Whether you’re a self-proclaimed foodie or not, you still need to eat. Be it home-cooked or take-out. The hunger factor is just one that can’t be ignored but what’s more of a challenge is setting those food budgets. Here’s how much you should budget for food:
|Household Size||Weekly Food Budget||Monthly Food Budget|
|Single||$55 — $80||$220 — $320|
|Couple||$110 — $150||$240 — $620|
|Family (Five Persons)||$280 — $450||$1120 — $1800|
This table shows the average food budget needed for the single, couple, and family-sized houses.
You should allocate 10 percent of your income to the groceries and eating out budget. Also, one meal for one person in the US should be approximately $4, so you can calculate your budget with the number of meals consumed each day and multiply it by the number of family members.
However, there’s a lot that goes into setting a food budget, so I’ll help you make one.
What is the Average Monthly Cost of Groceries?
The average cost of groceries in the USA was $4942/year in 2020. This roughly equals $412 per month. Now with the high-scale inflation and decreased income wages, the amount is sure to have increased.
The reason I shared this statistic is not to blindly follow the amount written, but to give a baseline. This is the mean spending on groceries but depending on the size of your family and income it can vary.
I’d ask you to keep this ballpark figure in mind and work your way around it. You can always go a little up or down, but remaining within a budget always helps.
» You can also read my post: 11 Reasons Why Budgeting is Important
What’s the Ideal Food Budget for All?
The food budget should not exceed any more than 10 percent to 15 percent of the disposable income. And this includes both groceries and eating out. As the residents of the US or even outside, you should not spend more than 50 percent of your income on the bills and basic utilities.
Now this budget can be incorporated into different lifestyles.
If you’re a couple who both earn a total of $50,000 joint income/year, then your spending should be no less than $4500 ($375/month) and no more than $7500 ($625/month).
These figures mirror the USDA’s findings which state that the average couple under 50 years pays for food at around $348.60/month.
This is in contrast to couples above 51 years that pay around $20 to $60/month, sometimes even less.
Average Food Budget for College Students
If this ratio is now taken into account for a college student, it averages to about $547/month. In this figure, it is assumed that college students spend $341 eating out and the rest on home-cooked meals at $206. If students opt for campus meal plans, those cost around $563/month.
When in college, you’re living on the bare minimum. No one has steak dinners and routine sushi drives going on. Most students are in debt while others struggle to make ends meet.
So it’s very unlikely that any student would sit down and plan, in actual numbers, their food budget.
Since college students don’t have regular taxes and savings; food becomes their main concern. While home-cooked meals may be the most cost-friendly option, between work, studying and classes it isn’t easy to cook.
Average Food Budget for Families
Families with 2 parents; a kid between the age of 6-8 and a teenager, should have a budget from $136-$273/week. The reason why this is the mean budget for a 4-person family is that not only are the members of the family increased but, with the age variation, you now have to cater to different needs.
This is a stark contrast to the budgets of couples and college singles.
Here’s how it breaks down:
- $63 for the male adult
- $54 for the female adult
- $52 for the teen
- $50 for the kid
This would mean you’d have to get twice as many groceries as you normally would to cater to everyone’s hunger, which is the main reason families have such large food budgets.
» You can also read my post: 13 Reasons to Start Saving: The Importance of Saving Money
Factors that Affect the Food Budget
By now we’ve all agreed on one thing food costs vary on the lifestyle you have and the choices you make. For the people opting for home-cooked meals over restaurants bought, they tend to have lower budgets.
The main reason for this is that groceries typically last a week or two but take-out is an everyday purchase. This is also one of the major reasons why home-cooked foods are encouraged. Aside from being healthy, they’re also not as expensive.
Regardless, there are still a few other points that can change your average food budget. All these are personal choices at most but there are still ways to overcome them.
So, here’s how to find out where you spend your food budget, and the factors that affect your purchase.
Organic or Farmed?
Now this is a debate that has long been going on in the modern world. As consumption rises, there are new and quicker ways to increase food production.
These usually have chemical processes which end up lowering the health factor of those foods. The issue can easily be curbed by purchasing organic food from local markets.
These are guaranteed to be grown with love and no sort of chemical. Now while these are a good option the real issue is these “organic” foods are more expensive than farmed ones.
The reason is probably that growing food with no external help is more arduous and requires a lot of work. For this reason, organic foods are 47% more expensive.
How Does This Affect the Budget?
Now imagine you want to get wholly organic groceries, which would increase your food costs by 47%, equal to the increase in prices. Now isn’t that a lot?
Of course, I would no longer discourage you from going organic, food budget or not your health is of utmost importance. But instead of falling victim to capitalism, try looking for foods that are organic and not priced at an outrageous amount.
This may take some time to get used to but if your farmer’s market compels you to go over budget, then it’s time to look for another place to get your food.
» Read my blog post: 10 Easy Rules To Understand Financial Minimalism
There’s been a major rise in online purchasing. Groceries, takeout, you name it. People opt for convenience. They want time-saving and efficient modes of life.
Gone are the days when families spent quality time together grocery shopping. These practices all combine to make different spending patterns. How much would a person be willing to increase their budget for comfort?
While some see one point, the other side of the spectrum is that the practice saves you precious time. With the hours you waste grocery shopping you can spend earning instead.
But it is important to consider that online shopping is more costly as compared to in-person.
With sites such as Amazon and regional providers usually charging a shipping fee, the cost of a regular $50 haul can increase by a lot.
Have an Ultimatum
Now you have two options, whether to go and grab the groceries yourself or have someone deliver them to you.
You also have to decide whether you’d opt for half-cooked/ready meals over getting a whole vegetable and cutting it up to make your salad. How much you increase your budget is all dependent on these modes of convenience.
Another convenience trend going on is getting meal kits. These cost roughly $9.99 -$13.50 per serving and cater to anyone who wishes to have precooked meals with good nutritional value, too.
These prices are, however, higher than your average home-cooked meals. Mostly because they cost a minimum of $9.99 per meal while home-cooked ones last you at least a day. But, they are cheaper than dining out.
So at most these meal kits give you a balance between home-cooked and dining out. This is a good option for singles and college kids who, instead of getting expensive take-out, can opt for more homey-styled foods.
» Maybe this also could be of interest to you: $400 Per Month? — Vending Machines as Passive Income
How to Stay Within a Budget While Spending on Food?
There are a few tricks and tips to follow which can help you stay within your spending range while spending on food:
- Make shopping lists
- Go shopping when there’s a sale
- Create meal routines
- Use coupons
Coming up with a budget isn’t easy I’ll agree. But what’s harder is sticking through with it. Most newbie budgeters make a foolproof plan only, but it isn’t as foolproof as they end up spending more.
In theory, budgeting sounds easy but when faced with reality and the horrible wave of laziness; everything goes in vain. But that doesn’t mean you can’t follow a set budget at all. I mean, it’s difficult but not impossible.
Now, I’ll elaborate on these tips for you to help you understand how this can be done.
Make Shopping Lists
Now, this is common practice, partly because our memories sometimes fail us, but making a list of things you direly need does help a lot.
While almost everyone writes down the things they need, what’s different here is you should scan through your fridge and pantry; only jotting down the things which are either gone two-thirds or gone entirely.
What this practice does is give you time to finish your previous item in turn, you can search for good deals. By the time it’s nearly finished, you’ll have scrounged through every store for the best possible deal.
Create Meal Routines
Another way to be more precise about your purchases is by having days for certain food.
You could allot Monday as “meatless day” or Wednesday as “pizza night.” The day and food in question entirely depend on you.
By setting days for foods you can be more aware of what and what not to get and follow a more organized diet plan so that you can make the groceries last longer.
Create a Shopping Routine
Much like making an organized meal plan, an organized shopping spree is also beneficial.
See it like this, if you go grocery shopping the same day each week or every 2 weeks, you’ll know more about what the deals are that day, what it has, and where it is.
This way you can stay within a budget and not splurge unnecessarily by going shopping every other day. I’d also suggest you stay away from online shopping to stick to your fixed budget.
We’re all well aware of the concept of coupons. These may be pretty useful and save you money but this isn’t always the case. If all companies did was benefit the buyer, where would they make their profit from?
This is why most of the time coupons prove to be helpful. For instance, if you have a coupon for something you’ve never tried before or don’t like, you’ll still be tempted to use it anyway if you’re running low on a budget.
As for coupons with a buy one get one free offer, you can always use them to get more for less price. You may not always get to buy from your favorite brand, but you can still save money on food.
Go Shopping When There’s a Sale
Every local store has sale days. The day where they put discounted rates for multiple products. To stick to your budget; learn your store’s sale days.
How do you do so?
Easy — Most stores put out flyers and adverts to let you know of all the hot deals. Others put out newspaper adverts and billboards announcing their discounts.
It may seem unbelievable because, why would a store sell their items at a lesser price? But aside from the fact that even at a lesser price they still have a high margin, they’re also in constant competition with other stores.
By putting up discounts they encourage more sales and as a result, they get more traffic to their stores.
» Read my blog post about: 9 Easiest & Simple Tips: How-To Save $10,000 In A Year
How to Budget for Dine Outs?
You shouldn’t spend on restaurant food any more than 5% of your monthly income. This includes take-out and dine-in. For example, if your net income is $4000, you shouldn’t spend more than $200 on eating out.
I know we initially considered the entire food budget including dining out but, if we break down the costs there are multiple segments of the overall budget.
If you do want to routinely eat out, what you can do is download food apps and gain loyalty points. If you have a set list of eateries you regularly go to, then you can go when they’ve set up deals, too.
Budgeting isn’t as easy as it looks. By now it’s pretty clear food is maybe the toughest topic to budget. It all varies on personal option, taste, and situation. Whether or not you’re budgeting for one person, two, or even four. All these factors determine the likely range you should set for yourself.