Groceries & Household Food Budget
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Groceries & Household Food Budget
I am really stressing about how much we spend weekly on groceries. We are a family
of three (one of us is only 2!) and we consistently spend between $150 and $200 a
week. I only buy organic if it's one of the ''dirty dozen'' fruits and vegetables
and we are vegetarian so we don't buy meat or fish. I attempt to shop at Trader
Joes but every time I go I am so frustrated by the amount of plastic and how
everything seems to go bad two days later, making us have to spend more money
mid-week (our compost bin eats very well from Trader Joes!)
I have tried Safeway but spend the same as I spend at Whole Foods!
Does anyone have any tips for how to save money on groceries while still making
healthy, fresh choices?
Trader Joe's is the worst for produce, we've found. We get most of our stuff at
Farmer Joe's or buy frozen organic (at TJs) for expensive things like berries, which
my daughter eats like crazy. The other thing I've heard is going to the Farmer's
Markets just as they are about to close, you can walk away with really great deals
because the vendors don't want to haul as much home. We did this in Walnut Creek one
time and got a huge flat of heirloom tomatoes for free. Woo-hoo!
Thrifty but Healthy Too
Here's one little thing that helped us. I bought the green bags that help keep
veggies fresher longer. There are different brands but one is Debby's Green Bags.
You can get them at certain grocery stores and Bed, Bath and Beyond. It's about $10
for a box of about 20 bags but they are reusable so they last a while. I don't throw
away as many veggies and fruit anymore.
For a family of 4, we spend up to $120/wk on groceries (which I think is too much,
actually!). I too note that I tend to spend about the same whether I go to the
co-op, Whole Foods, TJ's or the big ''regular'' groceries (I think that's because at
WF I'm extra careful, knowing it's expensive, and think I'm getting a ''bargain'' at
other stores and so buy more. I've found I do best, health-wise and $-wise, at
co-ops (we don't live in the Bay Area anymore). I spend less when I carefully
meal-plan (don't always have time) and stick to my list, while being flexible to
take advantage of what's on sale. I'll roughly decide on choices for fruit/veggies
for the kids' lunches, but then swap out some of my choices for similar ones on
sale. I make a big pot of misra wat (Ethiopian lentils) and a spiced bean/kale/rice/
veggie dish my husband and I like (too spicy for our kids)-with a piece of fresh
fruit each day, this takes care of work lunches for the week. We eat meat/fish maybe
twice a week. My biggest saver is sticking to bulk, not packages (steel cut oats &
dried fruit/nuts for breakfast, spices, grains & beans for dinner, popcorn for
snacks, even cheese). Anything you buy in a package can be homemade (ie soup)in
quantity more cheaply or bought in bulk. Make your own bread (foccacia, tortillas
and cornbread are easy, and with whole grains, healthy). Make your motto ''buy
ingredients,'' (rather than pre-made or processed), and you'll save. TJ's is just
''play food,'' in my opinion, and the fresh stuff goes bad quickly, although it's
fun to shop there, I always end up buying stuff we don't need.
I sympathize with you about produce going bad from certain stores and it is such a
waste. I hope you will give them feedback on this problem you have encountered.
They do not source locally and transport items from around the world (''dripping
with diesel'' as M Pollan would add).
I suggest that you try the farmers' markets toward the end of their time when they
offer discounts so they don't need to take it back to the farm. Celery might be 2
for 1, lettuce may be $1 a bag, etc. Eyeball specials and modify your menu planning
And for ideas on eating on a budget, here is a post at the school where I teach on
feeding one's family using whole foods (the Eating 4 Health model):
It's long but full of ideas.
Crock pot cooking can also make eating home cooked meals easier. For ideas check out
www.chetday.com where he has a recipe for every day of the year. Making beans and
grains once a week and freezing them in meal-sized packages can make your week less
I like to make a large vegetable soup for the week, and modify it with different
protein sources and garnishes. For example, different types of beans and grains can
be added with cilantro and/or shredded cheese, chopped green onions, shredded
carrot, handfuls of fresh spinach, etc.
Personally, I also am anti-plastic and try to move my foods into glass as soon as
I hope this will work for you!
I shop at Berkeley Bowl for non-pesticide or oraganic fruits and veggies. I use
Safeway for household goods and buy whatever is on sale/ two for one etc. I use
their app for additional savings. We eat meat and have 4 to 5 with 4 of them being
growing boys or men and we spend about $800 a month on groceries assuming I'm not
buying liquor...Trader Joes doesn't ''last: well here eother and I use them for
about 5 things, Cliff bars being one of those things because they are cheaper or
their fruit and fiber leather...
We spend about the same amount on groceries as you and we also have a 2 year old.
Our diet is mostly pescetarian. We buy most of our produce from Berkeley Bowl, they
have both organic and conventional and they usually last about a week in our fridge.
For staples like bread and protein, we buy from Trader Joe's. Their produces like
you said are terrible and comes in too much packaging.
I think to spend less would require a lot more planning and buying only what we will
need for the week's menu. Set a budget and make a grocery list and stick to it. To
spend even less we would have to shop at grocery stores in Chinatown or other ethnic
grocery stores because their prices are always lower than caucasian stores.
Do you ever go to Berkeley Bowl? Since you are a vegetarian, you don't have to worry
about the high cost of meats. The vegetable selection is spectacular and there are
both organic and non-organic selections. I just paid .49 a pound for oranges and
they have small, one meal eggplants for example. They also sell bags of produce at
reduced prices. I think you could feed your family on their fruits and veggies for
much less than 150 a week.
We're a family of 3 and overall I probably spend about $100/wk. I shop mostly at
Berkeley Bowl and Grocery Outlet. Grocery Outlet I go about once a month and it
often has good deals on organic bread, cereal, frozen veg among other things. Oddly
enough Target is way cheaper on a lot of things as well - eg cheese. Also, if you
have a Costco membership (or a friend with one) it pays to go buy non-perishables in
bulk there and you can do it maybe a few times a year.
Generally my weekly mix of foods is: milk, eggs, tofu, veggies, fruit, cereal, beans
of some nature, some canned or frozen items, etc. I go for organic mostly except for
things like onions, bananas, oranges and such. We do have a garden as well but right
now I'm really just getting greens from it. If you have any space (even pots) for a
garden I highly suggest you plant some greens - they grow well here and are well
Beans and rice go a long way though, buy the beans bulk, soak and cook them and you
can keep them in the fridge for a fair amount of time. Great for a one pot meal with
veggies, nachos, burritos, soup, etc.
Hi - my husband lost his job recently so I had to reassess our $800-1000/month
grocery habit (family of 4). Here's what I have found most cost effective: Berkeley
Bowl (I go to BB West as it's less crowded) for all produce - it's SUPER cheap. The
cheapest place for dairy and canned goods is the little-known Cash & Carry, a
restaurant supply place (off the Jackson St. exit on 980) in Oakland (meat is cheap
too but like Costco, you have to buy enough for an army). And I go to Trader Joe's
for things like fancier cheese, squeeze yogurts, pasta, bread, peanut butter, and
crackers because they have healthier versions of processed food. You're lucky you
don't eat meat, that really adds to the cost, but I buy the cheapest slow-cooker
type meat at Safeway and we eat a lot of pulled pork. We are down to $125/week now.
It's a hassle to shop at multiple stores, but it's the only way to save $$ since
places like Safeway draw you in with some deals but make up for it with higher
prices on the other things they hope you buy for convenience. Hope this helps!!
We spend about that for a family of five (but one is an baby) and I think we
probably could get ours down more. My husband takes lunch every day to work, we eat
out maybe once a week. We are not vegetarian, and buy expensive grass fed or
pastured meat. It has been a learning experience. One is that I don't shop for
specific dishes, instead the other way around. I buy what is the freshest, cheapest,
and cook from there. I also buy almost nothing processed, even bread. The markup for
someone else to make the food, package it, get it to the grocery, etc. is steep. I
haggle at the farmer's market and a lot of the time it works. A lot of vendors at
the farmers market don't use pesticides but don't want to pay for organic
certification and their produce is cheaper. Also, we eat pretty simple food.
Roasted chicken, rice and veggies, for example (I know you don't eat meat but just
an example). Once a week I will make a fancier meal maybe. Good luck!
I save a lot of money at Safeway by fully using the club card deals. I try to buy
only sale items (usually store brand) there and succeed about 80% of the
time--sometimes I'm out of a crucial item. I also signed up online so I get the
personalized deals and coupons through my card. I periodically get $5 or $10 off
coupons from them too, or cents off per gallon for use at their gas stations (saved
I also shop multiple stores and know my deals/what I buy at each. For example, my
family likes the expensive Raisin Nut Bran cereal and all four of us eat it. It's
been as high as $6 at Safeway, but I buy it at Target for $3-$4 every time plus they
give me a $2 off coupon for the next five boxes every time. I buy five boxes most
times that I go (we go through about a box a day, yikes!) and keep the cycle going.
It's one of our few name-brand purchases so it's worth it.
Curious to hear others' advice!
Tty the Monterey Market on Hopkins Street and Monterey in Berkeley. They are open
7 days a week, have a wonderful selection of fresh produce, prices OK. No
packaging. They carry mainly local, fresh produce, much of it organic. Great
place to food shop!
Monterey Market has the best prices on produce by a mile. But don't tell anyone
else - it's already too crowded
Hi - I would recommend trying Grocery Outlet. There is a store in Berkeley, and a
larger store in Oakland. There is supposed to be a new store opening in the
Richmond area. If you want to buy organic produce I would recommend the store in
Oakland. The store in Berkeley doesn't seem to have much produce, or the same
quality. It is not a regular grocery store in the sense that you they always have
to same products at every visit. They have products in almost every category, but
if you are attached to certain brands then you may need to get these items
elsewhere. They get products that for some reason are ''left'' with the
manufacturer after orders are completed. For instance, they seem to have bread from
several local bakeries (many of them organic products) that likely was an
overproduction. They often have organic frozen and canned goods such as ''Annie's
organics.'' There are also more mainstream options and staples. It's a little like
a treasure hunt. The prices are really good for most products. I recommend
stocking up when you find something you like at a great price. For instance they
had a very good quality organic coffee on one visit, and I bought several packages
because they may not have anything that good on the next trip. A lot of people hit
up the stores for alcohol. They often have great deals on wine. At least it would
be worth a trip to check out the stores if you are looking to save some money on
groceries. It will also likely take a little more time to shop, as the inventory
will be different from visit to visit.
For our similar family, we spend about $100-$125/week, and I buy all organic
- Produce: I shop at Berkeley bowl west once a week for produce. Before going, I
make a list based on seasonal produce- to know this, I look to see what
farmfreshtoyou.com would deliver in a small box, and I add those items to my grocery
list. At Berkeley bowl, I also check out any sale produce and may make some
substitutions, but I've found the seasonal produce is the least expensive. I also
sometimes get yogurt, oj, bread and meat. I've found that the amount of produce
listed for the small box is what we eat in one week, so hardly anything goes to
waste, as long as I cook the produce in the order of what will go bad first. I've
found the produce to be fresh and last the week for the most part.
- cheese/meat: for fancy stuff, I'll get these at Trader Joes and freeze some so I'm
not always running around to a million places. I go TJs about once every 2 months.
- nonperishables, household, canned, milk, cheese, eggs, oj, frozen: I go to Safeway
a couple times a month, but before going, I use the just for you app to add coupons
to my card. If the item is on sale and I have a coupon, I'll buy a few to stock up.
- Costco: a few times a year we do costco for grains, nuts, frozen, canned and
household items and they last a long time.
When anything is on sale, we try to stock up- the savings add up. We use our
garage, pantry and freezer a lot.
On a budget
Try Food Maxx! Way cheaper prices and surprisingly awesome produce section! I go the
one in San Pablo.
Food Maxx fan!
Hi! I'd like to put in a plug for Phat Beets Produce--we buy their CSA's half-share
every week for $15 (I think the full share is $25), and get several meals' worth of
high-quality organic produce. As a bonus, I feel really good about spending my money
on Phat Beets since they support small farmers and food justice programs.
If you're interested, learn more at phatbeetsproduce.org
Produce from Berkeley Bowl or Monterey Market, everything else from Trader
Joe's. We buy milk from Whole Foods sometimes, because the price is the same
as at TJ's, but otherwise we avoid both Whole Foods and Safeway.
Frugal but partially organic mom
I've usually shopped for groceries at TJs, with trips to
Target for non-food items, but am wondering if it's cheaper
to use a combination of Costco,Food Max,Grocery Outlet,
Luckys or Safeway, in addition to TJs. I really need to
figure out how to save money on food shopping but don't want
to make a million trips, run around to different stores with
coupons, or buy products that are really mediocre. I've
given up the easy stuff for me - buying organic, buying
coffee from Peets,lunches out at work. Does anyone have a
system that works well for them? Freezing meat from Costco,
getting non-perisables from XXX store, etc? My husband just
lost his job, and I'm trying to figure out the best way to
feed a family of four, including 2 teenage boys, on our
suddenly-reduced income. Thanks BPN!
With a small time investment you can create a price book
which will serve as an extremely useful tool. Basically
you make a list of the main groceries you buy, then note
the price per unit. You can figure this out over several
shopping trips to your regular store. Then check out the
same info from other stores.
A price book allows you to figure out which stores
regularly carry items at the lowest prices. You can also
then tell whether a sale is really a bargain or not (many
of them are not.) You can check the weekly flyers to see
where the good bargains are. Many foods are either
nonperishable or can be frozen, so you can stock up and
not be constantly running from store to store.
I did this for years, and now that I have the basic info
in my head I divide my shopping like this:
Weekly shopping for produce, bulk food and some dairy -
Quarterly shopping for canned goods, dry goods and
condiments - Trader Joes
Quarterly shopping for household products - Target
Flour, sugar and Goldfish - Safeway
I sometimes go to Walgreens, CVS or Lucky if I spot a good
I use Costco and Foodmax, period. Sorry, but as a single
mom with 3 food eating monsters, I find Trader Joes too
The food is less expensive at the stores I mentioned and
perfectly good quality.
First of all, sorry for the loss of your husband's job and the added stress
that can cause. There are defintely ways to cut back though, I noticed a
huge difference in my grocery bills when I began to plan my meals around
what is on sale.
I predominantly shop at Safeway and use the weekly mailer (also available
for view online) to work out a rough menu based on what I have at home
and need to use and what's on sale. When there is a particularly good price
on something then I buy a bit more than usual to freeze. Or if the organic
milk is on sale, I'll buy the big one, etc. I have cut coupons for there, but
you can load them on to your club card online as well...even email yourself
a shopping list. I believe that they even have an app now! And quite frankly,
the guy in the meat dept is pretty nice and has said that they appreciate my
business...nobody has said that to me at Whole Foods or Farmer Joe's.
Farmer Joes and Berkeley Bowl have the best produce prices, but I don't
shop there regularly. If I know that my list is mostly fruits and veggies or if I
want something special (I.e. from the bulk bins or fancy beer) then I go
there though. I still shop at TJs sometimes for the things that I like and it's
very close to my house. They generally have great prices on cheeses,
sandwich/toast bread, coffee, wine.
I've found that Costco is great for some things (maybe since you have
teens), but I often get the same value at regular grocery stores if I shop the
sales and I don't have room to freeze 5 lbs of pork loin if I want to make
chili verde one night! And forget about buying tortillas there unless you
want to share with your whole neighborhood. I may not renew my
Also, slow cooker meals and meals where you can stretch the meat are
good to make: chili (serve on pasta w/cheddar for kids), arroz con pollo, stir
frys and curries are all meals where I can get away with using a lot less
meat and nobody notices. And with braising or slow cooking you can use
cheaper cuts of meat and they become tender and don't dry out (I.e. thighs
vs breasts or tougher cuts of beef).
I have four kids...so I completely know what it's like! My
best advice is to plan out your meals every week. I avoid
places like Safeway or similar. I avoid any isles in the
middle of these stores if I have to go in since they are all
frozen, convenience food and chips (highly overpriced).
I shop Costco for meat/fish/lunchbox items (granola bars,
deli meat.. etc). I mainly do TJ's and then the local
farmer's market for fruit/veg, etc.
I try to incorporate some of the items that I've bought or
have been in the fridge for a while into other meals (like
scallions or some potatoes that need to be used up).
Personally, I don't generally use coupons because I just
don't have the time to keep track, but if you're more
organized, then even better!
I cook a lot of bean soups and stews...stuff I can freeze.
I make a lot of mexican food--beans, corn tortillas, a meat
and a salad. These kinds of foods work well for frugality!
I read the post in 2008 about what people spend on
groceries, but we're almost in 2012. Food costs are quite
high these days and continue to rise (due to farmers
planting cotton over food crops and other agricultural
issues in Asia).
We are curious about how much people spend these days in
Berkeley for food.
My husband and I have been having discussions about how much
we should really spend each month on groceries. I know it's
different for everyone, but if you are a family of four with
2 small children and eat very organically and possibly shop
mainly at Berkeley Bowl, Whole Foods and sometimes Farmers
markets, what is the price range you spend each month for
Thank you in advance...
My family is similar to yours, 2 adults and 2 young children. We also eat mostly
organic, avoid processed food, etc. Our weekly bill ranges from $120-160 and
that includes us eating at home 5-6 nights a week and several lunches and
snacks. While it is pricy it is worth it as the quality is good (mostly Berkeley Bowl,
some TJ's) and I know my kids are eating well. I am thankful to have such
excellent organic produce, dairy & meat to choose from.
Likes good food
I have a family of 3 (2 adults, one 2-year old girl). We buy
mostly organic and mostly from Trader Joes. We also belong
to a CSA.
The CSA is $100/month and we spend about $125/week at Trader
Joes for a grand total of $600-800/month. This is on
groceries only. We eat out maybe 1-2x/month.
I recently have been feeling that this is too high and am
considering buying less organic food. I am also trying to
grow my own vegetables (failing miserably, but still
trying), cook more (with cheaper foods such as pasta, beans,
rice, etc.), but it doesn't seem to be making a big
difference in the cost.
Paying a fortune for food!
We are the exact family that you describe, and we spend north of
$1,000/month. Shocking, but true. This is because we are committed to eating
organically and farmers markets are more expensive than Berkeley Bowl. I also
make and can my own produce, vs. buying cans. I bake vs. buying a bag of
cookies, etc. As a concession, we don't eat out much, which helps. Before kids,
we spent the same, but ate out more.
With 2 adults and one teenager we spend about $600.00 to
$800.00 per month. I shop at Trader Joes, El Cerrito
Natural Grocery and Berkeley Bowl mostly. We eat organic
produce, grass fed beef, frozen meals from TJ's, gluten
free breads, goat dairy....It's definately possible to
spend less, but with our dietary needs and choices, this
When my older son was home, (and when he comes home from
college), add about $200.00 to the above.
I am curious about how much other families spend on groceries
every month. We are a family of 4 (kids are 7 and 4) and we
don't eat out a lot (2-3x month) and we pack lunches for the
kids and sometimes for ourselves. We spend about $700 a month
on groceries. We do try to buy quality foods (organic produce,
dairy and meat) but we avoid a lot of packaged foods. So is
this what others spend? Are we a lot higher or just a little
we spend 585/month. not incl eating out as a family (which
amongst other activities comes out of our fun budget -
400/month) or eating out as an individual (which comes out
of our own personal weekly spending money). we have a 7yo
& 2yo. hope that helps. we determined our budget
guidelines using dave ramsey's free budget calculator. go
to www.daveramsey.com and try it out. he gives suggested
ranges for food, transportation, housing, etc.
Food has gone up. We are Safeway shopper-types (we use
Trader Joes too. Most of our weekly food bill is on fruits
We're a family of 3, with a growing 8-year-old boy. We
spend about $600/month. But that doesn't include ANY HABA
(health and beauty aids i.e. tp, pt's, etc.)
I spend at least that for a family of 4, and I don't even
cook that often. I do pack my lunch & one child's lunch. I
do buy heavily organic, and any meat I do buy is also
organic. Lots of veggies, fruit, and this does not even
include our eating-out budget. Mine is typically $850 a
month - granted, there are some more expensive items mixed
in like protein drinks, and some cleaning products, but even
if I strip that out it's $700.
I try hard not to buy ''junky'' food - no mac n cheese, no
basic/white bread, no frozen kids meals/etc. Organic eggs
cost 3x regular eggs, but I want the organic ones. Same with
milk, cheese, yogurt. I might buy store brand on some chips
or crackers occasionally, but otherwise I don't.
I know you can definitely get away with much lower food
bills if you are willing to cook from scratch all of the
time (I just don't have time) or eat the highly processed
stuff, but it's a choice.
I am so glad you asked this question. I have been so
curious about this topic myself. We just moved back after
a year in England and I am flabbergasted at how much we
spend on groceries - it seems like much more than just a
year ago. I have a family of 5 (two teens and a 9 yr old)
and my husband and I take our lunches most days. We go out
1-2 x per week. I spend, on average, about $400 per week
on groceries, not including our meals out. I get my
staples at Safeway and buy meat and some specialty items
at Whole Foods (my daughter is vegetarian). One of my
friends feeds her family on $200 per week and for the life
of me I can't figure out how.
So glad you asked
Hi, we are also a family of four with a 5 and 7 year old. I
get an organic vegetable box from Full Belly Farm. I mostly
shop at Trader Joe's with Safeway as a backup. We used to do
Costco, but overall, I didn't see any cost savings going
that route. I never bought produce there so most of the food
we'd buy in bulk were processed junk. It is a fact that food
prices have skyrocketed. I was spending about $150/wk and
now I can't seem to get it below $200. I also cook most
meals from scratch and my friends joke that I would have
made a great depression-era wife. We don't eat out much, buy
very little packaged food, etc. I think you are in the
ballpark. Because most coupons are for packaged/processed
junk, it sounds like you're doing the minimum you can. We do
drink wine and tend to buy about 2 bottles a week, and I try
to limit it to $10 or less. So, without the wine, I'm in
your range. One thing we have been doing: about every five
or six weeks we spend a week not buying anything but bread
and milk and we force ourselves to eat anything that's still
hanging around. It cuts down the grocery bill, gets the
pantry cleaned out and offers me a challenge for cooking (we
still get the weekly veggie/fruits). If anyone else has a
secret, let me know.
GREAT question - thanks for posting. We're also a 4 person
family (mom, dad, boys 7 & 10). Every weekend we spend
between $135 and $150 for groceries at Berkeley Bowl. We
usually spend another $20 to $40 for milk, eggs, bread,
fruit from Trader Joe's during the week. So, that's
between $155 and $190. Additional details: We have meat
maybe 3 times a week. We all pack our lunches every day.
We eat out very rarely (maybe twice a month as a family, at
taquerias & etc.) We don't buy too much organic fruit I'm
sorry to say. The kids are in public school in Berkeley so
they have the 'free breakfast' (which I'm not a fan of) and
some kind of after school snack. Interested in other
I Am Curious Veggie
When I was trying to figure out a budget for my family, I
found this pretty informative:
It's a budget calculator that takes into account location
and family size. It lists the MINIMUM food bill cost that
meets a family's minimal nutritional needs. For me (a single
parent) and my child that is $320/month. My budget is $75-80
each week for groceries and then I eat out about 1-2 times
each month for under $30. We eat grass-fed, pastured, and/or
organic meat; wild-caught fish (usually canned); organic or
pesticide-free fruits and vegetables; yogurt and cheese; nut
butters; lots of whole grains; legumes. I generally prepare
my own beans and make my own hummus, refried beans, etc. We
eat well, but it involves foregoing most prepared foods and
cooking more from scratch. I personally find a $400/month
budget and another $100/month for eating out preferable. I
get a few more prepared foods for easy meals and can indulge
in a couple of expensive items. Hopefully you'll get some
families the same size as yours helping out with info about
frugal but well fed shopper
We are a family of four; kids are 6 and 4. We spend
approximately $1,000 on food per month. We used to spend
even more, but I have learned how to cut expenses here and
there. We live in Marin.
I truly wish I could figure out how people get by on less.
We do not buy alcohol and stay away from most processed
and convenience foods, keep expensive meats to a minimum,
etc. I plan meals in advance and cook/prepare 6 out of 7
meals per week at home, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I
buy in bulk at Costco when I can (bread, fruit, etc.) I
also have a home garden and can/pickle etc. although this
really doesn't put a dent in the food budget.
So I want to learn how you spend so much LESS than I do!
We are a family of 4 (kids 5 and 2) and our weekly grocery bill is between $100
and $125, and we eat out 2x a week (another $50 or so - we are not eating out
at fancy places, just friendly neighborhood places that don't mind little kids!)
So altogether we spend about $600 a month on food.
seems on track to me
That seems really high to me. We shop at the neighborhood co-
op, which isn't cheap, and farmer's markets (sometimes TJ's),
but I try not to spend more than $100/week for our family of
4. Typically, it's been more around $120 lately, but that
includes some bulk laundry soap, etc. I've wanted to cut costs
myself but I know some things I do are: not much meat, no
premade and very few packaged foods, meal planning, mostly
produce, bulk foods and dairy, buying the cheapest brand of
anything with a brand, making lots of stuff myself (granola,
bread, etc.). We're on a budget and I do the best I can to
provide healthy food-I find staying out of ''regular'' grocery
stores is actually cheaper (more attracted to the yummy-
looking produce at the co-op, which is decently priced). I'll
be interested to hear others' ideas.
cheap but healthy
Our family of 4 (two adults, one 3 yo and one baby) probably
also spends in the $700 range on groceries & food per month.
Seems like a lot, doesn't it?!
Your number sounds right in there. We are a family of 4
with two growing boys. I always budget between 600 and 800
a month for groceries. I try and keep it to 600 when our
finances are tight but it's hard. Also, that does not
include the school lunches that we buy which add another
70-100 a month.
I haven't kept a precise tally of how much we spend (and
don't budget at all - bad me), but most people replying with
how much they spent for a family of four said somewhere
between 600-1000/month. Do the math, folks, That's about
$5-$8.30 per person per day (on average). I know it adds
up, and some people make do on much less, but that doesn't
really sound like a lot to me for three meals worth of good
I have 2 kids, 13 and 10, and until last year was spending
about $150-160/week at Berkeley Bowl, buying mostly organic
produce, eating dinner out about once a week. This year,
buying exactly the same items now costs about $200/week. So
it sounds like your family is a lot like mine.
I am in a constant dilemma on how to save money on our grocery
bill. We are a family of 3 and my toddler no longer needs diapers
except at night. We generally spend about $1000-1200 a month on
groceries and eating out about once every 10 days. I know this is
much more than average, and larger families are able to spend
less. Please help me understand your strategies, what you buy,
where you buy it, etc. We have a second child on the way and I
really want to get this under control before he arrives. Thank You!
drowning in grocery bills
I'm not sure where you live, so some of this may not be
applicable, but here's what we do-- we live in N. Berkeley and
I do all of our groc shopping at Monterey Mkt, Safeway, and/or
Trader Joe's. Andronico's and Whole Foods are way overpriced in
my opinion--and I personally find Berkeley Bowl overwhelming,
and i end up buying more than I need (same at Costco). I always
plan meals ahead of time for the week and bring a list with me.
If there are items on sale which we always use, I stock up when
I can. I think it helps to reduce any extra trips to store
because you may be more liable to impulse buys. Planning ahead
also cuts down on going out to eat and take out, bcs you know
what you are going to make ahead of time and have all that you
need. Once you get into the habit, it's really not that hard
and cuts down on that evening stress. Also, we try to focus our
buying power on those organic foods that matter more and rarely
eat meat. Good luck.
This probably isn't the news you're looking for, but if you and
your family (like mine) focus primarily on organic and/or local
fruits and veggies and high quality meat and dairy products, I
think your bill looks about right! My toddler eats nearly as
much as we do at this point some days - and I figure focusing
on healthy food is worth the cost, even if it means less of
some other ''fun'' stuff. I'm curious if other people manage to
spend a lot less without sacrificing food quality.
Spend $1K/month on groceries, too
If you are trying to save money ,there is a couple of
suggestions that can help.
Plan your meals weekly and create shopping lists. Then when you
are in the store you are more likely to buy stuff that you
actually need.( Now since I plan our meals, I stop overbuying
and throwing a lot of food).
Make at least one day a week a vegetarian meal, it's a lot
heathier and cheaper too!
Shop at Monterey Market weekly for your fresh vegetables and
fruit, Ranch in Albany for sea food, its a lot cheaper than
Safeway or Andronico's.
Have you been to the Grocery Outlet (one on University at 4th,
and there's another in Oakland near auto-row)???
I'm a strictly organic consumer, and they have TONS of organic
stuff at half the price of whole foods - but the stock turns over
fast and they never have the same thing twice.
Here's my strategy - go to the Grocery Outlet and see what they
have, after that I fill in from Costco, and Trader Joe's - both
of whom carry organic meats now! Then the Farmer's Market, then
for those last few items - Whole Foods.
Going to the Farmer's Markets can be dangerous - as everything
looks good. To avoid buying produce that will just go bad, I plan
the vegetable meals ahead of time.
Love to Grocery Shop!
That is way, WAY more than you need to spend. My family of 4
spends $100 a week on groceries (up from $75 after moving out of
the Bay Area), and I think even this is too much. Here are some
suggestions to cut costs:
*I assume much of your cost goes to meat. Eat less meat-work
with alternatives like tofu, beans, eggs, etc. and dishes that
use meat more as a condiment-stir frys, salads, etc.
*Buy more whole foods-ie bulk couscous instead of boxed seasoned
rice, for example. Bulk is in general a good option.
*Meal plan and only buy what you intend to cook/prepare for the
*Make a list and stick to it-however-if something you intended
to buy that week is pricey that week, substitute with something
*You can, of course, limit the amount you eat out, eat at less
expensive places, or limit what you get when you go out.
*Stay away from bottled water, soda, etc.
*Stay away from prepared foods.
*If you're buying lunch out at work, this is a big money-suck.
Eat leftovers, sandwiches, veggies/fruit/cheese/rice cake, etc.
We too are always trying to save money. Our amost 2 year old
eats as much for dinner as I do for lunch and I am a good
eater. We shop at 3 or 4 different stores. We get milk,
cheese, bread and some fruits from Costco, other fruit and
vegetables from a local grocer, Monterey Market in Berkeley and
then meats and misc at Lucky or Safeway. There are specific
items we get at Trader Joe's too, like spinach, pizza dough, and
misc meats. We spend about $600/mo on food but don't supply our
toddler with lunch at this point. We both eat lunch from home
daily and eat out only on holidays and special occasions. It's
work but worth it.
I see the newsletter moderator included a link to past
discussions, but I also wanted to include this link on general
My strongest suggestion would be to make a price list/book. For
each item you buy, track the price per unit of that item at each
of the stores you shop at. Make notes about whether or not the
item was on sale, etc. You may be very surprised to find that you
can save quite a bit by shuffling where you buy what. Also, if
you favor brands, try store brands instead. Bulk buy on items you
use a lot. Do limit eating out if you can. Perhaps try an
Entertainment book for coupons for restaurants if you do keep
eating out. We are a family of 4 that spends ~$400/month for
food,toiletries, and such. This includes some organics. I am
trying to make this an average of $300 and know I can do it.
It doesn't help that prices for everything are going up right
now, but this is what I do:
1) meal plan. I just figure out what we'll want for the next two
weeks. First week is firm, next week is a bit more flexible, but
at least I have something down. And I just write down seven
meals, so if it is Tuesday and we don't want XYZ, but ABC, it is
2) Save your receipts for a month. Look at what you buy, and how
much it costs. Make a spreadsheet with the prices, add them up.
3) I'll take out the cash for groceries. This way, unless there
is like a mega sale on something, I will not overspend my budget.
If I have something left over, then we can get a coffee :) so I
have incentive to underspend.
4) It is just as easy to spend $90 dollars on groceries as it is
to spend $100, so look at your spreadsheet, and add the stuff up
for the meals you've planned before you go to the store. This
way you will not be surprised.
It really helps to eat meatless meals at least 4 X a week. We
are on such a strict budget, and this has worked really well for
us. Yes, some nights it is beans and rice, but I really like
beans and rice.
I shop at trader joe's for grocery items, berkeley bowl for bulk
stuff, and Alameda Marketplace or farmer's market for produce.
We are a family of 5!
Happy are ye poor.
I have been reading the recent posts and responses about
cutting costs and have a question about food budgets. We are a
family of 3 (my husband and I have a 16 month old daughter)
that like to eat well but find that we are spending TOO MUCH
money on food each month. We generally try to eat all organic
products, grass fed meat, pastured eggs, raw milk, etc. but are
finding that we cannot make ends meet each month and it always
seems to be traced to our food buying. How much do all of you
out there think is a reasonible amount to spend on food (not
including eating out) per month? $600? $800? $1000? $1200 HELP!
We are a family of four (2 & 3 year old). Our budget for grocery (not
alcohol or eating out) is $650 month. We often go over, but
occasionally come in
under so it averages out. We do organic milk, eggs and dairy, get about
our fruits, veggies and meat organic. We shop a lot at Trader Joes and
eat much snack/junk food. It's tough staying at that amount, but it is
big challenge is entertaining - that is usually what sends us over.
Trying to Budget
I have a different view.
Quite simply, high-quality food is high cost. It's a lifestyle
choice. Isn't investing in your current and future health worth
it? Shouldn't we put a larger value on nourishing ourselves than
paying for cable, movie rentals, cool shoes, etc? Ask yourself
what exactly is your money *for*? That's how I got from
super-cheap miser to big-spendah organic-eater.
Maybe we shouldn't look to skimp on quality, but reframe it in
our minds to be ''This is an appropriate use of money''. I
frequently struggle financially, but I made the choice to buy the
best quality, and I will only skimp if I truly don't have the
If you want to keep the quality but not go broke, heavily shop
bulk aisles and prepare from scratch as much as you can make the
time to do so. Decrease packaged foods. From scratch saves a ton
of money, but is time-consuming. Preparing a good portion of the
week's meals over the weekend makes it easier to accomplish this.
As a single person, I'm spending between $200-300 on organic food
per month. This is with some convenience items but mostly thigns
I work to pay for my food! ;-)
Unfortunately, if you are going to eat organic, grass-fed, etc.
it's going to be expensive. I shop around to different stores
and buy in bulk, and it's still expensive eating this way. My
mother-in-law has a great view of it though: eating well and
taking vitamins, etc. is like insurance. You pay now expecting
that you will live longer and healthier as a result. You are
buying more than food. So, this is an expensive life-style.
All I can say is try to buy in bulk and shop around to get the
best prices. (I actually don't know what we spend on groceries
so I can't give you a number.)
Hi - Our food budget is $650 for a family of 4 with a 4-yr old
& a 2.5-year old. Our food budget includes everything I buy at
the grocery store, like diapers & general household stuff. We
shop at Trader Joe's & Albertsons & sometimes at farmers
markets. Virtually everything I buy at Albertsons (mostly
staple items) is on sale & I also use coupons. Our Grocery
Budget is 13% of our monthly expenditures. (Our monthly
expenses don't include big ticket items such as: 401K, ROTH,
health/car/home insurance, vacation, property tax, home
improvement...which we have on a separate yearly budget.)
Also, our dining budget is $100 a month. Anyway it's all about
priorities. If one wants to eat foods (whether it be orgainic,
exotic or simply a lot of meat) that can be expensive, simply
budget for it & cut elsewhere as needed. We found a great Excel
spreedsheet budget online at:
It includes all the formulas & all we had to do was delete &
customize some of the line itmes & fill in our numbers. It
took about 6 mos of keeping track of every penny we spent to
get a realistic budget with accurate numbers in each line
items. Good Luck.
Keep buying organic, locally grown food for your family. Save money
by not buying junk, and staying out of the mall.
Spend as much on food as you need to stay happy and healthy and to
earth for your kids. This is what money is FOR.
I would estimate about $500 ($125 per week)on groceries. I
actually don't spend more than this and am not on a budget.
I try to spend $60-75/week at the grocery store (Berkeley Bowl,
Farmer Joe's or Trader Joe's) for my family of 4. Often I make
it, other times the food bill is around $100. I wouldn't want
to spend any more than that. We eat meat 1-2/x week, buy a lot
in bulk, buy the ''least expensive'' brand of whatever that is
still healthy, and avoid a lot of processed or prepared food
(other than crackers, garden burgers, spaghetti sauce and
several other exceptions). We also try to plan what we'll eat
(within reason) so we're not throwing out spoiled food. We
never go hungry. (:
I don't have any advice, but I can tell you that for a family of
4 (two kids 3 and under), we spend between $600-$800/month on
groceries alone, usually closer to $600. I find it staggering
myself and would like to cut back. My ideas are -- not too much
meat, grass fed beef is quite expensive, limit wine purchases to
sales, at least one night a week of pasta or another inexpensive
dish and make sure that we really eat all that I buy in a given
week. I'll be interested to see what others say.
Hard to say how much to spend on food. We spend maybe $200-400
a month on food (not including eating out). And this covers
basically breakfast and dinner for my husband, myself, and our
11 month old son. We mostly eat out for lunch at work, and once
My philosophy is that you are what you eat, so we try to eat
well and we save on other things but not on food. But there is
shopping wisely too. We buy what's on sale, and we only buy
what we are going to cook immediately that day. That is, no
stockpiling because it just goes bad if we don't find the time
to cook later. We try to buy organic, but not everything. We
weigh the added cost versus the benefit. For example, for fruit
that we will peel, we don't buy organic. For milk, we buy milk
that is hormone and antibiotic free instead of organic. Once it
is labeled ''organic'' the price goes up. I buy in bulk at Costco
for things we consume quickly and a lot of such as organic
yogurt which comes out to $0.79 each cup as opposed to $1.59/cup
at the supermarket, and bread. I also make my own baby food, so
I don't have to pay the high prices of baby food. Cut out the
snack, the cups of coffee, the soft drinks; you'll be amazed at
how much these things add up.
good food IS expensive. i think we (2 adults, 2 little kids)
might spend 1,000 - 1,500/month (some is for supplements like cod
liver oil, probiotics, etc. we deal with allergies/leaky gut).
we avoid wheat, so it gets more expensive. stores don't put grass
fed meats (etc.) on sale. organic fruit is $3/# or more at
farmers markets. i could save more if i never bought prepared
foods (eg $4 for 6oz of organic millet-rice crackers, but at
least she eats them!), but then it's a time/money trade off. we
grow some foods that aren't space hogs, like pole beans, basil
(for frozen pesto), cucumbers, lettuce, and sungold tomatoes
($3/basket, and i get ?100 baskets from my one humongous plant).
i figure i save money on dr. bills and am investing in my
family's future health, so i budget for high food bills, and
We are a family of 4 with 2 adults and kids ages 11 & 7 (good
eaters!). We spend $600-650 on food every month (I charge all
to the same card so have a clear record, which includes eating
out about 3-4 times a month).
We only buy certified organic food (except for eating out) b/c
this is the only kind of food where we can know exactly what
we're putting in our body (no Safeway tomatoes containing pig
genes or strawberies containing fish genes!). We never bought
any junk food.
To stay within our budget (we do!) we comparison shop between
Trader Joe's & Farmer Joe's, and buy the cheapest organic there
is. We usually cook from scratch.
I just wanted to point out that food is actually relatively
cheaper now than it was 35 years ago. Relatively
cheaper in the sense that it is a smaller portion of our overall budget.
For example, my mom spent as much on food each month as she did on the
(If I did that, I'd be having caviar and champagne every night.) And
we NEVER ate out.
Wow. I want to commend all the folks who are feeding their
families on $650 or less a month. Just to give another
perspective, it costs between $800 and $1000 a month to feed my
family of five. We buy very little processed food, but most of
our produce and protein (eggs, tofu, meat) come from the farmer's
market which definitely adds to the cost -- the trade off is that
we have peace of mind about the quality and (hopefully) safety of
our food and we are helping to keep our local food chain healthy.
For other staples, we generally go to Trader Joe's where organic
dairy is cheap and plentiful.
I firmly believe that eating organic, local, sustainable, unprocessed food
have to break a family budget. Orgnaic foods frequently cost more than
organic counterparts, but I think what kills most budgets is processed and
"organic" items. If you buy your own ingredients and cook your own food,
get by on far less each week than if you ate the cheapest stuff you could
There's a strategy to healthful foraging, though. If you are shopping for
at Whole Foods, you are going to pay a premium for most items. A CSA
to a local farm will bring you a bounty of fresh produce every week at a
Whole Food's price. It's also coming to you directly from the farm, with
everything picked that day or the day before, so quality is unparalleled.
infinitely fresher and more flavorful from a CSA box than from a grocery
Farmer's markets are another good way to go.
Grassfed meat can also be sourced directly from the farm and if you buy a
a cow, you will pay just dollars per pound for your meat. You'll need
and you'll have to get over any prejudice you might have against frozen
really just fine.
Also, using left over bones from roast chickens, beef, etc... for stock is
a big money
saver. You can throw them in the freezer, then do a huge batch at once to
Stock goes back in the freezer in portion-sized containers for when you
If you are getting pasture-raised eggs, which fetch a premium price, think
using them as a nice evening supper. The French do it, and no one eats
right? We do: omelets, frittatas, quiche, and chopped hard-boiled eggs in
The cooked egg dishes are a wonderful way to use up left-over produce.
It's also a
fast-food meal for hurried evenings.
Vegetable soups make a great, low-cost evening meal and provide left-overs
lunch. They too can be made in large batches and frozen for future use.
It's a simple
process of sautiing onions/shallots in oil, adding vegetables stock and
cooking until soft and either pureeing or eating chunky.
Dried beans, which can be put to soak in the fridge the night before, are
incredibly cheap source of protein. If prepared properly, no one will feel
as if they
are budget food.
On that note, our big splurge is on high quality condiments; a little bit
goes far to
making humble foods taste fantastic. Simple bean salads taste like
food. A drizzle of nice oil over pasta with some sautied vegetables makes
meal. Good mustards, oil and acids make for great vinaigrettes.
You can grow some of your own basics, too, even with very little outdoor
reasonable herb garden can be done in planters and a small lemon tree in a
container can keep you going for several months of the year.
Prepared breakfast cereals are an almost obscenely priced, budget breaker.
read the contents of even the "healthy" breakfast cereals you'll find that
mostly corn, soy by-products and sweeteners; things we all need much less
our diets. Find other, more healthful alternatives for breakfast like:
fruits, even whole grain French toast.
And yes, it sounds like this takes a lot of time. It does take some
organizing and dedication. But it sounds to me like you already believe
this way of
eating to be worthwhile. Doing more of your own cooking can become a whole
family project. Even little ones can get in on the action, and teaching
to cook resourcefully seems like an invaluable lesson. Many things can be
in advance. It's easy to build up a cache of frozen items you can heat on
We're still new to this process, too!
Greetings. My husband and I are trying to develop a food budget for our
household of two adults and two elementary school kids and - surprise,
surprise - we have a substantial difference of opinion (by a couple of
hundred dollars) on what it costs to feed this brood per month. I'm hoping
other families might weigh in with what you spend, per month, on groceries
and, if possible, on dining out. Thanks in advance for your input.
I just did a budget for us so I can tell you what we
spend on each, averaged out over 5 months. We are two
adults, one elementary aged child and one preschol
grocery shopping - $700 per month
eating out - $200 per month
We're worked really hard to keep the eating out
expenses lower which increases the grocery store
expenses. We buy lots of organic stuff and other
health-type foods which are a bit more expensive.
We use the Bay Area Organic Express (The BOX 415-695-9688) produce home
delivery service. For the amount of food we need to feed our family of
three and tons of guests, it costs $150.00 a month. Since I pay for
this service, I'll be damned if I let this delicious food go to waste.
I cook at home much more, I am an expert at inventing meals BECAUSE I
ALWAYS HAVE FRESH PRODUCE ON HAND!, and I am super inventive about using
leftovers. To round out my food needs, I shop at Costco, Trader Joes,
and finally a little market around the corner. Ultimately, we eat out
less and healthier too!
We are a family of 4: two adults, 1 teen, 1 baby. Both adults work
long hours so saving time is more important to us than saving
money. We cook dinner 4-5 times a week, mostly from scratch, lunches
are deli coldcuts and frozen dinners, and everybody eats cold cereal
for breakfast at home. We entertain friends and indigent relatives a
few times a month, and gangs of teenagers sometimes raid our fridge.
Our grocery bill (at the Bowl & Andronicos) is usually $200/week which
includes soda, beer & wine, diapers, formula. We eat out / take out
2-3 times a week costing another $120 or so. Coffee, bakery,
drugstore items are probably another $150. So our total bill is
about $1500 a month. -- anonymous
For our family of 4, we spend about $600 a month on groceries, we mostly
shop at safeway, albertsons and trader joes. We eat out very little:
less than $100 a month.
We are a household of 2 adults and 2 boys, 6 and 11. In a month we spend on
an average $1,000. per month. I shop mostly at Berkeley Bowl, sometimes
Raleys and sometimes (in a pinch) El Cerrito Natural Grocery or Andronicos.
We buy mostly organic foods. Produce, grains, breads, meats, etc. Any meat or
poultry is as clean as I can get, which costs more than Safeway or Albertsons
meat. I buy salmon a few times per month. We eat a meat, chicken or fish most
nights of the week....lots of vegies.
I almost never buy packaged food, snacks, sodas, etc.
We don't dine out that much, but we do have dinner guests probably twice a
month, so add in that cost to the amount above.
I'll be curious to see what other people spend on monthly groceries...I
suspect we spend a lot more than many families, but I feel the cost of
eating healthy is worth it.
We spend $75/week for a family of 6. Mom, Dad, 7yob, 5yob, 2yog,
2mog. I make almost everything from scratch (bread, sauces, etc.) and
shop 7 stores (NOT on the same day with this brood!! :)) to get the
absolute lowest prices. I don't buy all organic, but only buy organic
peanut butter, berries and hormone-free dairy. I buy only humanely
raised meat. I'd buy more organic/free-range but we simply can't
afford it. I make 2 meals at a time and my partner takes his lunch as
leftover from dinner. We do not eat out. We do not buy anything that
is not on the list. (due to financial reasons)
Kathy and Jamie
We've had this discussion repeatedly at our house, and the parent who does the
least shopping and cooking is always the one with the lowball estimate.
You probably can't spend less than the USDA says you need to stay alive and
healthy. I randomly picked a site that had the Maximum Monthly Food Stamp
Benefits by Family Size for 2000 (so, lower than what you'll need in 2002!),
which says that a family of 4 needs $428. This, obviously, wouldn't include
meals in restaurants. (http://www.cbpp.org/3-23-99fs.htm)
We have four kids and found that our food bills went up significantly when the
kids (1) left childcare programs that fed them breakfast or lunch (2) got
bigger. So you can reduce your budget if a school or employer feeds one of
You really have to figure this out for your own family. My advice is to spend
several months buying all your groceries on a credit card, and tot up what you
actually spend. I stick my grocery receipts on a nail so I can remember to
deduct cleaning supplies, toiletries, paper goods, beer or wine, etc. If you
are a giver of dinner parties or a houser of guests, note how much
One way to wake up the chronic lowballer is to build your budget meal by meal.
Your family eats more than 360 individual meals in the average month!
What you spend depends very much on where you shop. We stick to Safeway (but
never buy their lousy overpriced produce) and the Berkeley Bowl (and don't buy
anything but their lovely underpriced produce and bulk cereals and nuts), and
keep a very well organized list so that we know what Safeway items we are low
and pounce on sales to stock up. If you eat meat, freeze it when it's cheap.
Your bills depend immmensely on whether you buy any prepared foods (even
ones), cold cuts, boutique breads, nice cheeses, and brand name cereals (or
non-store brands in general). We drink only tapwater, milk, and the
pitcher of reconstituted juice.
I just added up my Safeway and Berkeley Bowl credit card bills from October
November for a family of 6 (one is an infant) and got $430 for one month and
$651 for another. Those bills include diapers and paper goods, and were
by six happy days when my visiting father bought the groceries or fed us in
restaurants. We eat one hell of a lot of oatmeal, rice, beans, and pasta, and
are so glad one of us grew up in a family that cooked. We throw nothing away.
It helps that my husband can eat month-old leftovers without getting sick.
Please keep this anonymous. Too embarassing!
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