Making a good grocery budget for yourself or family is nothing short of an art-form and a science. It’s a skill that is often underappreciated. They require time, effort and are considerably more involved than an everyday budget.
Grocery budgets change with seasons, life situations, income,
Grocery Budget Myth’s
There is outdated advice stating that you should follow a rule of thumb of no more than $100 per mouth, per month. And if your kids are smaller you may get away with $50 for their mouths, since they eat less.
But these numbers are old, and even the government has updated with the times.
Check out these recent numbers, published January 2019 by the USDA
You can check out the monthly updates by the USDA by clicking here and following to their website.
According to this chart, my family of 4 would cost $562-$1099 to feed. That’s a pretty large gap! *For the record, we eat for even less than that “thrifty plan.” Including our 100% dairy-free lifestyle, because of my son’s dairy intolerance/allergy.
Another thing to consider is-
The department of social health and services provides a family of 4 up to $640 a month in food stamp benefits. Which fits within the USDA’s number chart between the thrifty plan and low-cost plan.
Both of these give an idea of where grocery budgets could be, but you also have to remember-
That whatever your goal budget is, be aware that it may need to be more liquid.
Meaning that if there are allergies to put into consideration, or if you live in an unfortunate area where fresh foods are limited such as a food desert, your costs may be higher than stated.
Foods also cost more in big cities and the further you travel from their source. Example-“Fresh caught ocean fish” cost a low more when you are located in Nebraska and there’s no ocean within a days drive.
What to ask yourself before making a grocery budget:
Financial Advisors will tell you that a grocery budget should be set at 10%-15% of your take home income. So let’s use this number as our official starting point.
What is your monthly take-home pay? The amount you get on your checks or deposited into the account. If you have irregular income, use an average or the lowest income you’ve received in the past 3 months as your price guide.
What is 15% of that take home pay? How does this compare to what you currently spend on food? If it higher than what you’re currently spending or considerably lower?
Do you currently feel like you are starving all the time or like you have too much food waste? If you feel like you’re starving, you may not have a large enough grocery budget. Too much food waste is the opposite problem. As in- you have too large of a grocery budget. Adjusting the scale by 10% in either direction can help.
How to make a grocery budget:
With the starting point we just created, thanks to the government and percentage math, we can write that down as our ideal grocery budget. Yay for completing step 1.
Start tracking your spending. How much of your grocery shopping is actually food? Of that food, how much is actually considered REAL food, and not an impulse buy or snack?
Make sure you remove purchases like toilet paper and laundry detergent. While these often get lumped together in grocery shopping, they should come out of a household items budget and not the grocery budget.
Keeping them separated helps you to provide the best food budget for yourself and family.
Think about it, laundry detergent, dish soap, shampoo… they all cost a pretty penny, and buying them all in the same trip can make your cart total much higher, resulting in less money for food.
You shouldn’t be condemned to eating hamburger helper 3 nights a week because you chose to get laundry detergent and have clean underwear. So why would it make sense to lump grocery and household together? It doesn’t.
So remove food from not food, and keep your grocery budget pure and simple. No more second guessing how much you spend on foods, and no more prioritizing health and hygiene like a teeter totter to accommodate your income.
I made the mention before to trim or increase your grocery budget by 10%. I still stand by that, and will now explain in further detail.
Food budget too small, you’re starving-
If your food budget is too small, try to cut costs in other areas of your budgets to allow for more food.
Reduce your utility cost, cut cable, downsize your phone plan and pick up a side hustle or sell things online to bring in more income.
Shop discount stores for bread or liquidation places for produce, save money on meat purchases and make a budget-friendly meal plan to help maximize what money you have.
Food budget is too large, you have food waste-
If your food budget is too large, you increase the likelihood of having food waste. Food waste is food that- goes to waste. No brainer, right?
Anyways, the more food you have spoiling and expiring in your home, going un-eaten, and being tossed- is money being tossed out the window.
You bought these items, paid for them at the check stand and then you paid for them again by paying the disposal fees. That garbage truck pickup or the trip you took to deposit trash at the local landfill. It’s all adding up to money that could have been spent elsewhere.
Food budget is decent, it’s the execution that lacks-
Adding in this option because it’s the third possibility. You may have already set the perfect grocery budget amount, and it may not get you so far because you aren’t maximizing the potential.
That’s okay too, saving money on groceries is a skill that comes with having budgets and being financially aware.
Having meal plans in place and juggling it with your grocery budget and money saving skills is a whole other dance.
Simply learn to continue readjusting your budget as needed, and you should have plenty of money for food.
It’s not hard to set a grocery budget, But to set one correctly, with consideration to your family and circumstances can be.
So just remember to find a good price starting point, continue to readjust and re-evaluate, and to only consider food in your grocery budgets (unless you enjoy eating toilet paper #Fiber.) Once you have this down, making and managing a grocery budget is easy and quick!