How much do you spend on food every month?
February 22, 2009 1:04 PM   Subscribe

How much does your two-person household budget for food every month?

So, I've been mucking around on lately, and I realized that we are spending way, way too much on food. We're a household of two -- husband and wife -- and we enjoy eating good, high quality meat and produce. We'd also like the flexibility to eat out every once in awhile.

I think I have a starting place in mind for our food budget, but I'm really curious to see what other people think is reasonable to spend on food every month. I expect to get some kind of wake up call here, though I'm not sure which monetary direction it will be in. Or, we may discover that we're mostly normal, and that would be useful information as well.

So, if you live in a household of two people who share food and eat meals together -- what's your budget? It may also be helpful to know whereabouts you live, or failing that, if you're living in a metropolitan area with much higher cost of living or in a rural area that's very inexpensive. Also, it might be useful to know if your diet is unusual in any way. Do you eat pizza and ramen every day? Filet mignon two times a week? Thanks for your responses!
posted by theantikitty to Work & Money (65 answers total) 84 users marked this as a favorite
We spend about $500 a month on groceries. That's probably crazy, especially on our grad student stipends but we both love food and hardly ever eat out. We also don't eat bread, pasta or other starchy fillers as well as hardly any processed food. This leaves a lot of meat, vegetables and dairy which tends to quickly add up. But good food is a priority and I don't mind paying extra.
posted by peacheater at 1:19 PM on February 22, 2009

We budget 140.00 dollars a week for our family of three adults. It does include lunches and cleaning supplies.

It does not include paper products, since I'm unable to find paper goods made from postconsumer fibers locally. It does not include pop: pop drinkers use their own money, not family money (I know, unamerican).
posted by francesca too at 1:20 PM on February 22, 2009

One of the best tips I picked on here on AskMe was not to include the dining-out budget in the "food" budget. You don't dine out because you need to eat a meal - you dine out for the experience of being out, choosing from a menu, eating exactly what your fancy dictates, etc. For all of those reasons it's more entertainment than a meal, and I now class all the dining out expenditures in with the same discretionary-spending amount that I allot for every month's entertainment and other nonessential but pleasant things.

Though my SO and I don't live together, we share 5/7 dinners and breakfasts a week and go on our own for lunch and a couple of dinners. We just had a food-budget conversation, and I can safely say that the two of us spend between $80-100 week, together, for all our food. I am a decent home cook and like to eat well; that's for good meals with a certain degree of elaborateness, plenty of produce, more dependence on chicken than other meats, 2-3 meatless meals (like black-bean tostadas or vegetarian curry over rice) a week, desserts, fresh fruit, beverages.

I don't count wine and beer in with the grocery budget - it's on a separate 'alcohol' line which keeps me honest. If dining out it's lumped in with that expense.

I use a pantry-cooking technique and keep the pantry stocked with basic staples. On the grocery run I buy produce, meats, and keep a selection of cheeses around. When I get back from shopping I jot down 2-3 meals I know I can prepare that week based on what's in the cupboards and fridge; that way I'm planning to use what I have, not making side runs for special ingredients because I decided I wanted them at the last minute. I try to make ingredients do double duty - like, putting carrots in a roasted veg-and-sausage dish one night, then having Asian slaw with carrots two nights later, etc, so there's less waste.
posted by Miko at 1:22 PM on February 22, 2009 [9 favorites]

Oh, good point by francesca, too - the only thing in my food budget line is food. Cleaning supplies and plastic wraps and paper products go under 'household.' I want to be able to compare apples to apples, literally and figuratively. I find it hard to plan realistically if I'm not completely sure how much of a cost is edible food, how much is supplies, booze, etc.
posted by Miko at 1:25 PM on February 22, 2009

I spend roughly 50$ a week for just myself, sometimes more when I've got the money or less when I don't. If I'm desperate I could go on 20$ a week eating eggs, potatoes, grits, milk, and my roommate's food.
posted by BrnP84 at 1:26 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mr Allstar and I probably spend about $100 on an average week for groceries. I'm a vegetarian and don't buy much meat for him, but occasionally get chicken breasts. I buy mostly beans, grains, pastas, tomato sauce, fresh produce, eggs, soy milk, and some frozen meals for the occasional lunch at work.

Of course I also keep some staples around that I don't have to buy every week, such as herbs & spices, bullion cubes, olive oil, etc.
posted by at 1:30 PM on February 22, 2009

We spend about $100 a week. We get a lot of produce, and sometimes chicken breasts or fish fillets, but usually not much in the way of meat. This includes lunches, dinners, breakfasts, and snacks. We eat out about once a week, too which I haven't included. (I also do the planning-of-the-meals thing, so I'm pretty lean about buying only what we need. There's not a lot of extra food in our pantry.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:35 PM on February 22, 2009

Averaging over the past 12 months, we spend $475 per month. Almost exactly half is dining out, and half is eating at home (groceries). We have two adults and one child who is old enough to eat small adult portions.
posted by PJensen at 1:37 PM on February 22, 2009

About $200/week in downtown (Belltown) Seattle, WA. I do a lot of our shopping at Pike Place Market where veggies are cheap and abundant, but comparing what my parents pay for muscles, scallops, veal, salmon, etc. at Costco in Houston, TX, I have to admit that the prices are perhaps twice as high at my beloved butcher.

We cook everything from scratch at home, including pasta, bread, pickles, ice cream etc. but serve meat or meat-based sauces most days of the week and tend to buy many imported ingredients at local specialty stores. I like to bake, so we are typically well-stocked when it comes to desserts, etc. This doesn't include the money we spend on wine & liquor, but we get Indian takeout at least once a week ($25) and go out for burgers and beer ($40) on Saturdays. The costs would probably be lower if we could get into the habit of saving leftovers.
posted by halogen at 1:39 PM on February 22, 2009

From Ms. Vegetable:

We're vegetarian, and we spend about $250/month on groceries. This includes lots of fruits and veggies, as well as expensive coffee. It does not include beer, wine, or eating out (which we do about once every other week).
posted by a robot made out of meat at 1:43 PM on February 22, 2009

$80 - $100 a week. By cost: 20% fruits and vegetables, 30% meat, 15% breads and cereals, 15% beverages, and 20% processed foods/snacks/meal kits. When we spend less than that, I find myself more tempted with eating out.

(I give myself the most leeway with lunch... It's hard to pack something healthy and good before work in the morning, so if I don't have something awesome, I'm more likely to blow $5-$10 on a fast food or carry out meal.)

We go to the grocery store once a week. Once a month, we also make a trip to the butcher shop, Trader Joes or the local farmers co-op, and the Walmart superstore.
posted by Gable Oak at 1:45 PM on February 22, 2009

For a household of two in San Francisco, about:

$100/week at the grocery store for staples like flour and milk (Safeway or similar - not Whole Foods or another upscale market)
$60/mo on meat (one of us is vegetarian) from a local CSA
$60/mo on veggies, also from a local CSA

The two CSAs are where I'd happily spend more each month - the food is higher quality, in season, regionally-grown and responsibly farmed. I generally don't eat much meat but when I do I really like to make sure it's 100% grass fed and 100% pastured (same for eggs). The grocery store is for the small things, and I'd probably be able to halve that if I didn't buy beer. :)
posted by kcm at 1:46 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

for our household of 2 adults and a 15-month old baby who is still mostly breastfed and thus eats like a bird, we spent 470 dollars on groceries last month. we only ate out once last month, so that total was for all meals eaten at home. we eat lots of fresh fruits/veg, lots of dairy, and a fair amount of meat. we buy organic sometimes, but not usually. if we needed to, we could eat much more cheaply -- i could probably get our food budget down to $300/month with a little planning, and we would still eat pretty well.

this is for new england, which has a pretty high COL, though.
posted by fancyoats at 1:47 PM on February 22, 2009

As a side comment, I would never cut back on quality - for the sake of cost - for the following things:

- Coffee beans, locally and freshly roasted (I should probably get my own roaster)
- 100% grass-fed and pasture raised meat (above)
- Locally grown seasonal produce (above; easy in California, I know)
- Cheese (wherever, I'm a cheese slut)
posted by kcm at 1:52 PM on February 22, 2009

My wife and I averaged $104.74 per week last year. We live in Ohio, eat very well but buy virtually no prepared foods.
posted by jon1270 at 1:58 PM on February 22, 2009

Our household of two adults spends $200/week, all in--groceries, cleaning supplies, dining out, lattes, etc. If it comes from a grocery store or food place, it's included in that figure. We are mostly vegetarian but spend a lot on organic and "fancy" foods.
posted by HotToddy at 2:11 PM on February 22, 2009

Oh interesting. Our budget is also in the $400-500 a month (me and wife). Our 'eating-out' budget comes from our personal accounts and we take turns treating the other, but the food* we buy at the grocery store (*we include the cleaning supplies etc since we tend to buy them at the grocery store and it's a pain to separate them out) tends to average a bit over $100 a week.

I'd really like to get that value down, especially since my parents managed to feed a family of 7 on nearly the same amount, but I'm in the Seattle area now, which is a whole lot more expensive than small-town SE ohio.

I still think we pay too much, but seeing so many others in the same ballpark is actually sorta comforting.
posted by johnstein at 2:11 PM on February 22, 2009

It may also be helpful to know whereabouts you live, or failing that, if you're living in a metropolitan area with much higher cost of living or in a rural area that's very inexpensive.

It would probably be more useful to know where you live, even just a country, so we can give relevant answers. Otherwise it's just a random poll.

For example, we spend about $140/week on food plus another $20-40 at the fruit and vege shop. Normal meat and vege diet with home cooking, with cleaning products & cat food, without alcohol or personal toiletries, no eating out, home made lunches every day. But those are NZ dollars spent in the middle of Auckland, NZ (and our combined after tax income is probably around NZ$65k/year), so probably not comparable.
posted by shelleycat at 2:17 PM on February 22, 2009

Since I do most of the cooking in our two person household, I do the shopping. I'm guessing we spend around $120-150 a month on food. I do this by shopping at the cut-rate food supermarkets--in my case, Winco and Food4Less--and ethic markets. There's a Fubonn market here in Portland that's huge, has the best fish selection in town, and has reasonable prices. Oh, every once in a while I hit the Costco or the Cash-n-Carry (a store that caters to restaurants but is open to the public) for olive oil, coffee and other staples that last a long time. Their produce and meat prices are great, but since it's just the two of us, there's a good chance the food will go bad before we get to it.

To keep your costs low, buy flour, beans, sugar, etc. in bulk. Now it's just me and mrs. tacodog so the 50 lb. bag of flour is out. I don't have the room to store it in a bucket sealed from bugs. If our next house has the space I'll do it, but for now, 10 lbs. bags of whole wheat and unbleached flour is enough. Beans, I buy enough to last a month or so. Black, mung, pinto, and lentils are all in my pantry, along with some French puy lentils and some Anasazi beans because I've never tasted them before and want to experiment.

Veggies I buy once or twice a week. The Food4Less here has a wonderful produce section, as does the Vietnamese market. Bok choy is cheap at the latter and cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are cheap at the former. Plus, the ethnic markets have japanese eggplant, thai chillies, cheap, fresh basil, bags of raw peanuts, very cheap spices like turmeric and star anise, and a host of other cheap goodies.

I hit the hippy food store up the street once in a while because they have a great spice selection (Not as good as Limbo in town, but good enough and I'm all stocked up as it is) and their leeks are awesomely priced and organic. Most of my day to day spices, though, come from the latino foods section. You can score bay leaves, cumin and such for way less than 4 aisles down in the 'real' spice section.

You also should know what's in season to get the best prices. Winter is root vegetable time, so french onion soup and dishes with butternut squash are served in Casa de Taco. Tomatoes are not in season so we'll just use canned. Get the kind with no added salt. Other veggies not in season can still be purchased frozen.

Learn to cook Indian, Mexican and French style to mix things up to keep your diners interested. And learn to stretch your food dollar. Take the humble chicken, for instance. Roast it and you've got the protein for two meals right there. Take the carcass and freeze it for when you have chicken another time. Take the bones of both birds and make chicken stock. Use stock for your other dishes or chicken soup or whatever. Bake your own bread. Bread stale? Get out the blender and make breadcrumbs for meatloaf or papeton d'aubergines. or cube 'em and make bread pudding in the microwave.

For reasons other than financial, we eat red meat and chicken once a month, at most. Most of the time it's vegetarian and fish (get your omega-3s in with sockeye salmon, sardines and mackerel, preferably fresh but if canned, canned in water). The more you get away from eating meats and seafood, the lower your bill will be. And eating mostly-vegetarian doesn't mean tofu chops on rice cakes. Hit the library for cookbooks. French, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, you name it, they have vegetarian dishes. I found a vegetarian French Bistro cookbook at the library last year that I never got around to buying, but man, some of those dishes were real tasty. And Indians, dude, those guys got game when it comes to lentils and mung beans.

Sorry for the long post but eating, cooking and being frugal are some of my most favorite things. I could go on all day about this.
posted by Tacodog at 2:21 PM on February 22, 2009 [14 favorites]

Well, mrs. taco says my estimate was low. She says it's more like $180 a month. She's the brains behind this operation so I'll take her word for it.
posted by Tacodog at 2:33 PM on February 22, 2009

Just for lulz, I'm gonna answer this question since I'm the opposite of all the people who care about this.

I'm single, never cook and make no attempt to do anything right. I usually buy a sandwich or burrito for lunch at work and then get some sort of take-out for dinner. Breakfast is sometimes a bagel bought on the way to work or something like muesili and a banana at home. The only food I regularly buy at the grocery store are breakfast items (muesli, fruit, soy milk) and Diet Coke.

My monthly "food" expenses range from $800 - $1200, depending on how much I traveled that month or if I paid for some work-related group meal. That also captures some personal hygiene products and cleaning/paper products.
posted by mullacc at 2:33 PM on February 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

Over a two-year window ending in November of 2008, we two spent an average of $351.47 per month at the grocery store. If you add in take-out orders from restaurants eaten at home, that average rises to $405.25. If you add in liquor-store purchases for the home, it rises to $414.80.

These figures capture all receipts from the grocery store, so the few non food items included there should be roughly balanced by the few food items picked up at Costco or Target. These averages do not include meals eaten in restaurants.

This is for two adults, of which one is vegetarian, in the DC area, with plenty of organic food in the mix.
posted by NortonDC at 2:40 PM on February 22, 2009

Forgot to say where I am: north of Boston, shopping at the lowest-cost major grocery store, the local produce market, and, six months of the year, the farmer's market (where we get meats and eggs as well as organic produce).
posted by Miko at 2:58 PM on February 22, 2009

Boston. 2 people, 2 cats (so, pet supplies are included in the budget). $350 - 400/mo. We're not pinching pennies, but we certainly don't overspend either.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:08 PM on February 22, 2009

Single in a smaller Minnesota city and I spend about $150/month on groceries and $2.50/weekday for school lunch. That also includes soda and beer, as I buy them at the same store. I eat fast food about 2x/week at about $5 pop.
posted by jmd82 at 3:10 PM on February 22, 2009

Budgeting by numbers never worked for me. Budgeting by time does. M-F never eat out, cook every meal, buy only fresh produce / meat / etc. from the store. Sat-Sun, do anything I want as much as I want. This knocked hundreds of dollars off my food expenses and nothing off my enjoyment of life.
posted by eccnineten at 3:34 PM on February 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

two people, one cat, in the dc area. we spend about $300/mo on groceries. we eat meat two to three times a week (and buy it in bulk and freeze it), we eat a lot of pasta, we shop at wegmans and trader joe's (and giant strictly for ground turkey) and mostly buy wegmans brand everything. i do a lot of cooking at home (five to six nightly meals a week). but i make a fierce effort to keep our food costs as low as possible.
posted by kerning at 3:38 PM on February 22, 2009

In Chicago, not meat eaters. We budget $12 per day, this covers dinner at home, which is 80% of the time, plus 2-3 carryouts and 1-2 restaurant meals per month. Lunch comes out of our "cash" budget not our food budget, unless we make it at home, which is rare. Budget also covers non-food sundries, snacks and coffee. I love to cook, which helps. We spend way less than that in summer, because I have a large vegetable garden and am able to go late June through early November without buying any vegetables at all. (I manage to get several months worth of veg for an outlay well under $200 and several weeks of backbreaking labor joyous communing with nature.
posted by nax at 3:47 PM on February 22, 2009

Another thought-- we started spending way less on food when I started shopping in several small trips rather than one large blow out, and when I started going to the little neighborhood mercado instead of the big chain store.
posted by nax at 3:48 PM on February 22, 2009

Mullacc's story is really instructive-- he's spending nearly double what everyone else spends, but has made a fairly rational decision to do this. I think this is really important-- it's not so much what you spend on food, as what's a reasonable way to approach budgeting overall; I love to cook so my restaurant bill is minimal to nonexistent, but someone who can't or hates to cook is going to have to find a way to fund the higher food expense.
posted by nax at 3:56 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

We spend about 400$ a month on two adults, a large dog and two cats. He is muscular but short and needs to eat a lot because of his fitness regimen. I'm small and skinny but manage to eat about 3/4 of what he does. This includes cleaning supplies (I buy fairly expensive products), toiletries, and pet supplies (food, litter) and the 2x$10 cab rides from the store- I bus there. We eat pretty well. Solid breakfasts, lunches, snacks and a balanced meal including meat, veg and carbs every night. I buy a few pricier 'easy meals' every two weeks and keep the fridge well stocked with dairy products, and good quality fruit and veg. If we ate our leftovers more religiously, I'm sure we could get away with about $100 less. If we were broke, it wouldn't be out of the question to cut this budget in half, but we enjoy making dinner a special meal every day. Having worked in a fresh pasta shop, I refuse to buy dry pasta, unless it's comfort-lunch KD for him. This means our pasta meals cost significantly more than the average person- I also make my own sauces.
posted by sunshinesky at 3:57 PM on February 22, 2009

2 adults, 2 cats in Mississippi. I figure about 300/month including paper goods. Rarely eat out, and did not include that.

I'm a coupon clipper and circular studier. I go to several different markets every month. We got a freezer so that we could take advantage of sales on meats and frozen veggies, which has really seemed to help. We're about to hit hurricane season, so it is time to stop stocking it and start eating out of it more or we may end up having to have all the neighbors over for eats if the power goes out for an extended time.
posted by thebrokedown at 3:59 PM on February 22, 2009

2 adults in San Jose, CA: breakfast, lunch (brown-bagged) and dinner ingredients are about $100-$150 a week. We are easy- we can eat the same thing every day until it runs out, so most of our food comes from Costco. We also budget $200 a month for eating out, which is anything prepared outside our house (anything from delivered pizza to actually leaving the house to eat).
posted by dogmom at 4:15 PM on February 22, 2009

One adult, one cat in the UK (Torquay, in the south west) - going through my statements for January I spent £153 ($220 according to at supermarkets, the majority of which is food. I very rarely eat out, not for economic reasons but because my local takeaways are so dire!
posted by etc at 5:14 PM on February 22, 2009

2 adults in western Massachusetts (college town): about $600/month for meals at home, including misc. household expenses at grocery stores (such as the small number of paper products we use, plus dish and laundry detergent, etc., but excluding beer and wine. We dine out maybe twice a month. Usually 1 trip weekly to the grocery store, 1 trip monthly to Trader Joe's, and about $300 in the summer for a CSA share (which then reduces the late summer and fall grocery bill). This winter we bought a lamb.

We eat a lot of vegetables and whole grains, a moderate amount of meat, and more artisanal and imported cheese than we should. We're both professionals and work long days; cooking is one way I relax but I'm willing to pay a bit more to save time (e.g. buying more prewashed greens than whole heads of lettuce that need a lot of prep). But we eat few prepared foods; I'd rather make something from scratch in quantity and freeze a bunch for those days we don't have time or energy to cook.

We eat breakfast at home (cereal or bagels on weekdays, sometimes eggs, bacon, and toast on weekends) and pack about 90% of our lunches. If one or both of us bought lunch regularly, our budget would go way up.
posted by brianogilvie at 5:20 PM on February 22, 2009

Central Jersey, four people, two of whom are teenage boys and each of whom eat more than your average couple combined. We spend about $1,000 a month in the supermarket and another few hundred on restaurant bills. Among our neighbors we are considered frugal, but I think among other middle aged upper middle class families of four not so much. A few years back with less resources the budget was less than half of this, especially on the eating out side. Just to provide balance to all the student types and recent grads posting really low budgets here.
posted by caddis at 5:22 PM on February 22, 2009

oh, I should have noted that my figures are in CAD... not really sure how that would translate into USD, since I'm confident it's not as simple as a monetary conversion.
posted by sunshinesky at 5:29 PM on February 22, 2009

Just to provide balance to all the student types and recent grads posting really low budgets here.

Oh, I wouldn't want that to be the impression. We're both 40ish and make a comfortable enough living and I know others here are in that demographic too.
posted by Miko at 5:30 PM on February 22, 2009

I've recently been using Mint as well, and have been freaking out about how much money that my 2-adult household is spending on groceries. I thought $350-$400 was way, wayyyyy too high--and in fact I've been bugging my boyfriend to not spend so much at the store--but evidently it's smack in the middle. (Or even low according to caddis!) He'll be so happy to hear to hear me acknowledge that I must have a very skewed sense of how much we should be spending.

I'm in DC, eat out probably 1-2 times per month, brown bag lunch. The $350-400 includes store-bought alcohol and paper goods but not restaurants.
posted by iminurmefi at 5:30 PM on February 22, 2009

$270 for the two of us for groceries and $90 to eat out. I cook because I love to cook, and she makes money because somebody has to.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:34 PM on February 22, 2009

Two people, one cat, in the East Bay region of the SF Bay area ... we eat 18-19 meals per week at home. Our weekly expenses fluctuate wildly depending on whether or not it's a stock-up week @ the grocery store or Costco. Averaging all that out, we spend about $38/week on fresh produce at the farmer's market and $60/week on non-produce ingredients between Costco, Trader Joe's, and the loss leaders at the local grocery story. So let's call it an even $100/week, or $400 per month, solely for food.

How we spend our $400: we eat breakfast at home and always brown-bag our lunches during the week. We usually cook dinner at home at least six nights out of seven. We don't buy a lot of processed food or snack food. We do buy whole-grain, we will pay more for items without HFCS, we buy artisanal cheeses, and we do buy organic produce and eggs. We have meatless days twice a week.

The booze budget is separate from the food budget, because we like our nightcaps but recognize they're a luxury, not a necessity.
posted by sobell at 5:35 PM on February 22, 2009

We live on the North Central California coast, about 17 miles from the nearest city (Petaluma).

We spend about $225 per week for groceries, sundries, cat food and supplies and gas for my car. I have a short commute, 4 mi. one way, so a tank of gas would last about 2.5 weeks, except that we live 17 miles away from the nearest gas station, so I fill it up every time I go to town. Mr. Lynsey works from home most days and does odd jobs around our little town 2 or 3 days a week so a tank of gas can last him a month or more.

Groceries: I make pretty much everything from scratch every night except for canned soups and chili. We eat fish at least 3 nights a week, red meat once a week and chicken the rest of the time. We have one weekly store-bought sushi and salad meal, which I pick up on my Friday town trip. We have salads and some kind of protein at least 3 nights a week, sometimes with carbs, sometimes not. I like the meat at Safeway and always buy my produce at a locally owned small chain store called G & G, regardless of price, because it always seems fresher and there is more variety. I buy cheese in bulk at Costco most of the time.

Cats: Since our daughter moved and could only take 2 of her 3 cats, we now have 6 cats. I buy them bulk canned and dry food at Costco (Friskies - they won't touch the Kirkland dry food) and Trader Joe's cat tuna for the 3 of them that won't eat Friskies.

Sundries: I like Angel Soft 2-ply double rolls and will buy that whenever I can find it on sale. We get Costco (Kirkland) paper towels. We get most of our other sundries at Target or Trader Joes, such as laundry detergent, fabric softener, vitamins, cosmetics, etc, since Target is far less expensive than a supermarket like Safeway.

We eat out once every couple of months and that happens when we are a little ahead in the overall general budget, and it doesn't come out of the weekly food budget.
posted by Lynsey at 5:41 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

1 person household in the Midwest: $200/month on groceries (including the occasional bottle of wine), $80/month dining out. My grocery expenses went way up after I started a gluten-free diet. Due to working in an unbelievably isolated office park I always pack a lunch during the week, but I splurge at restaurants on the weekends.
posted by Maarika at 6:08 PM on February 22, 2009

2 people in Vancouver, CA suburbs. We spend about $300-$400/month, but my boyfriend rarely cooks lunch or breakfast for himself.

We eat out about 1-2 times a week, everything else is made from scratch. Our meals tend to have more meats and starch than vegetables or fruit... something I'm trying to change.

Also, we get our meat from an Asian market, where the chicken is about 30% cheaper.

We plan meals weekly, too. We usually have meat + token vegetables served with steamed rice, or something like it.
posted by Xianny at 6:11 PM on February 22, 2009

(I have always wondered about this too, what other couples spend monthly for groceries).

My partner and I, living in Alaska, spend $120 to $150 a week on groceries, which includes food, paper products, cleaning supplies, and the occasional bag of dog food. It would be lower if I cooked bigger portions for leftovers, but they mostly go uneaten as my partner prefers packaged foods for lunches. We eat out one dinner and sometimes one lunch every week, but rarely anything spendy.
posted by rhapsodie at 6:15 PM on February 22, 2009

Two adults, at least $500/month + lunches, eating mostly vegetarian. Food's gotten much, much pricier in the last few years.
posted by talldean at 6:27 PM on February 22, 2009

2 adults, 1 4-month old, 2 dogs. Weekly we spend $90-$140 on our entire shopping run: Food, cleaning supplies, dog food, formula, diapers, wipes, the occasional video or boxed series.

We do 95% of our shopping at BJs/Costco/Sam's club, but we do it smartly and buy no prepared foods (asides from breakfast cereal and pasta sauce). We buy one major protien a week - but we buy it in bulk. I break down meats as follows:

Chicken (2 pack roaster) - We roast one chicken with stuffing (cornmeal, breadcrumb, grain mix, whatever). The leg meat becomes dinner/ leftovers. The breast meat is wrapped and turned into lunchmeat (skin on). I cut up the carcass and turn it into a stock. The second chicken I also debone, 2 breasts, 2 tenders, 2 thighs, two legs, wings + one package of 'assorted'. Each chicken piece is individually wrapped and frozen, then put in a bigger freezer bag to keep things organized.

Tenderloin - I cut two roasts, one of which I butterfly. With the remaining, I cut about 7 4-6 oz steaks, 4-6 medalions, and then a package or so of stirfry pieces. Everything is individually wrapped and frozen. I do this for pork (~$20 a tenderloin) and beef (~$80 a tenderloin).

Ground Turkey - portioned into 1lb chunks and frozen.

Fish I buy frozen and individually packaged, because I can't buy a fresh fish, break it down and freeze it fast enough for me to be sure that none of it will get freezer burn or damaged before we'd be bored of it. (assuming a ~50lb halibut from the fish market, thats ~70 8oz. portions...)
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:41 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

$90-140 a week that is...
damn me and my lack of preview...
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:42 PM on February 22, 2009

1 adult, metro Boston: $375/month

I don't cook very much, so I buy lots of prepared foods at the Whole Foods and get takeout or go out 2 or 3 times a week (regular restaurants, not fast food). I also buy plenty of dairy, fruit, and snacks. All of it comes with me to work for lunch because it's much better than the company cafeteria.
posted by natalie b at 7:29 PM on February 22, 2009

Thank you, everyone, for such detailed responses to my question. The numbers -- and especially the spending habits -- are, frankly, really fascinating to read. This is the kind of thread that I'll probably read over more than once. It causes me to think about how I shop/consume and why, and that's almost never a bad thing.

For what it's worth, my own "way, way too much" was in the ballpark of $550 for this month. To be fair, we ate out more often than usual and stocked up on a lot of expensive stuff at Costco that's still in the freezer. Nevertheless, I was shocked to see that number on I really value the answers that talked about how to eat frugally and healthfully, but the spendthrifts were also interesting to me as well. It's worth thinking about how I categorize certain items that I purchase every month and what I'm getting out of my splurges.

I can't overemphasize how much I've enjoyed reading about what works for other couples/families, so please feel free to post if you're just encountering the question. Additional tips about how you manage your budget/stretch your purchases are also welcome, so feel free to add those as well. Thanks again to everyone for your answers. I think it will be really helpful.
posted by theantikitty at 7:41 PM on February 22, 2009

In my 2-person omnivore household in NYC, we pretty much never go over $80 a week on groceries at maximum. We average around $70, which covers breakfasts and brown-bag lunches for both of us, as well as dinner 5 nights a week. I do not include dining out in our grocery budget, and that can be anywhere from $30-100/week. While I watch costs, I don't think that I'm an aggressive penny-pincher, and we aren't on a "grad student" budget. $100+/week for groceries alone for 2 people sounds lavish to me, and NYC is not known for its low cost of living.

We don't tend to buy much packaged foods, and when we do (such as canned soup or frozen meals), the bill is much higher. I cook almost everything from scratch, though I do use shortcuts like canned beans, cans of diced/crushed tomatoes, and frozen vegetables. I do build our weekly menu around what we already have in the pantry or freezer, or have left over from the week before, and also cook to maximize leftovers. I will also often shift our dinner plan for the week based on what's on sale -- oh, pork tenderloin is on sale this week? I'll pull an appropriate recipe.

We don't eat a ton of red meat, but it's probably 75/25 between meat-based and purely vegetarian meals. We stock up on staples when they are on sale (boneless chicken breasts in bulk, frozen veg, etc.). When we eat beef in particular, it is high quality. We don't eat a lot of fish, but I have a weakness for shrimp, which I only buy when on sale (usually frozen). I in particular eat a lot of fresh produce, but I do not buy organic. I do tend to buy according to what is in season or on sale, but if I want a mango in January, I will get it.

What I really want is a bigger refrigerator (and corresponding larger freezer) -- the freezer makes a big difference in what you can do, preparation and leftover-wise. Big batches of soup frozen in individual servings, meat bought on sale and stored for later ("hey, we have some ground sirloin back here, let's make something with that this week!"), homemade stock, etc.
posted by tigerbelly at 7:42 PM on February 22, 2009

Cost saving strategies for me include:

Always have options for lunch; always bring lunch. Lunches out seem to run $7-10 without even trying, up to $50 a week, that I'd rather spend elsewhere. Making sure I have sandwich fixings, a big chopped salad or bean salad that can portion out 2-3 portions, soup or pasta leftovers, or anything else to bring makes a big difference. Sometimes on the weekend I make small calzones with dough made in the bread machine, and take those for lunch with tomato sauce for dipping. If you like soda, seltzer, or tea with lunch, buying cans or bottles in multiples at the store is much cheaper per unit than buying from a vending machine.

Buy staples in multiples when they're on sale. Canned and diced tomatoes seem to go on sale every 6 weeks or so, and I don't buy them until the diced are down to 5/$3 or the large cans of crushed tomatoes are .99. Same for pasta, it's on sale frequently, and I buy extra then.

Buy foods in as whole a form as you can. The more processing, the less value. Know your store. Rather than go up and down each aisle, where you're a sitting duck for promotional displays and impulse purchases, make a beeline for the areas you need. I go around the outside of the store first for cheese, eggs, dairy, meats, and veg, then get frozen veg, crackers, canned veg and beans, salsa, condiments, coffee, and whatever else.

Don't shop without a list. You end up just randomly grabbing things that look good and end up with more than you need, and the wrong things, in the wrong combinations, meaning another shopping trip is needed later in the week even though you've already overspent. At least that's what happens to me.

Do some planning even before you go shopping. I usually page through cooking magazines or just think about what we have or haven't had enough recently. If we're ready for some Italian, or some spicy stuff, or a great stew, that helps narrow the store options.

Think about signing up for a CSA. They are a great value if you are able to do the cooking and flexible enough to eat seasonally.

I avidly support local agriculture but I can't afford all local, because it is more expensive most of the time. Therefore, in the 6 months when farmer's market is open, I divert $20-$30 of my weekly shopping to local market purchases. It can be more if I want but that usually means scrimping a little more than I want in the store. In summer I can usually get most produce at the market and spend the rest on dried/canned goods and staples in the store.
posted by Miko at 7:55 PM on February 22, 2009

I'm chiming in from Beijing, which may or may not be useful. As of sometime in the mid-2000's the purchasing power parity in China was three times what it is in the US.

We spend in the neighborhood of $6-10 a meal, so if you wanted a comparable number, imagine $15-$21 of takeout. That is ALL we eat. Low-grade, local, home-style food from the restaurants downstairs, with the occasional Pizza Hut or McDonald's if we're out and don't want to wait for them to send food up or in a hurry (even in China, they're ubiquitous, fast, and cheap), same price range. We'll splurge at one of the nicer places (again, Beijing being the city of 18 million that it is, culinary choices rival the best metropolitan areas in the US), and spend in the range of $30-$50, 2-3 times a month. We order 1-2 large meals every day, more than we will eat, and then graze on them over the next few days. We mostly eat leftovers and have a wide variety of stuff to choose from. We tend to err more on the side of habit regulation than actual budgeting, but it runs to roughly $150/mo. without the nice restaurants, $250/mo. with. Don't multiply by three..multiply by 2.1, for US figures. Beijing is far and away more expensive than the rest of the country.
posted by saysthis at 8:12 PM on February 22, 2009

I average about $300 a month on food according to Mint, which includes pantry and fridge stocking that is shared with my boyfriend, a few shared meals out, and the occasional lunch for myself. The only part not included in that for him is whatever he spends on lunches for himself. The critical thing that keeps it down is that our CSA share is free, which is about $120 worth of veggies for two people per month. We probably only use about $80-100 worth, though.
posted by slow graffiti at 8:59 PM on February 22, 2009

Forgot to note I'm in San Diego.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:04 PM on February 22, 2009

Seriously depends on where you are and what kinds of stores you have available to you and what your standards are.

The frightful thing I've noticed while living in the Midwest USA is that in less affluent neighbourhoods, the price of produce (esp. quality and fresh) is much much higher than that in more affluent neighbourhoods. Lots of counterintuitive pricing also noticed.

Here in Vancouver, BC, there's also some weird raw food pricing oddness. There's a place in between a seriously NOT affluent neighbourhood and a traditionally (but no longer) affluent neighbourhood with freerange chicken (all kinds, all cuts) selling for 1/3 the going city-wide price.


Living in a trendy-but-not-assholish-trendy part of town, I spend about $3 for lunch and $5 for dinner (all $ CDN) on raw ingredients and I eat far far better than any of my fellow graduate students who spend more on store-bought deli meats for lunch or buy lunch from the on-campus vomitorium. Mom&Pop produce stores are a *lot* cheaper than supermarkets. Supermarkets have sales on freezer-able meats that shame/cornhole the mom&pops. When I want quality red meat, I still go to a proper butcher - which gets really expensive really fast.


~$300 (CDN) but that's including making dinner for various people who drop by and such
posted by porpoise at 9:05 PM on February 22, 2009

2 adults, 3 rabbits, metro-Boston area. We spend $500-600 a month on groceries. That includes some paper products/household cleaning supplies, but does not include the approx $100/month or every-other-month Costco trip for coffee, soda, t.p. I also tend to buy pharmacy items (face wash, bandaids...) at the grocery store out of laziness, though I know the markup on these is insane. Bunny food, a variety of fresh veggies, is included in our grocery figure. That's for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, but doesn't include eating out money (eating out is pretty much only on weekends, but is definitely two dinners a week and usually two lunches a week).

I go to the mid-priced grocery store chain in the area, and I use very few coupons and don't shop according to the circulars. I'm hoping that when we move into our new house in a few months that a chest freezer and smarter shopping might lower our food costs a bit.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 4:07 AM on February 23, 2009

Wow, I was just wondering this yesterday while checking out at the grocery store!

Right now my husband and I spend about $80 a week on groceries, which includes food and supplies for us and two cats (includes t.p., cat stuff, cat food, cleaning supplies, the occasional smelly candle) and dog treats but not his food which we buy at the expensive dog store. We do eat meat but that budget generally includes a minimal amount of meat, since we recently bought 1/8 of an all natural cow and eat two meals per week of that; and we also have alternate arrangements for pork and eggs. So we will buy two meal's worth of chicken or fish in that budget (for example, last week we bought a whole chicken to roast, and this week we are having jambalaya with local shrimp and a small amount of sausage). The beef was about $330 and I expect it will last at least 6 months, at which price it comes to $12 a week.

This budget has been reduced dramatically from where it was a year ago-- we have reduced our buying of processed foods, with the exception of Lara Bars which I love, Wasa crispbread, which I eat for breakfast with p.b. and cottage cheese, bread, and the occasional jar of salsa. (I keep saying I am going to make them from scratch but I don't really have time.) Starting this week we will be making our own salad dressing instead of buying it.

My husband has quite a large appetite and I'd say I am a little above average. I eat about 2 lunches out a week; he eats none. We eat brunch out every other week or so, which is not included in that budget.

In the past, during the summer we have been members of a CSA. This summer we will be doing the farmer's market. Oddly, in the past our budget was about $100/110 even during the summer. But we are really making an effort to reduce costs.

And then every few trips we have to buy staples, which we get in bulk. By that I mean spices, rice, quinoa. I can never remember to soak the beans so I usually get cans.

But it does average out to 80 or so these days.
posted by miss tea at 4:25 AM on February 23, 2009

Family of five - two adults, three children: $450-500/month. I would like to drop it down but food costs have really risen (for example pasta has doubled in price in the past year or so). We are vegetarian and try to avoid processed food; except for comfort food KD and breakfast cereal - if I could switch my son and husband to oatmeal I would save at least $10 a week. I'm in Canada so food costs more than the US: $3 for a loaf of bread, $4 for 4l of milk, $7 for 3l of orange juice. I spend a lot on milk/juices, over $20 a week at least. I allow $20/month for restaurant costs (pizza) included in total above. My husband is a stay-at-home dad and I only work part-time so I don't have to worry about food at work (I brown-bag on the rare shift that is more than four hours). I'm in a small, affluent town with limited food options (three high-end grocery shops, two butchers, no mom 'n' pop or ethnic grocery shops) and an expensive farmers market. If my budget increased I would spend it more on restaurants, what we spend at the grocers is adequate for our home-cooked meals.
posted by saucysault at 4:27 AM on February 23, 2009

Oh, and my total include a fair amount of non-food items such as cleaning supplies/paper products/diapers and toys for the children as a shop at a "Superstore" that sells everything from furniture/TVs to bulk food. When I roll deep I like to minimize the amount of strapping in/strapping out of car seats as much as possible.
posted by saucysault at 4:37 AM on February 23, 2009

Mullacc's story is really instructive-- he's spending nearly double what everyone else spends, but has made a fairly rational decision to do this. I think this is really important-- it's not so much what you spend on food, as what's a reasonable way to approach budgeting overall; I love to cook so my restaurant bill is minimal to nonexistent, but someone who can't or hates to cook is going to have to find a way to fund the higher food expense.

Yes and do. Single person in NYC. Very rare that I cook. These are January's figures because February isn't over and is skewed from travels.

Groceries 89.50 (higher than other months; this included Wal-Mart run to stock on staples - i.e. soup) - I budget $100
Fast Food 48.68 - includes things like a soda at Duane Reade; bag of chips -- also most personal care items since this cat is almost exclusively DR - I budget $50
Restaurants - $236 (includes work lunches and take out dinners; maybe one sit down dinner a month which usually involves me treating friends. I budget $200 but to be over due to the holidays, not bad.

December was similar

$252 in Restaurants; $54 in fast food but $0 in groceries

$248 in Restaurants; $45 in fast food; $7.38 in groceries

So not cooking doesn't have to be an extreme budget breaker. After some unexpected expenses earlier this month in the form of car repair I decided to cut back and have brought lunch all of last week and will do the same this week. Net cost - $0 - funded from staples and left overs from a weekend home - result is Feb will be less over than it could have been.
posted by TravellingCari at 6:59 AM on February 23, 2009

My wife and I typically spend 100-150 an week on food & supplies.
We just had a baby, and I'm curious to see how that affects our spending.
Here are my Mint trends for January (baby was born the last day of Jan):
Food & Dining: 670
Groceries: 404
Restaurants : 195
Fast Food (mostly my lunches): 64
Alcohol - 7.44 (this one actually needs some research when I get home, I don't drink.)
I went to the local grocery store on Sat. We usually spend 80 or so, this time it was 100 even. The difference was the diapers. I had no idea babies pooped so much!
posted by krieghund at 8:26 AM on February 23, 2009

According to an article in today's Toronto Star,
In Toronto, according to the department of public health, a man needs $41 a week for a healthy diet, a woman needs $30 and children need up to $33, depending on their age and sex.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:10 AM on February 23, 2009

According to the USDA
posted by caddis at 6:39 PM on February 23, 2009

My SO and I budget for $320 each month for groceries (including household items like paper towels and stuff), but that doesn't include eating out for me. That's an additional $140 per month. Now ask me if we ever actually ADHERE to that budget... ;) I almost always go over, personally, because with no real vices to speak of, food is one of my only indulgences. And we shop at normal grocery stores and eat what I imagine to be average food--some TV dinners, some cook-from-scratch meals, a bag or two of cheetos--(although I have been known to hit Whole Foods Market or HEB Central Market for special occasions or fussy ingredients).
posted by Sal Monella at 8:08 PM on February 24, 2009

« Older Anybody Here Seen My Old Friend Bruce, Can You...   |   Where should we eat in Negril? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.