Our Monthly Food Expenses

Well, I have to admit, I’m kind of nervous to share this post about our monthly food expenses, which is partially why it’s taken me 11 months to put it out there. I feel like I’m about to be judged… Yes, I think we spend a lot of money on food…but I also don’t think it’s that much. And yes, I just contradicted myself. 🙂

monthly food expenses

I know what I buy and even though I buy a lot, I feel like it’s almost all necessary to feed our growing family of five. I pay attention to costs, try to buy in bulk or stock up when something’s on sale, and I don’t buy anything too out of the ordinary. We don’t even drink our food: no coffee, wine, beer, juice, or even milk really! We’re simply an active family that requires A LOT of food for fuel…and we eat mostly good quality sources of that food.

I know it’s really hard to compare one family’s grocery expenses to another, so before I dive into this post, I want to remind everyone that we are a family of five. My husband is 35, I’m 33, and we have three kids, ages 6, 4, and 4. (Or maybe I should say almost 7 and almost 5 and 5 since their birthdays are just around the corner in January and February.) Plus, I swear my kids are much bigger eaters than most kids of the same ages. Even my friends can attest to this. They are always shocked by how much my kids will eat at a meal. (While I’m shocked by how little their kids just ate…and the kids seem completely satisfied with that amount!) 🙂 So, please, keep that all in mind when you compare what you spend to what we spend! Every family is different, just like food costs vary across the country, so we’re not comparing apples to apples here either.

As many of you know, we buy mostly real, unprocessed, whole foods. I make a lot of things from scratch: like homemade bread, granola, chicken broth, and more…but there are times when convenience wins out and I buy something prepackaged. I typically buy organic produce on the dirty dozen list and conventional when it doesn’t matter as much (like bananas, pomegranates, avocados…foods that you remove the skin before eating). I buy grass-fed beef, free-range chicken/turkey/pork, and pastured eggs from a local farm.

So, here we go…

I started recording ALL of our food expenses way back on January 1st of 2015. People often asked me how much we spent on food each month…and I honestly had no idea. We don’t budget out our expenses like some families do. We just live frugally in most areas of our lives and don’t spend a lot in other categories (going out to eat, shopping, entertainment, etc), so we typically just spend what we need to spend in order to feed the family each week. I knew our food costs were getting higher and then my husband made the comment that he thought we were spending close to $1,000 per month. Of course, I knew that wasn’t the case but I figured since people were already asking me anyway…and I really didn’t know…maybe I should figure it out! So, I have TEN MONTHS of food costs sitting in front of me as I type this up. Some months were embarrassingly high…and others seem just about right.

Our average MONTHLY total for our family of five for a period of 10 months was…drum-roll, please…

$731.58

This number does not include our meals out at restaurants. If you add those in (which I hate to do because it messes with my totals and also because going out to eat falls in the category of ‘entertainment’ in my mind), then our average monthly food expenses were $791.49. And this number includes EVERYTHING. And I mean everything: a quick trip to the store to pick up bananas, our Costco membership fee, meals at Disney World this summer, vacation food in Florida for a full week without my kitchen and usual tools, my husband’s stops at fast food for the occasional meal. (Yes, it happens in our house. He goes SO much less than he used to…but he still occasionally stops at Chick-Fil-A or Taco Bell for a dinner on the weekend.) I just try not to think about it too much. 😉 This number ALSO includes the school lunches my daughter buys at school once every other week (it’s our compromise) and our occasional carry-out pizza order. So, yeah, I tried to make these amounts a totally inclusive picture of ALL the food it takes to feed my family every single month.

So, to break these numbers down a bit (and because it makes me feel better), let’s divide $750 per month by 30 days. That means we spend $25 per day to feed our family. That’s $5 per person, per day. And we eat 5 times per day, give or take…so, basically, we spend about $1 per person, per eating session, per day. When I look at it like that, it doesn’t seem all that expensive to me anymore!

We buy a lot of organic and higher-priced natural foods, more expensive produce, good quality pasture-raised meats, wild-caught fish, and more. So, I feel really good about the QUALITY of food we’re eating…and the variety. I could bring our costs down more…and I am working to do that throughout the next year (more on that later), but I like that we eat a wide variety of foods and that my kids get exposed to so many whole foods and less processed foods on a regular basis. Even if that means we spend more money.

I also think I spend a little more because of this blog. Not a lot, no…but I’m definitely more open to trying new foods and experimenting with different ingredients (think coconut milk, coconut flour, almond flour, raw cacao powder, goji berries, hempseeds, etc). I follow a lot of other healthy food bloggers and I like to try new things…however, I’m trying not to experiment as much these days just to save money.

So…how did the food expenses break down throughout the year? Here is a PDF file (from an excel spreadsheet) that shows the costs each month based on store totals.

I definitely buy the majority of our food from Kroger and Costco. Those two stores won…hands down. Is anyone surprised??? 😉

So…with all that said…how does my family’s monthly food expenses compare to the “average family?”

According to the USDA’s latest “Cost of Food at Home” report for September of 2015, I calculated what my family’s expected food costs should be based on a ‘nutritious diet’ with all meals and snacks being prepared at home. (It states that this doesn’t include one-dollar deals at fast food restaurants or splurges at pricey restaurants.)

For my boys, a child aged 4-5 is given the range of $94 a month in the thrifty plan all the way up to $175 in the liberal plan. So, we multiply that by 2 boys in this age range and that gives me a range of $188 – $350 per month…for my two boys alone.

My daughter is in the 6-8 year old range. She is budgeted $140 for the thrifty plan up to $275 in the liberal.

My husband has a range of $188 – $374 per month and mine is $166 – $330.

If we add those together for my family of five, that gives us a range of $682 per month at the lowest, thrifty end…all the way up to $1,329 per month for the liberal plan!! So, we’re spending just above the thrifty level for a diet that consists of almost all organic, whole foods! Seriously, though, I can’t even imagine spending over $1,300 per month for food. Then again, check back with me when my kids are all teenagers. Oh my… (Try not to think about it, try not to think about it…) 😉

So, if I’m comparing to those numbers from the USDA, I don’t think it’s all that crazy now that we spend around $750 per month! It still seems really high…and I’m sure there are many families that can easily spend less with kids around the same ages as ours…but overall I’m okay with what we spend based on the quality of the foods we eat. We really don’t spend much in other categories, so I think it all balances out in the end.

**If you want to run the calculations for your own family, you can find the guide here: USDA Cost of Food at Home Averages for September 2015

What do you think??? Are we crazy spenders when it comes to grocery/food costs? I would LOVE to get our monthly food costs down closer to around $650-$700 per month, but I fear that I would be cutting out quality purchases like wild-caught salmon, organic berries (when they’re in season), pasture-raised meats, local maple syrup and honey, and more.

Now that I *know* how much we’re spending on food each month, I’ve been making more of a conscience effort to bring those costs down. And I’m still recording my costs. I think I want to keep doing this…and maybe I’ll share another report like this again next year!

**Note: I actually wrote up the majority of this blog post in early November, so I didn’t have November’s totals then…but November ended up being a really average month for us at the grocery store. We spent exactly $750.

I really do feel good about the quality of food my family eats. Sure, we eat some “junk” now and then…and it IS cheaper…but we definitely don’t feel as well after we eat these overly-processed foods. So we “pay the price” in a whole other way!!

Do you know how much you spend on food each month?? I had no clue until I started paying attention these last 10 months! Would love to hear from others!! (Just don’t make me feel bad by saying you feed your family of 5 for only $300 a month…but fail to mention that one is a baby and one is in college…or something crazy like that.) 😉

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LeAnn Nome

Hi there! Here's a little info about me: I've been married to my husband for over 10 years and I'm a stay-at-home mom to our three young kids (a six year old daughter and four year old twin boys). As you might imagine, they keep me quite busy! In early 2013, we decided that we wanted to be a healthier family. To do this, we cut out all processed foods from our home and we now eat only REAL, whole foods. (When we're on vacation or at someone's house, we're not quite as strict.) We also try to exercise every day. Our goal is to raise healthy, happy kids...while maintaining our own health and happiness along the way! I hope you will follow along with us in our journey.

8 thoughts on “Our Monthly Food Expenses

  1. Well done! We average about $800 per month. I stress about it, my husband reminds me it’s a necessity. I guess he’s right! We have a family of FOUR, so you’re actually doing better. Cheers to you!

    1. Thanks, Carmie! Hearing what other people spend on groceries has definitely made me feel a little better about our expenditures! 🙂 Thanks for sharing with me!

  2. I think this is awesome! I live in VT and have a family of 4…32,30,3&1. I don’t have an average but I usually spend about $450 cash each month of groceries, plus we buy a whole pig, half a cow and some local chickens. I am guessing averaged out it would be around $600-700 per month. I have had multiple people ask me how we spend so little on food and manage to buy organic and live a gluten free lifestyle. (one of my boys can’t have gluten) it’s awesome to try to do a better job with expenses, but I would definitely encourage you to be realistic about the quality of food you are buying and don’t compromise there. I believe it truly make a difference in quality of life. even if you are spending a couple hundred dollars more than what is ideal, I bet you save that much and maybe more by being healthier in general. (you probably need leas doctors visits, tissues, cough drops, vitamins, supplements etc.)

    1. Hi Kim! Thanks for the encouraging note. And I absolutely agree with you (as hard as it is to see the money ‘go out the door’ sometimes)! I know it’s best for the HEALTH of our family…both now AND in the long term. It’s absolutely worth it and we just skimp on other categories to make up for it. 🙂

  3. This is a great idea! I want to try this starting in February. I don’t know how much i spend on “food” because sometimes other household items are lumped in there. I think I spend about $600 a month on groceries I would have to guess… and my kids are little… and I only have TWO!

    1. That’s exactly how I was! I had no idea how much we spent on actual food since I always purchased so many other items at the same time…and we shopped for groceries at multiple stores, bought in bulk in advance, etc. I’m still recording my food purchases and hope to do another recap like this later on! 🙂

  4. I know I’m a little late to this party, but read through your post and thought I’d throw in my two cents. I live in FTW so we’d have access to the same selection. I love to get whole, real foods but I also love to save money.

    Have you ever tried Aldi? I was very sceptical at first, but now it’s my main store. I shop once a week and it saves me about $50/trip. That’s around $200/month in savings. They have great real foods. I’m not into organic, but if you are they also have lots of organic options. Their produce is great and about half the cost of Kroger. I used to shop at Kroger & now I only get about 5 items there per month (because they are more specialized items I cannot get at Aldi). I’ve found only a few items at Aldi we didn’t like. And they have a guarantee so you can return something if it doesn’t work for you. I encourage you to try it for 1 month. Replace a few major food group items (dairy, fruits, veggies) at Aldi and see what you think. When the cashier tells you the total on that first trip, you’ll think she missed half of your items. Note: they only accept debit cards or cash (so they don’t have to pass on credit card fees to shoppers with higher costs), take a quarter to get your cart & take your own reusable shipping bags. It’s so worth it and it will become second nature.

    My other money saving tips is with meat. Have you considered buying a 1/4 cow or 1/2 hog at a time? This is how we buy meat & it saves a ton of money. Plus, I don’t have to think about what cuts to buy at the store. I just plan our monthly meal plan around whatever cuts are in my freezer. I contract with a farmer who grows a few head of cattle. They have a nice pasture to graze on and only get medicine if they are sick (and never right before slaughter). No hormones or anything else weird. Just good old-fashioned farming. They take them to Vining Slaughterhouse in Roanoke for processing & i pick up the finished product there. Last time it was under $5/lb total for all cuts from ground to steaks.

    I have a different farmer contact who raises pigs. Same scenario. Only gives them medicine & such as needed. No added hormones or anything like that. This guy takes his to Lengerich MEATS for processing. I just got a 1/2 hog a few weeks ago. Lots of meat for freezer and it was $165 total cost. I would guess 40-50lbs of finished meat.

    I think your food costs seem really good by the way. I know I spend a little more than you for our family of four. I blame it on my husband who eats a lot of high ticket items (non-dairy, gluten free). He also likes convenient items (I.e. individual yogurts instead of big tubs) so he kills my budget sometimes! I’ve been doing whole month meal planning since the start of 2016. So first day of month I’ve been sitting down & planning 90% of our food for the month. Of course, I have to make small changes as month goes on, but it’s been really helpful. In Jan, I cut $200 off food costs. Got a 1/2 hog in Feb so that’ll eat up a big chunk. But without that, Feb looks under too!

    I love seeing your FB posts. Keeps my mind on real food choices. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for sharing with me, Sara! I tried Aldi’s about 2 years ago when they were just starting to carry some organics, but I haven’t been back since. I guess, like you said, I’m a little intimidated with the ‘rules’ and how it works. I stick mainly to Costco and Kroger…but I know people have been telling me I need to check it out again. One of these days, I will! 🙂 I think sticking to a meal plan would really help keep food costs lower, too. My problem is I get lazy with it…OR…if I do plan ahead, by the time that date gets here, I don’t want to make said dinner anymore and then I’m stuck with ingredients I don’t use. I now tend to grocery shop (in one way or another) 2 times per week. Between getting fresh produce AND not getting TOO much at once, I find it easier for me. Thanks so much for sharing your tips with me! I enjoyed reading about it…especially since you’re local!

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