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Creating a Food Budget

Category Budget
Food is a large part of just about everyone's budget. Whether you eat out a lot or always make meals at home, knowing your food budget will help you maintain your household budget. This is a guide about creating a food budget.


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Sandy Baker4 found this helpful
May 11, 2006

Food is not something we can do without. Cutting back on your food bill, though, can leave you with a substantial amount of money left in your pocket at the end of the month. The problems is that most people do not know what they have to do to make that happen. By creating a monthly food budget can be a perfect way to save.

Take Julie, for example. She is a mother of two and is married to Christopher. They work hard but barely make ends meet. When the two of them sat down to determine just where their money was going, Julie was shocked to see that they were spending more than $170 a week on food. That was $600 on just food per month. So, they decided to do something that most would never do. They decided to track their food budget.

For the next month, Julie and Christopher kept a small notebook with them and any time they bought any type of food product, they jotted it down. In fact, it became a competition to see who was spending what and to see who was doing a better job keeping track. At the end of the month, the results were in. They had spent a total of $853 on groceries.


They found that some was going towards the grocery store, but they spent a considerable amount on restaurants, coffee shops and at the gas station when they just stopped in to get something for dinner. Now, what would you do with this information?

Julie did something she had not done before. She decided to create a monthly budget for food. What she found was that it was not difficult to do. Here are some steps that she followed.


By taking the necessary time to track spending and then in making a monthly budget, Julie found herself saving money. They actually treated themselves to dinner out at the end of the month since they had save several hundred dollars and now could say they could afford it.

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January 28, 20150 found this helpful

Being single, I buy myself a grocery store gift card, $150 at a time, and make it stretch for a month. Budget? Indeed!

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February 10, 20062 found this helpful

Our children used to love having a certain brand of cookie or snack, but unfortunately they were also the most expensive. I wanted to teach them about a budget without making them feel as if they were missing out on something so we invented "Family coupon night".


I clip coupons everyday and then on Friday night we make a bowl of popcorn and put all the coupons on the table. We divide them into categories and each person takes a few.

Even our youngest, who cannot read yet recognizes the vegetables on the coupons and is excited about helping. We then go grocery shopping with our coupons on Saturday morning.

When home, I show our budget and how much we saved. The difference goes into a vacation jar and each year we use it to go someplace special, like camping. Everyone feels like a special part of the project and are proud of their contribution.

By Laurie from Biloxi, MS

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March 1, 20060 found this helpful

When I was younger I was on a sole parent pension and my son always used to whine about not being able to have stuff - so I laid out all the money on the table and showed him where it all went - rent, food, utilities etc etc - once he understood he was a lot happier with his lack and often helped me with the budget as he was very quick with math . he has grown up to be a responsible husband and father with sound budget stategies that now help him and his family

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By 1 found this helpful
October 5, 2006

My food budget has been growing every week, so I sat down and looked at what I could start doing to cut back and still eat quality meals. . .

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September 24, 20041 found this helpful

I am not working currently as I am a care giver for my elderly parents, so I eat lunch at home. I have set myself a budget of 1 pound a day (approx. $2 American) for everything I eat, except for our main meal at night with my husband.

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By 1 found this helpful
April 21, 2005

My husband decided to move in his mother, 2 sisters, niece and nephew in with me while he is in Iraq for a year. I only have a son at the moment. Can anyone tell me how much it will cost to feed 7 people! My husband thinks $400 will cover it and people I have talked to laugh at this amount. Please give me advice, I am going crazy with stress here.


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By guest (Guest Post)
February 7, 20080 found this helpful


First of all, I want to say, I support your husband for his service to our country and I support you for sticking with him. If I were in this situation, I would do the same thing because I love my husband. People these days do not seem to understand exactly what it takes to love a spouse. It takes sacrifice and dedication to get through it all.

I too have a family of seven. I happened upon this forum looking for something to tell me how much we should be spending on food every month. We live in a town where there are two grocery stores, both of which charge an arm and a leg for their merchandise. If I want better prices, I have to drive for 30 minutes to get to the closest big town. In two weeks, we plan on moving to the country and we won't have the advantage of shopping at the local expensive stores, but we will still have to drive 30 minutes to the big city.

My advice is, use that $400 and spend it at a discount grocery store. We have a WinCo foods store in the big city which not only offers the cheapest prices in the area, but also has a large bulf foods section which can save shoppers even more money. I may seem ghetto buying produce bags full of food, but it is amazing how much money you can save.

Some people say to cut out the meat and sweets, but don't. People need the protein found in meats, so serve some with every dinner (even if it is only ground beef mixed in the main course). Sometimes people just need a little sweet pick-me-up. It doesn't have to be much, and I would suggest to bake them yourself because it will save money and be healthier in the long run. Just remember to limit the amount each person has (a good way to do this is once they are all done cooking, put them into individual containers, one for each member in the household. When their sweets are gone, they just don't get anymore).

If you can, try to purchase all non-perishable foods once a month, but be sure to save enough money for things that cannot be boxed or frozen, like dairy. Almost everything can be frozen. I buy butter, bread, and cheese and freeze them. If you don't have a large freezer, look for a used one that will get the job done (and if you don't have the money for it, ask your inlaws to help you out. That is the least they can do for you).

When things get really tighe, remember that somewhere out there, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It may be far off and not visible, but it is there nontheless. It is not the end of the world if your family doesn't get to eat a five course meal three times a day. Honestly speaking, America is the fattest country in the world and we could probably all go for weeks without eating (not that I am suggesting to starve your family, that would be wrong). When things get tight in our house, I skip a meal here and there. I don't skip enough meals to cause me nutritional harm, but I make sure my family gets fed which is my main goal.

If you ever come back to this forum, I hope this helps you out a little bit. For those of you who were like me and Lorraine, I hope this helps out.


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By guest (Guest Post)
April 19, 20080 found this helpful

I have a family of 7. 2 adults and 5 children 12, 10, 9, 7, and 3. My husband and I are slightly overweight a little, my 12 yr old, 8 yr old and 3 yr old daughters are tall, but of avg. weight. My 10 yr old daughter and 7 yr old son are tall and very thin. If I am very careful, I can cut back to $150 a week. Thats with WIC for some of the milk, cereal, juice, cheese, eggs, and penut butter. I still have to buy those things, but WIC helps a little for children under 5. When I'm not being so careful, I can easily spend over $700 in a month. Hope that helps.

You didn't specify the ages of the neice and nephew, or son but if any of them are under 5, You may qualify for WIC, which stands for Women, Infants, and Children. Food Stamps may also be available to you.

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By guest (Guest Post)
December 2, 20080 found this helpful

Congratulations and Good Luck. You are going to need more than $400 bucks but, I will give you simple tips to stretch your food when things are tight. Buy produce from the farm every state has one near by. Buy items that are use most often like soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, in bulk it will last at least 2 months or more.

Pasta meals, rice meals, potatoes, casseroles, are the best dishes to fix when food is running low. Sweets make your own cakes and cookies even pudding & donuts all these thing include flour which is cheap. If, you are in the country get about 4 chickens and a roaster you will never have to buy eggs.

Start growing your own food & herbs. Buy knock off brands here in NJ we have ALDI honey peanut butter and jelly taste the same as any other, pasta is pasta and this chain carries meat. When I feed my family it is a balance meal. Meat, starch and veges. I make my own pizza. I use pasta sauce, mozzarella, and any topping. You can buy pizza pan at Kmart and the dough you can make or buy like you do biscuits. I hope all of this helps.

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May 1, 20090 found this helpful

Well we live in Idaho and I do have a $450 monthly budget for our family of 7. It is a work to keep it down but doable. No we don't eat out but we have a few nice meals. We eat beans and rice PB& J. Cheese sticks apples fresh veggies, etc. I do buy milk now that the prices are down at costco again. Also I buy the rice beans and those items in bulk. I do not but what I "THINK" we will need. I buy what we need. Bread at the discount bakery. I shop the dented can store, or what ever you call it. I will say that my husband is a hunter and fisherman so that helps.... We grow bell peppers to freeze and a few other things but no big garden. I live in town so I avoid the store if I do not have a list. That is ,for me, the biggest budget breaker around... don't shop even for needs will be surprised how many "little things" add up. I go about every other week.

Oh and by the way we do not eat white flour or things like that. It's oatmeal for breakfast around here. I want to remain healthy in the eating cheaply process. Just curious but maybe you could start with 500 and see how much you can save out of that.

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October 29, 20130 found this helpful

I won't criticise your situation because everyone has one but I will tell you, I have six kids plus me. We go through $1054.00 a month and still run out at the end of the month. None of us are over weight.

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July 21, 20040 found this helpful

Ok, I think I spend a lot on groceries. About 400 to 500 dollars a month for a family of 3 (and that's not counting eating out a few times a month!). I am pretty sure this is quite high? More than that, we are living paycheck to paycheck and I want to have some savings. Our child is now 4 and I am wondering what you folks do to cut costs? What would be a more reasonable food budget? And what are some tips for planning meals, grocery lists, etc. I really don't know where to start on this but this seems like the right place to look, I have already found some useful tips on this site.



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July 13, 20070 found this helpful

It's very important that you don't shop when you're hungry because then you will definitely buy more junk food. Only shop when you have plenty of time to, if you rush around you won't have time to look properly at pricing, it's not always economical to buy large packs instead of small.

Another tip is to shop one week at a time, I found it easier to plan and stick to weekly menus and so there was less waste. Over a couple of weeks keep a written record of all meals you've cooked, taking note of when you cooked too much so you can plan better. Also see when you were inclined to snack shortly after a meal, maybe having a starter or dessert would be more beneficial.

Really think about so called bargains before you buy, there's no point in buying something if you won't definitely use it.

Make a big pot of soup once a week and freeze some of it, then if you come home hungry, microwave your soup to keep you going until dinner is ready.

Even though cooking something from scratch is often more expensive than a ready meal, it is usually more filling to eat and so you are less likely to eat extra snacks etc.

Change some of your eating habits, little by little, for example, cut down on the amount of meat you eat and increase the vegetables one day a week. Maybe once a week instead of having dessert after dinner begin with a starter.

Are expensive brands needed for all products? Is there a cheaper alternative that would be just as good?

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By guest (Guest Post)
July 21, 20070 found this helpful

#1, Do your own cooking. You pay a lot for the convenience of a boxed dinner or a pretty bakery cake. Food companies also take a lot of shortcuts in their cooking which seriously effect the nutritional value of the food. Home-cooked meals are generally much healthier in the long run.

#2, work on meal presentation. A head of romaine lettuce chopped up in a bowl looks much more appealing with carrot curls scattered across the top. I also spend a lot of time hunting around garage sales and thrift stores for cute and unique serving dishes. A cut-crystal wine glass can make suger-free fat-free pudding look amazing.

My husband and I eat for just over two dollars per meal -$120 per month. And we eat very well. For lunch today we had roast beef sandwiches with lettuce and cheese on them and cranberry-vanilla smoothies. We eat a lot of ethnic food (African peanut butter stew is one of Jon's favorites) and very little meat. Often for dinner we'll eat two zucchinis and a summer squash steamed in herb water on a bed of baked brown rice with a half of a well-seasoned chicken breast chopped up and mixed in with the vegetables. It's delicious and visually appealing, and we never leave the table hungry.

I have found breakfast to be a huge money saver as well. We've stopped buying cereal and I make breakfast mixes by hand and keep them in jars on a specific shelf in the kitchen that is only for breakfast items. Each morning we can pull down a different jar and within a few minutes we have fresh pancakes, scones, muffins, or whatever else I have ready to go for the week. It has saved us a lot of money and tastes so much better than the stuff you buy at grocery stores.

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By guest (Guest Post)
December 14, 20070 found this helpful

I plan a week's menu list and make a grocery list of what I don't have in my pantry, adding other things I need. I write how much each item costs, then add it up. If it is over my budget, then I see what I can do without ie: will the meal still be good without adding the olives or mushrooms? Can I use milk instead of cream? or any other alternatives? I keep deleting things off my list until it is within my budget.

I buy only organic food, so coupons are not worth the trouble for me. I also try to use less meat by adding more veggies. I think it's healthier, too. I am feeding my son, husband and his father. If I am careful, I can feed all of us on less that $150 a week (including non-foods). NJ is very expensive - especially organics, but it is worth it for better health. (other family members who ate small amounts of veggies, lots of fast food and junk food, have cancers, that makes me wonder...).

If we eat out, I deduct the cost from my grocery allowance. Either in planning for it or deducting the next week. That is one sure way to limit how often we eat out! My process is more work, but it is the only way I can stay in budget. Since I don't work, I consider that by saving money, I am in a way "earning" money where I can. Hope this helps.

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By guest (Guest Post)
February 12, 20080 found this helpful

My husband and I spend about $120 dollars a month. We don't have any children but we rarely eat out. It's cheaper to cook home cooked meals than to eat out. I buy lots of fruits and vegetables, poultry and healthy stuff. My advice is just to cook. You get more for your money. It's easier to feed a large family when you cook.

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By guest (Guest Post)
November 14, 20080 found this helpful

I usually spend about 250 a month on food for myself and my two teens. I usually stock up on deals (loss leaders) that we use. I buy enough for the entire year. I never use coupons, they are to hard to keep track of. I buy the cheapest item, looking at the per unit price (yes those smaller packages are sometimes less expensive than the bigger ones). I keep a price book, so I know when things are a good price. It was hard to get started at first, but now I know. I also shop the manager markdowns on meats. I usually can find really expensive cuts of meat (organic) for far less than I would pay for the commerical grade stuff. We freeze a lot of it and use it throughout the year.

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By 0 found this helpful
December 30, 2010

I have a 23 year old guy living at my house and he has a big appetite. How do I cook for him on a budget?

By Rachael from Lodi, CA

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December 31, 20100 found this helpful

Bean-based meals are usually cheap and super filling. Lots of budget-minded recipes at Everything is also broken out by cost.

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January 4, 20110 found this helpful

The best way is to have him contribute to the budget. He doesn't need steak. He can eat chicken, tuna and hamburgers. Who fed him before you got him? What did they feed him. Is he a boarder or do you have a future together. If it is a future, don't get him used to fancy meals and a full stomach. You will just have to keep it up for years. If he is hungry he will eat what you fix.

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January 4, 20110 found this helpful

If you click on 'find' in the orange bar at the top of this page and type in 'cheap meals' and also 'inexpensive meals' you will find oodles of recipe ideas!

Rachael Ray also has a section on her recipe site for $10.00 and under meals that serve up to four people:

http://www.rach  ategory=underten

And here's the link for her budget meals:

http://www.rach  ?category=budget

I also have the same questions as Lilac. ;-)

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January 4, 20110 found this helpful

Do lots of homemade soups. They can be meatless, using beans/lentils or all veggies. As stressed previous, if he is a keeper or just passing through makes a difference. If he consumes 50%-75% of the food budget, then he kicks in that much. I don't get guys who find a girl to play house with and then expect her to pay the bills too. They were looking for a mama, not a honey. This is not independent for either one. If he does not eat portion controlled meals like any one else does, then he can get a job with more wage to pay that part of it.

I have all big kids (6-4, 6-3, etc) and they don't consume a quantity of food beyond healthy portions. They learned to cook, bake and roast as well as shop carefully. All 3 of my kids started at age 16 at the local grocery store and knew what food costs. The youngest is now a manager at that very store. I would make my children make grocery lists, go shopping with me. Decisions of fruit/veggies or a bag of chips, fruit/vegies won. My thing was, if my kids thought they needed a special item I would not put on the list, they would watch the ads for it and check the coupons for it. Then they took their money out to buy it. You see how badly it is needed that way.

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January 4, 20110 found this helpful

Oh, forgot, then you plant the garden or join up with a community garden and he gets the hard labor work of the weeding, learning how to hoe, watering, etc.

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March 25, 20050 found this helpful

Hello everyone:

I have a question. We are now down to the two of us.

How much should it cost for food and basic toiletries (toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, etc) for a family of two.

I am talking about in-home prepared foods; meat perhaps 2 to 3 nights per week; rest would be cheese, beans, macaroni/dishes).

I live in the NorthEastern region of U.S. and have large supermarkets like, Shoprite nearby.

I am trying to establish a reasonable a budget.


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By guest (Guest Post)
March 25, 20050 found this helpful

I live in Tennessee, and I spend about $150 per month to feed myself and my husband, BUT I try to shop wisely-- using coupons, buying the "loss leaders" featured in weekly ads, using a price book to know what a good price is, stocking up when there is truly a sale, etc. We eat meat nearly every day, but I ONLY buy meat when it is on sale for 1.99/lb or less, I just make sure to stock up. I also do some shopping at a salvage grocery store. I hope that helps!

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By guest (Guest Post)
March 25, 20050 found this helpful

I have a family of 3 people, 3 large dogs, 4 cats and a pig (not counting the chickens or turkey or turtle) and it costs about $75 a week for people food and pet food and everything else we need. We have some kind of meat every nite. I shop at Pic-n-Sav grocery and Wal-Mart. I do not buy meat at Wal-Mart, it has too many preservatives in it.

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March 26, 20050 found this helpful

I think Two people could live, comfortably, for £30 per week. (food wise)

(Thats about $55,)

I think, by shopping at bargain stores, making sandwiches for packed lunches, buying cheap meat - freezing leftovvers and not having luxurys you'd be ok......

Baked beans on toast, mac and cheese & fish sticks taste great and cost next to nothing, but think about the quality of your life.....

Julie in London

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By guest (Guest Post)
July 12, 20070 found this helpful

i have a family of 9 and it costs 1,000$ to feed all of us for a month.

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By guest (Guest Post)
July 26, 20081 found this helpful

I have a family of 3, myself, husband, and teenage son. I spend about $60-$70 a week on food and up to $20 a week at Dollar General for our cleaning supplies and toiletries. However it is hard to please everyone in the food department. There are days when my son refuses to eat what we have on hand and will just chooses to go without. This upsets me but I figure if he's hungry enough he will eat what we have.

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