The Meal Planner

Before I get on with it, and finally post the last few recipes in this week's menu plan, I wanted to write about something I've been thinking a lot about lately.

I got a question from Mrs. Q about our monthly food budget and if I would mind posting it. Keep in mind I don't intend to become the $5 Dinner Mom (that job is already taken, and she does it well), but my family is conscious of having a food budget and sticking within it's parameters.

For our family of 3 we budget $500 per month (and we're in Canada. It would be $423 US) That includes baby supplies, cleaning and household supplies, eating out (last month was only twice) and groceries.

It's weird to be throwing that number out there. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because so many people are being very food conscious in this economic crunch and there's people like the Grocery Cart Challenge feeding a family of 6 on $60 a week. I have had a few conversations lately that have made me feel slightly overindulgent in the food department since all along I thought we were doing pretty well for having a "reasonable food budget".

Here is our reasoning, as well as my defense (to make myself feel better about our "extravagant tastes" ;) My husband and I are both passionate about food, and we would trim from other areas of our budget before we trimmed our food budget. We like to eat well. We have never wanted to sacrifice exciting, delicious meals. It's kind of an area of bonding for us....we love good food so much, that me trying out a new recipe, or recreating one of his favorite meals from a particular restaurant or making a beloved favorite creates a really lovely dynamic at the supper table. We not only enjoy each others company over dinner but savor the flavors we are eating. He also doesn't stop complimenting me on my cooking (which does wonders for me ego :) We visit different countries in our cuisine, expand our palates and love growing together in this area. It's kind of like having a 30 minute date every night.

Neither of us wants to sacrifice this part of our lives. We love it too much. So while I have been conscious to meal plan around the weekly flyer for foods that are on sale, foods that are in season and foods I have coupons for and I totally get a bit of a high buying things on sale for ridiculously low prices, I do all those things so we can eat well.

So there are my reasons for our $500 a month grocery budget. Gayle at the Grocery Cart Challenge budgets $60 a week because her husband started his own business and their budget required it. Mrs. Q at Five in the Potter's Hand trimmed her family's budget from $700 a month to $200 (amazing!) because she became a stay-at-home mom and they were living on one income as well as she wants to be able to give more food away. So my question that I'm so curious to hear is:

What is your family's grocery budget per month? What are your reasons for having that budget? (if there are any).

And yes feel free to make me feel better by giving a really outlandish number....just kidding.

Kind of.

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18 Responses
  1. Wow, you make me sound like some sort of super-SAHM! Let it be known that it has almost taken me a whole year to get it from $700 down to $200! I still aspire to trim more from our budget, but for now $200 is what works for us.

    If you have the means to have a gourmet grocery budget, then enjoy it! Especially if you and your hubby are cuisine connoisseurs :) My husband and I have simple palates and gourmet is pretty much lost on! I am not an adventurous eater--exactly the polar opposite! I like tried and truly loved. My husband branches out more and is actually the better cook! But he doesn't stay at home so he is stuck with my pedestrian cooking! What a match :P

    Our grocery budget being reduced was a matter of survival on one income, not actually by choice! We HAD to decrease it or we would be in the red at the end of the month. The grocery budget was the only variable of the bills that I could fiddle with. Much like Gayle, it became my own grocery cart challenge :) When you think of it in those terms it sounds less like!

    If dinner time was like a 30-minute date night for us, you can bet that we would be having a more indulgent fare! Alas, I am hopelessly non-gourmet. I do like creative presentation though, any tips? My mom always said that presentation was half of the meal. So while I won't be serving anything remotely French sounding in nature, I do try to make my dinners aesthetically pleasing :)

    Perhaps, I will bare my culinary soul and post my meals for one week. (Notice I didn't say my meal PLAN, because I really have! Still working on that part!) Then Mrs. Meal Planner, you will see what a truly simple table I set. But, then again, simple works for us :)

  2. Oh, and thanks for answering my nosey :)

    I think you do an awesome job of keeping your gourmet palate satisfied while making your checkbook content as well!

  3. I really do think it's amazing how much you have trimmed your families budget. I would definitely be interested in seeing you post a week of your family's meals - simple or not I'd love to see how you are able to make suppers for so cheap. You can teach me a thing or two :)

    Thanks so much for commenting and I totally didn't mind answering your question! I'm being nosey by wanting to know everyone else's budgets ;)

  4. Vanessa Says:

    Hey Kindra. Nialle and I also spend about $500/mo on groceries. I'm glad to know that you do about the same (now I don't feel so guilty). I have another friend with two small children who spends about the same amount as us as well.

    I've always tried to get our budget down, but have found (and I'm probably stepping on some toes here) that in order to cut costs we would be compromising the quality of our food and consequently our health.

    That being said, we rarely buy processed foods and make almost every thing from scratch, so that saves us a lot of money. We don't buy cold cereal, packaged soups, frozen dinners, convenience snacks or store-made bread. When we go shopping, we typically spend most of our money on the grocery store walls where the fresh, perishable food is kept. But we do buy higher quality meats and produce, which costs more.

    Our grocery budget is only food and misc. items that I can get at the grocery store. Eating out is calculated separately. Our budget is on the higher end because we like to eat well and have started to include more organic foods into our diet, which has meant that our grocery bill has gone up. We also consume ridiculous amounts of cheese and milk...mmmmm, dairy!

    Great question - I love being snoopy about what other people spend too!

  5. Thanks for commenting Vanessa. It does feel more comforting to know you guys spend about the same amount. I was talking to a friend the other day and on her family of 3 they spend $400 a month on groceries...that's just food. Household products are separate, as are baby products and eating out (which probably works out to about the same amount).

    Kudos to you guys for making everything from scratch as well as buying organic. That's something I haven't figured out how to work into our budget. My Dad has a bread maker he never uses and I'm thinking of asking him to borrow it. Maybe that way I can try making more things at home like bread, pizza dough, etc.

    Thanks again Vanessa!

  6. Ms. Fox Says:

    Kindra, I know that this an older post, but I was just doing a little "catch up" blog reading, and figured I would reply to your interesting question.

    When I got sick and money was short I started major menu planning and grocery lists. I would look at tons of flyers and budget like crazy. J and I also went to cheap tuesday every month, and then only bought "fresh" items during the week. Almost everything we bought was on sale, or had a coupon. It was very time consuming, but was a matter of survival really.

    Once we found out more about what was going on with my health, we realized that we needed to eat more fresh foods (veggies,dairy, etc) less chemicals, less processed foods, and less breads and wheats. Eating fresh was something we tried to do before, but now it is a necessity. At first it was hard to plan in this different way, but we slowly found a way to make it work. Now we go about once a week (either Tuesday or Wednesday morning) so that what we get is mostly fresh veggies and meat. I plan the meals for every day based on my work schedule (because it constantly changes), but do allow for flexibility should I get called into work. We spend about $60 a week, that does include most of our food (minus the occasional extra jug of milk or head of lettuce), and any cleaning (mostly vinegar, and baking soda) or other household products. I don't seek out coupons anymore, I try to buy on sale as much as possible, but I don't do the first tuesday of the month anymore.

    J and I have both always loved food, and we do have our "regular" dishes now, but we love trying new things (I just finished 2 weeks of trying about 9 new recipes from a Nigella cookbook! So yummy!). Because of my strange work schedules it is hard to devote too much time most days to cooking. So, when I have time I make big batches of a meal (soups or chili) and often freeze it for a "quick" dinner reheated on the stove later.

    All in all, food is a big part of our lives. We both love to cook (and I love to bake) and love to eat. I really wish we had more time to devote to both!

  7. I love hearing about how food is a part of people's lives (whether it's because they love it or hate it), so thanks for sharing Toni! That's great you guys are buying all fresh produce and meats...I rarely ever buy pre-packaged stuff, unless it's a frozen pizza that's on sale for those lazy nights when no one is up for cooking.

    Oh and which Nigella cookbook were you testing recipes from? I LOVE Nigella!

  8. Ms. Fox Says:

    The Nigella book I tried out was Nigella bites. I am going to have to try some of her others too though because this one was enjoyable (as is her show!). I have the Christmas one on hold at the library, but I am thinking it may not get to me before Christmas (there are a few other people in line before me). Have you thought much about your Christmas cooking yet?

  9. I think Nigella Bites is my favorite cooking series of hers, so I bet the cookbook would be awesome. If you ever want to borrow "Forever Summer" I own it.

    As for Christmas cooking, I haven't thought too much about it yet. I will probably do the Thyme-Garlic Brined Turkey that I did for Thanksgiving because it was phenomenal. But other than that no ideas really....I'll be just a week or two away from delivering this baby so I'm hoping I don't have to think too hard about cooking and we can do a big potluck-style supper. That would be nice :)

  10. Jordon Says:

    We are a family our 4 and our grocery budget is 50 per week and then I budget 60 a month seperately for formula. I budget eating out seperately also and I budget about 75-150 a month. So we spend at the most $410 a month on food. We are slowing bringing down the eating out money though!

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Hi! I just found your site from Stephanie at Crockpot365. It is very enjoyable. I wish we could keep our food budget down to $400 a month! As it is, I have $650/mth that I spend. $150 of that is for a fresh organic veggie coop that I love. We also buy tons of milk (3 small kids at home) but only a small amount of meat. I am trying to cut out the cold cereal, but my kids are getting tired of pancakes or french toast and won't eat eggs and grits. What do you do for breakfast?
    Michelle at m m h g n h at y a h o o dot c o m

  12. Anonymous Says:

    hi- I just found your blog from Steph at Crockpot 365 and think u have great content.
    My husband and I budget 500 USD for groceries each month. This includes non food items like TP, detergent, etc. Usually we are under budget by $50-100 depending on how well we stetch leftovers. I go to Costco weekly for bananas, organic spinach and whatever else we need. Sometimes it's unphathomable to me to have to go to Costo more than 2x a month, but somehow I do. I usually spend ~100 at Costco a week.
    I also shop weekly at my local grocery store to supplement what Costco does not carry. I spend less than $30 at the grocery store each week.
    My husband and I are similar to you in that we both really enjoy food and bond over our meals.
    I do try to plan my weekly menu based on what is on sale, but that does not prevent me from making something in our rotation that we both really enjoy.
    Keep up the great blog and best wishes on your delivery!

  13. Thank you both for checking out my blog and commenting.

    Michelle - we are a "fend for yourself" family when it comes to breakfast. A piece of toast, or a muffin and a piece of fruit grabbed while running out the door is our style. My husband will usually get up a few minutes earlier to make himself some eggs. My toddler loves peanut butter toast with yogurt or fruit. I sometimes make her and I Peanut Butter Banana Smoothies that I just posted not too long ago.

    Anonymous - I love Costco but we don't have a membership. I love it when friends ask me to go with them...I like going around and getting all their samples :) The one thing I have noticed about Costco is the high quality of fruits and vegetables...You may not always be paying the lowest price, but you always get very high quality produce. And I agree with you - I plan my menu based on the sales, but sometimes you just have to throw something in that the family loves regardless of sales!

    Thanks again for the comments!

  14. Mom to Five Says:

    Hi-this is an awesome thread!! Well I have 5 children (ages 9,7,7,5,and4) who tend to be VERY picky!! My husband is wonderful and will eat anything that I cook and serve (his Mom raised him right:) ). Our budget fluctuates and this is something that I am going to work on in the new year!! I spend about $720 a month on food, toilet paper, etc. which averages out to be about $180 per week. Some weeks I can get out of the store for about $130 but I do tend to hang at the $180 mark. I am in awe of the Mom who feeds 6 for $60-that is amazing!!! My goal this year is to use less processed food and continue to cook new things even though my kids are not the least bit adventurous. My favorite cookbook is :Cheap, Fast, Good. It has so many hearty recipes that are very inexpensive.
    May my grocery bill get lower in this new year:) Cheers!!!

  15. n*stitches Says:

    Thanks for posting! I budget around $600/month for groceries for our little family of 4. While I work hard to keep the $ to a minimum, these are the reasons, I can't get the budget much lower:
    1) I work - I do not have time to drive all over town looking for the best deals.
    2) I hate coupons and usually end up spending more when I do use them
    3)We don't eat out. We only eat our about 3 times a month.
    4)My husband and I also love to cook together on the weekends and invite friends. These usually mean a big weekend shopping trip.
    5) I like to buy organic and all natural products. While these are much more affordable than they were several years ago, the extra nickel and dimes add up!

    Happy new year!

  16. Marsha Says:

    We're near Philadelphia, which isn't a terribly expensive place to live, all things considered. Our food expenses (not eating out, which comes under "entertainment" for us) run anywhere from US$300 to $500, depending upon what's going on. There are four of us.

    I know I could go lower and reserve doing so as an option, but right now I'm happy that I can buy a good number of responsibly-produced local products and also support indie grocers. If push came to shove I could stop both and trim probably a third to a half off the monthly amount but it's not something I'd choose.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    I guess I need to wake up! I budget $625 for the 4 of us ... and sometimes I go over.

    That said, we have most meals at home; and DH and DD take their lunches most days.