Budgeting Groceries for a Family of Four

I was wondering what a family of four spends on their grocery bill each week. I live with my husband and two daughters aged 9 and 13. I have worked out a new budget this year as we want to make inroads on our mortgage. I have budgeted to spend AUD 150 per week on food including pet food.

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That averages out to under $40 per person. Am I being realistic or am I dreaming that I can keep this up? I have two small dogs, a rabbit, a bird and two hens. I did the grocery shopping last week and spent the $150 which did't include meat as I already had some in the freezer. I realize that I don't have the luxury to be spontaneous.

Patricia from Riverstone, Australia

January 26, 20090 found this helpful

A lot will depend on what you do besides shop at the store. I mean can you have a garden...even a few plants? Are you willing to cook from scratch as opposed to expensive boxed foods? Will you research recipes thst stretch foods like stir fry which uses lots less meat per serving? At our house we waste almost nothing. I freeze as little as a tablespoon of peas and make soup when my soup bag gets full. I shop about 3 stores (all close together) and buy almost only things on special and I do it only once a week to avoid impulse purchases. Yes, I think you should be able to make it on $150.00 a week.

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January 26, 20090 found this helpful

start collecting coupons to save. ask your family and friends to start a coupon swap with you, tell them the things you use and need coupons on and visa versa, and if available go on double face value coupon days. and learn to buy off brand items if possible, also if its something you use alot of buy it in bulk and seperate it into containers you have saved. always incorporate salads in your meals to fill you up more and save the food you bought to stretch even further.

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January 26, 20090 found this helpful

Yes it can be done! We are a family of five (myself, husband, and 3 kids ages 9,7, and 3 1/2.) We also have a dog and a cat. I spend $200 every other Monday on groceries.(food and household) I buy chicken hindquarters and cook them whole or boil and debone them and use them in all kinds of recipes. I also buy family packs of meat and seperate myself and freeze. We eat rice with a lot of meals- a rice cooker is a must for perfect rice! We also eat breakfast for supper- i.e., pancakes, french toast, bacon, eggs, and toast. I buy Suave for almost all of our hair produts and body wash. I watch for sales and I shop around-it sometimes is a pain to go to 2 or 3 stores but it pays off!

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January 26, 20090 found this helpful

This is a fight with my husband every week. We area a family of 5 and I run a small in-home day care,we have a dog, 3 cats and I rabbit and he want's me to shop for $100.00 a week. No way. I do this thought. Most products have web sites and I always visit them before I go shopping. Malt O meal has coupons you can print from home. But not all stores will accept computer coupons so you have to check. I buy off brand when availible and I shop only from my list. Most weeks we get buy @ $150 but lots it is around $200. I don't think there is any easy way. I get sick at the thought of shopping. Just try your best and if you can save $10 a month great for you. And good luck

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January 26, 20090 found this helpful

I just want to let you know there is 8 in my household and we spend 200.00 dollars a week on groceries so I can use all the extra help I can get! Thanks, Sandy

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January 27, 20090 found this helpful

Hi Patricia, I'm in Australia also (Queensland). We don't seem to have the abundance of coupons here, in fact I've never really seen any grocery coupons.

I think $150 weekly is very do-able. We are a family of 3, a 19 year old son who eats enough for 2 children! We also have 2 medium sized dogs.

I have found Big W a great place to bulk-buy. I buy trays of dogfood and dry meal there, saving heaps on supermarket prices for smaller/individual quantities. Obviously it may work out cheaper again to make your own but I've never had the inclination and with working find I'm time-challenged. I also buy 10kg laundry detergent & bulk toilet rolls from BigW, also works out much cheaper and they last a long time so I don't need to replace them often. Also...toiletries...Big W again! I switched to larger sized pump bottles for shampoos and shower gels as these regulate how much your using and they seem to last much longer not to mention working out cheaper. Let's not forget Aldi for 'some' items. I don't like all of their stuff but there are some bargains I go back for, their meat is a reasonable price, I buy bulk mince then split and freeze it at home. Their cheese is much cheaper than supermarkets and bread is around the same price as larger supermarket's homebrands.

At the supermarkets, I purchase some of my staples in homebrands. Sugar, flour, eggs, bread, rice, frozen veg (I stopped buying canned veg quite a while ago), foil, etc...anyhow...there are significant savings on these basic items and quality is good. Not all homebrand items are comparable but you soon find out when you try them what works or not :)

I've also found that making up a weekly menu and trying to only shop once per week really helps cut back on unnecessary impulse buys on each store visit. I've also tried a fortnightly shop but it hasn't always worked out. Bulk cooking is great too. I've found some meals ideal for this. I'll cook a double or triple batch, serve dinner and freeze the extra for cook-free evenings. You can jot these into menus on subsequent weeks :)

Good luck, I definitely think it's achievable.

We're working on paying off our mortgage also and have made a few lump sum payments over the last year.

Oh....also...just wondered if you use cable internet? We switched to engin and save around $50 per month on our phone bills now too :)

Anyhow...enough for now...

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January 27, 20090 found this helpful

Thanks to all to have replied. To answer a few questions, I have a little vegies garden. I grow silverbeet, tomatoes, herbs and I have an orange tree and a yummy fig tree. I have to put wire around everything so my two chooks won't pick at everything when they free range in the afternoon. We don't have food coupons in Australia but if we did I am sure my husband and I will be the Coupon King and Queen. I usually cook from scratch and enjoy it. I am challenged by my youngest daughter who is very fussy with her food. As I am training myself to stay with the $150 budget I have started to stick the grocery receipts in an exercise book. Once I get home and put the groceries away I get a pencil and mark the groceries on the receipt that in hindsight I think I could have done without. This disiplines me for the next time of go shopping. I now think it is achievable to spend $150 or less but when my next challenge will be to keep within the budget when we invite family and friends over for lunch or dinner. Take care and good luck to sticking with you limites. Regards Pat

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January 27, 20090 found this helpful

Another thought is whether there are discounted food packages.

In America they are called Share or Angel Ministries. The food is priced at wholesale and includes meat produce and other items. Distribution is through charities, but thrifty shoppers who ignore these systems are missing out.

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January 27, 20090 found this helpful

I live in Toronto Canada and my grocery bill every week comes to not less than $75 per week. Sometimes even a hundred dollars. We are a family of five no pets. We are vegetarian no meat/fish or chicken. We eat out only minimally for a whole year except the kids because we do not want them to feel deprived. Works well for us. Except I feel sometimes there may be a way to save even on this amount. Any thoughts anyone?

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January 27, 20090 found this helpful

I have a family of 4 and spend about $60-$70 a week and I really think I can get that down to about $50 per week. What I don't buy...lots of convenience foods. I shop at a discount store for 3 weeks out of the month and then a Super Walmart 1 week per month to stock up on what the discount store does not carry.

I buy meats when on sale. For dinner I make a whole chicken and then use the leftovers for soup or pot pie, bbq chicken pizza or something else. I bought chicken leg quarters for $.39 per pound this week, so I bought a few packages. I never buy chicken with a bone for more than $.99 per pound and boneless for $1.99/pound. I buy ground turkey for $1.69 per pound and use it in place of ground beef. We try to eat pasta once per week because it is such an inexpensive, fast meal. I buy salad stuff and slice it and wash it and store it in a bag for quick salads. I do not buy prewashed, precut anything. It is just too expensive.

I make 3 brown bag lunches every day for my husband and the kids. Some things I pack are leftovers for my husband or a sandwich. The kids get, a sandwich or yogurt, cookie or goodie, chips (from a large bag then put into a sandwich bag) and a fruit (in season or canned). I make, some type of baked good each week...maybe banana bread from ripe bananas, coffee cake, chocolate chip cookies or oatmeal cookies.

For breakfast we have Frosted Shredded Wheat cereal, Cheereo's type cereal, pancakes, waffles, small bagels or eggs. One of my daughters has a smoothie every morning with breakfast. I buy yogurt for her smoothies in a big container and use up ripe bananas.

Now if you think I have all the time in the world, I don't. I work my own business during the day at home and out of the home 3 night/week, exercise, volunteer and my kids have activities and homework.

My meals take 15-20 minutes of hands-on time and while it is in the oven or on the stove, I help the kids with the homework. When my husband gets home, we all sit at the table for dinner and then 3 nights/week I go out after dinner to work.

I do a cooking class at my local senior center once every month. I feed anywhere between 20-30 people for lunch and I only spend about $25. They reimburse me for the food costs, so I do my best to keep the costs down.

I hope this helps someone. It really boils down to not buying convenience foods and using all the food you buy. Don't waste the food.

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January 28, 20090 found this helpful

I've found having a first course of soup or salad takes the edge off of hunger and gives the body a little time to start feeling full before diving into the main course. I've found a four serving meal then easily satifies four with a leftover for the next day lunch. We also use only half the meat requested in a recipe and fill in with grains. It saves money and my health.

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January 29, 20090 found this helpful

I think you can do anything you set your mind to doing. I suggest you go to the site www.hillbillyhousewife.com. You will find many good ideas there. The owner has posted two budget menus. I cant remember exactly how much money was spent for each one, but I think one menu was for $45 per week and the other for $77 per week. These might be emergency type menus, but you can augment them or get ideas.

Best of luck.

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January 29, 20090 found this helpful

This is just a tidbit of info, but it helps to plan to make several things that will need the same ingredient. For instance, I make speghetti sauce from scratch using tomato paste and the next night I might include a red-eye gravy with homemade biscuits, using up another part of the small can of tomato paste. Of course, many people don't make tomato or red eye gravy, so you could just think of what else you could make using the tomato paste as an ingredient. The idea is to not throw anything out.

Also, remember that the parts of some vegetables and even fruits that you use can be cooked down and added to your dog food. In order to save time you could start a bag for them in the freezer and just cook them down when you have enough to make a pot. But remember that onions, grapes and raisins and too much garlic can be toxic to your dogs. But carrots and apples and celery, etc. are all good and appreciated by your doggies. Good luck, my 4 kids are all grown now, but we are starting to cut back again like we used to. Everyone's suggestions have inspired me to try harder to cut back all over again!

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January 29, 20090 found this helpful

I sug to buy a large bag of white potatoes. Cook some 3 times each day, saves on food. Good luck.

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