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Article 2 (Mar 2017): Figuring Out the Monthly Food Budget

March 29, 2017
When creating the family's budget, it is easy to look at individual categories and determine that they are too expensive or that there are cheaper alternatives elsewhere.
 
If the cell phone bill is $200 a month, a basic online search could reveal that another provider offers the same service for half the price.  In this respect, budgeting is often a very apples-to-apples comparison that promises easy decisions.
 
Food, on the other hand, is a bit different.  A family does not want to overpay for the specific items that they buy, but finding the total dollar figure for the budget can be a little nebulous. People may say they want to spend less, but how low is low enough?

What is a normal budget?  Luckily, the USDA tries to do a little bit of the homework when it comes to food spending.  According to their monthly reports, for instance, a thrifty family of four should be paying $554 per month while the liberally spending family spends $1084. There is quite a gap, but at least it provides some baseline for spending.
 
Tallying up spending over a few months will show the monthly average which can then be compared to the national averages, but remember that budgeting is highly dependent on factors such as income and location as well as food preparation habits. There is no one-size-fits-all number.

How to reduce spending?  According to Forbes, there are many ways to help reduce spending at the grocery store such as:
  • Limit Alcohol:  Alcohol can be a very expensive addition.
  • Bulk up:  Making bread at home or bulk cooking staples like rice or beans can save time and money
  • Plan menus two weeks ahead:  Planning ahead helps avoid impulse buys and fast food. It also makes dinner quicker to prepare on busy nights.
  • Have a meal prep day:  Take a few hours every week or two to make casseroles, soups and simple meals that can be frozen and quickly prepped later.
Remember that making changes to a budget should happen step-by-step to avoid giving up quickly due to discomfort.  Incremental changes are easier to maintain and help to make adapting easier.
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