves in how much time and energy you're willing to put into it for the relative cost savings! Certainly $700 sounds high to me, but that reflects my values - not yours!

    Best thing I ever did to help my grocery spending was start keeping lists of everything we had on hand. I reorganized my pantry and realized I was often buying duplicates...or worse, triplicates. Even if you don't do much in the way of meal planning this could still help your costs.

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      • HappyDance
      • YNABing consistently since 2014
      • HappyDance
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      [Hey, Kombucha Kid ~ ~ ~  waving at you from Alberta.]

      I'm a single, living in Canada, and a meat eater. I buy chickens at the grocery store when on sale, which is never very low in Canada because we have a supply-managed poultry industry.  I will join other family members to buy meat in bulk -- grass-fed beef, grass-fed bison, free-range pork, lamb -- direct from the farm.  I run four food categories in my budget and don't include non-food in these numbers:  groceries and pantry/freezer being the obvious ones, and gracious living for treats and alcohol, and pocket money for convenience, fast-food purchases.  I really like having a separate pantry/freezer category that builds up and rolls over, as it lets me buy big irregular purchases and take advantage of great sales without having to come up with additional grocery money.  Like Kombucha Kid I have found I can eat really, really well if I meal plan, prepare from scratch, and  avoid eating out. I would add to this list: pounce on sales.


      2018 is trending to come in over $325/month, and that is very big spending for me.  I was in restocking mode on both my pantry and freezer, and that tends to add to the numbers big time. I was also altering my diet for health and weight loss reasons, so I was buying a lot more fresh (imported) fruit and vegetables than I normally allow myself, while experimenting with new recipes and meal prepping. I had a blast doing it too.

      I fully expect my 2019 numbers to drop by $100 or more.

      Like 3
  • Costco, Walmart and Sam's Club a lot of times have way higher prices than "pure" grocery stores, especially on proteins. If there is a Winco Foods near you, try them. Food 4 Less and Price Chopper both have great food deals.

    I am in CA also, was a shock to come back after living in FL and OK. In OK I shopped at a grocery store on one of the reservations, best deal I got was 15 pounds of T-Bones for $23.00. 

  • Family of 4 (kids are 11 and 9). We spend about $550/month on groceries. Our grocery costs include non-grocery consumables such as paper towels, toilet paper, zipper bags, foil, plastic wrap, etc. We're in New Jersey.

  • I must be doing something seriously wrong. When I'm trying to eat healthily and buy organic the cost is much higher. I am a very poor planner/budgeter and the pantry and freezer are always out of control. I need to meal plan and prepare more meals and not buy prepared foods. I am cooking on weekends and freezing it for work lunches as much as possible. I realize what works for others may not work for me I was just curious what other people spend on food.

  • Pink Welder said:
    When I'm trying to eat healthily and buy organic the cost is much higher. I am a very poor planner/budgeter and the pantry and freezer are always out of control. I need to meal plan and prepare more meals and not buy prepared foods.

     I keep grocery costs as low as I can while still eating healthily with as much organic as I can manage.  I've found several things to be helpful

    - Cooking from scratch as much as I can.  Easy one-pot recipes and soup are my best friends! 

    - Eating simply.  Within my budget, I can afford a lot more organic cabbage and carrots than organic asparagus.  

    - Finding a way to meal plan that works for me.  I actually hate meal planning and like to be flexible, so I don't do detailed meal planning.  Instead, I tend to stick to recipes that I can make with a few basic things plus whatever I've got to hand or feel like buying (within my budget).

    For example, as long as I have pasta and olive oil I can add a variety of things to it, like beans, salad or cooked vegetables.  

    I make sure I've got Thai Green Curry paste and some tinned coconut milk, then I can make a curry with pretty much any vegetables (fresh, frozen or tinned), some sort of protein (chickpeas, tofu or quorn pieces) and a starch (rice, noodles, quinoa, sweet potato).

    That way I plan enough to stick to the budget but I can still be quite random and disorganised.  :)

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    • Pikayo yes to all of this! Don't get me wrong, I LOVE asparagus. But there are some pretty cheap veggies out there. And meal planning doesn't have to be a rigid, painful process. I usually jot out a few dinners I could make during the week based on what I have on hand.

      I can't say enough for keeping inventories for your pantry and freezer. That's where your "meal plan" starts, no matter how simple or elaborate. 

      Also look at shrinkage. How much food are you throwing out, prepped or raw?

  • Our average is $470 (groceries) and $155 (eating out/coffee) and we live in N. CA. which includes 3 mouths to feed.  Myself, wife and daughter.  We shop at several places, some more expensive than others, but it's what you buy and when you buy it that keeps those numbers where they are. -- Trader Joes, Winco, Costco are the primaries.  To be honest, $700 is not that high considering the high cost of living in CA.

  • I'm sure it varies quite a bit with where you live, so it's hard to compare.  But I find it interesting to compare anyway so I'll share ours.  The past 12 months we've averaged $871/mo.  This is for a family of 6 (4 children ages 3-11) and includes everyday personal care and household items (TP, shampoo, diapers, laundry soap, etc).   The spikes in the summer and fall (yellow on the graph) are more pantry/freezer items from canning/freezing in the summer and buying a quarter of beef  in the fall.  

    My wife is at home and so does meal planning and cooking so that helps a lot.


    • jerald Your wife is a rock star. 4 little kids and diapers on $871.  She's doing a great job.

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  • I’m not in the US so my costs will be irrelevant here, but your description of the pantry and freezer as out of control is a red flag.

    i batch cook for the two of us. I rarely if ever actually cook for two, and I freeze the extra. They key is you have to **eat the meals you froze** 

    As it happens this week my freezer is pretty full so this week the meal plan will be ‘things from the freezer’ and my shopping will be greens and salads, just the ‘sides’, no new mains. Do the same, until your freezer food has been eaten.

    The pantry you need to clear out. Throw all the out of date stuff and put the okay stuff into your meal plan for the next few weeks.  Keep doing that till it’s back under control.

    consider that you may be giving too much storage space to food. 

    In the morning take a frozen meal out of the freezer and leave it defrosting in the fridge. That evening, eat it! It’s acta easier, faster and cheaper than take-out to eat your own ‘ready meals’.

    Like 3
  • Kombucha Kid said:
    I can't say enough for keeping inventories for your pantry and freezer. That's where your "meal plan" starts, no matter how simple or elaborate. 

    Also look at shrinkage. How much food are you throwing out, prepped or raw?

     Yes, definitely. 

    I keep a close eye on what needs using up and I'll have an open mind about food combinations to avoid wasting things.  Like today's brunch of mushrooms on toast with leftover cooked broccoli (heated up) on the side.

    I think again, keeping an inventory can be as smart or as messy as you like.  I scribble on a calendar that's on the side of the fridge when I put something in the freezer, and I cross it off when I use the food.  That way I know the date it went in and I always have an overview of what's going on behind that door!

    I find it helps to avoid food waste if I include frozen vegetables.  I prefer fresh, but realistically it helps to buy some frozen too.  They keep for so long,  you always have something on hand, they're quick and convenient to cook, and you can use whatever quantity you like.

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  • My wife and I live in the bay area with a child, and our grocery bill is absurdly high. Meal Planning is tough, because we both live very full lives and have a toddler. Likewise, we shop at Costco, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes.

    We used to do Blue Apron every month to help with meal planning, but cut down for the months of September - November.  Things like coffee and booze also get categorized here.

  • We are a family of 5 with 3 older teens (17,17,20) and I include anything I buy at the grocery store or drug store as groceries.  We are very busy with sports and work and often grab something while we're out.  I budget $200/month for "dining out", but "dining" is a bit of a stretch and I often exceed the budget a little.  Should be something like "food that could be eaten in the car in a hurry".  I also was budgeting $1000 for groceries, but the cost of food in Canada has gone up since our government decided to apply the carbon tax, so now I'm budgeting $1200 for groceries/household supplies.  I cook from scratch at least 4 days of the week and we eat left-overs or something quick the other 3 days.   We are not financially too strapped, but I don't like to waste food or eat food that is too processed or unhealthy.  

    I put "Dining out" under "Just for Fun" although it feels more like a necessity sometimes.  Groceries are under "Immediate Obligations".  I find it interesting to look at this chart and see that when I try hard to not eat out some months, we are above average the next month.

    Just for comparison sake, $1200 CDN is $907.79 USD or 800 Euros.

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    • MsTJ
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    Everyone has their own goals and standards when it comes to groceries.  There are probably more of them than there are people.  For me, my #1 goal was to reduce grocery costs.  I live in California, only shop for one small person, and spend less than $100 per month for groceries.  Most people would not make the choices I have and it works for me.  

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  • Thanks everyone for sharing it is very interesting to see real numbers that others spend.

  • This is actually the one area of my budget that I do feel I have under control. I spend about $200 a month on average for just myself in NYC (Trader Joe's!!!). I typically plan my meals so I eat each thing a total of 3 times so I'm not buying a ton of different ingredients each week. Basically two different lunches, two different dinners, and usually the same thing for breakfast for the entire week. It's great because I very rarely have any food waste. Hope this helps!

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  • We live in South Carolina where food costs are pretty low. We are a family of 5 (3 kids ages 8, 7, 1) and I’m trying to stay between $550-600 a month on just groceries. We budget only $50/month for eating out - which for us is basically one meal. We budget about $100 for date night ($25/week and we normally eat steaks once the kids are in bed) and $40/month for individual “dates” with the kids. 

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