Do you know how much you spend a month on groceries? Food is a basic necessity- we all have to eat! Food is also the fuel for our bodies and brains- so we want to eat consciously and healthy. That being said, your food cost is one of the areas in your monthly budget where there is great flexibility. I allocate a specific amount of money each month for my grocery budget but this is often one of the budget categories I reduce if an unexpected expense arises or I need to shift my monies for another reason.
In April 2020, The United State Department of Agriculture Official Monthly Food Plan for Cost of Food at Home reported the following:
- Family of Four (two adults & two children): $585.40-$1,332.90
- Adult Couples: $380.30-$793.20
- Adult Female: $165.50-$339.10
- Adult Male: $175.90-382.00
The USDA monthly range is based on various food plans they call, Thrifty, Low-Cost, Moderate Cost, and Liberal Food Plans. These numbers are for actual food and all the food, including snacks, is prepared at home. Now, if I look at the numbers for an adult female, I have significantly more money allocated monthly in my grocery budget. Part of the difference is that I include pet food, minor personal hygiene items (toothpaste, soap, etc.), and cleaning maintenance products in my grocery budget. If I have to spend additional monies on a personal care item, such as a higher cost skin care product; I give that a separate personal care/drug store category in my budget. The point is you need to know what you spend and where you spend it.
I know that depending on where I shop affects my food prices. I am a big fan of sales and making the most of my money. I also like to eat good food- so as always, there is a balance. The three main stores near me that I frequent are Aldi, Publix, and Whole Foods- their overall pricing is (Aldi) lowest to (Whole Foods) highest. Aldi has organic produce at excellent prices (among other great food deals) but it is not quite as convenient for me as Publix. So I have to make a concerted effort to go there but when I do, I am always glad I did. I also, look for the BOGOs (Buy One Get One Free) at Publix- they are frequent and also for many of the items I regularly consume. So, I watch for these, and BOGOs are one way to reduce my monthly food budget. The key is not to buy a BOGO just because it is a BOGO but buy it because you need it. A sale item is never a bargain if you are buying it just because the item is on sale. Remember; don’t buy because of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I save Whole Foods for a few special items I like to buy there, when I can afford it, and for special occasions.
There is also another trick to saving money while you grocery shop. There may be a relatively low priced item, (for me one of those items is coffee), that is much better if you buy your favorite brand. I may spend an extra $5 a bag on coffee, by buying Seattle’s Best instead of the store brand, but because I enjoy coffee so much every morning, the enjoyment I receive is more than the extra $5 I spend. Now, you can’t do this on all your food items or it defeats the purpose. I give myself the luxury of the coffee brand I so enjoy (which if it is on sale I buy an extra one) and then I buy Publix brand bread because for me, the Publix brand tastes just as good as the more expensive Nature’s Own brand. So the lesson is to give yourself choices and feel the freedom in grocery shopping while also staying within budget. Now, I’ll give you one more personal example. I take that Publix brand bread and I put on the so delicious Bonne Maman Apricot Preserves (another one of my upgrade items) and I have a budget balanced breakfast item! The idea is to get creative and make your food money go further.
In my Budgeting 201 online class I taught last night, someone asked me if a regular weekly fresh flowers purchase is part of a grocery budget, as it is purchased at a grocery store. What a great question! I infrequently purchase fresh flowers, so if on a rare occasion I bought a bouquet of flowers at Publix or Whole Foods, I would put that in my grocery budget. If fresh flowers were a purchase I made regularly, I would put it in a separate flowers category in my monthly budget. I do buy plants for my butterfly garden regularly, so I have plants as its own category in my monthly budget. I don’t buy plants every month but I do buy them frequently enough, that plants need their own line item. By accounting for my plant purchases monthly I can also lower or eliminate them depending on the status of my budget. This is just being honest and clear with myself at the start of each month and adjusting my budget as needed throughout the month. Budgeting, whether it is your food category or your entertainment category, is flexible if you are aware of what you have incoming each month and what you are spending each month.
So to finish up this blog post, I want to offer another good old-fashioned way to save money on your food bill. I live in Miami and right now it is mango season and papayas are growing too. My friends and neighbors with mango and papaya trees share their bounty with me. When my star fruit tree has fruit, I share it with my friends and neighbors. I am also open to sharing cooking herbs from my garden. My friends and I also share seeds and plant cuttings. When you are operating in the frame of mind of abundance and creativity, there are so many positive ways to make budgeting fun!
Susan, The MoneyMaestra