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How Much Should I Spend on Food Per Month?

Food is by far our biggest expense. We spent $2500 on food (inclusive of alcohol and cleaning supplies, so probably $2200 on food) in August alone. Clearly, that is way too much for a couple to spend on food each month. People tend to share that they feed families of 4+ on under $600 a month, as part of conversations on how they’re trying to cut down on spending.

But how much should a DINK couple (planning to have kids in the next few years) be spending on food? Here is the advice I found: 

  1. Based on the USDA Low Cost Food Plan, MR. HECC and I should spend $495.22 per month (if we were to eat all meals at home.) This doesn’t take into account cost of living, but it should be doable if meals were carefully planned out and decided on based on cost instead of deliciousness.
  2. ApartmentTherapy asked its readers what they spend a month on food — with 295 responses, the answers for couples ranged from $500 to $1000 a month as the average answer.  In lower cost areas some people got their monthly food expenses down to $100 – though that seems very hard and would take a lot of creativity.
  3. For the Bay Area (high cost of living area) Quora readers recommend $500-700 a month on food for a couple.

While we currently have the luxury of taking home about $12k in after-tax income monthly (so our $2500 food budget doesn’t kill us), it’s just ridiculous to be spending that much on food. As Mr. HECC prepares to return to school to become a teacher, and I consider a career change to more fulfilling, much lower paying work, we know we need to get our food spending in check.

To start, we are trying to cut our food spend in HALF with a budget of $1200 for September. This is still well over the $500 we should be spending, but it’s a step in the right direction. I’m going to focus this month on documenting my weekly food spending to hold myself accountable to keep costs down.

HECC September Meal Budget:

Mr. HECC Meal Budget:
Freshly ($400/mo) + milk, 1 grocery store pre-made meal a week = ~$500

Joint Meal Budget:
Blue Apron = $240/mo for 24 meals
Dining Out = $200/mo (~4 meals)

Mrs. HECC Meal Budget:
28 Dinners, 30 Lunches, 30 Breakfasts for $260

Breakfast = $1.50/meal — $45
Lunch = $3 / meal = $90
Dinner = $4.50 / meal = $126

This is the meal plan that I am going to try to hit in September. It is going to be extremely hard. The good news is that with Blue Apron I get 3 homecooked meals a week for dinner and it’s been super fun to cook with Mr. HECC using our new pots & pans and knives from our wedding. He is so cute in preparing/chopping all the food for me to cook when I get home.

Ok, so how on earth do I feed myself for an average of $2.97 per meal (when I’m used to eating lunch that costs $20 a meal)?

This is going to be tough. But I have to be an adult and do it vs just throwing away money on food.

Comment Below: How Much Do you Spend on Food Per Month?

 

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14 comments

  1. VC says:

    Single, female food expense (grocery+dining): $300-$500/mth. Eat out 1-2x/week. Each meal is generally under $20.
    Strongly recommend not using home food delivery services – think of how much you’re paying for all the pre packaging, mailing, overhead, profits to that company – costs not even associated to the FOOD?
    Instead try
    – cooking videos on Youtube. Search: brother’s greens (good for beginner cooks)
    – shop produce only at grocery store
    – shop perimeter of store
    – buy bulk
    – avoid prepackaged/processed foods. More packaging – more costs going to all the wrapping/advertising/pretty graphic design
    – focus on produce aisle
    – avoid Whole Food$$$. Opt for Vans, Albertsons, Ralphs…
    – Vitamix blender for soups, smoothies, sauces. Expensive blender, but will change your life + save time in the morning with pre blended smoothie night before. Leave in fridge. Give it a shake in the morning. Turns vegetables into delicious soup. Fills you up. Super healthy. I just got it and it changed my life.

  2. Norm says:

    I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at the Consumer Reports article this month on meals-by-mail services like Blue Apron, but I was! They all came in around $10 a meal. I mean, that’s no less than eating out!

    This is probably a bit of logrolling, but I did a series of posts calculating the cost of some meals last year. Maybe this will help you. It’s very easy to get under $3.00 a meal. My favorite meal was a curried pea and carrot soup with linguica which came in at $1.32.

    http://www.ridinkulous.net/category/cost-per-serving/

    We’ve been averaging $440 a month this year. That doesn’t count another $147 in takeout and dining. I can’t imagine how we could even eat $2,400 of food a month!

    1. Joy ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Thanks! This is great advice. When we eat out it usually comes to about $25pp/$50 total so $10pp is still cheaper than eating out for us by a lot. And we get to learn how to cook and don’t have to think “what’s for dinner” which is the hardest part.

  3. Jax says:

    I second batch cooking. It doesn’t cost a lot more or take a lot more effort to double a recipe, and it is always wonderful realizing you don’t have to cook because the freezer’s got you covered.

    We spend way too much on food in general, but last month we were able to keep food/alcohol/eating out to under $600. Largely that was due to mystery shopping-I had gotten a lot of grocery store shops. We also considerably reduced our alcohol consumption.

    I don’t think it’s terrible to spend “a lot” of money on food. You have got to decide for yourself where your priorities are and maybe food is one place that you’re willing to spend more on. Either for convenience or quality or whatever other reason.

  4. Eva says:

    I don’t understand your numbers. You count 30 lunches and 28 dinners ( do you fast 2 nights per month?) Just you but also 28 joint meals, of which 14 should be for you, no? That would make more than 40 dinners for one month… just saying.

    You could try batch cooking on weekends to cut down on both the cost and time spent preparing food.

    We spend 850€ for a family of 4 living in Paris.

  5. I spend around 550/month (too much eating out, I’m afraid). BF is at 300/month.

    Breakfast you can probably get down to $.50/meal if you do overnight oatmeal and fruit. I recommend batch cooking for lunch and dinners if you can stand eating leftovers. Also get a pressure cooker.

    Your budget is high enough that any version of cooking consistently will get you there. There are plenty of great food blogs online. Which you like will depend on your taste, but I recommend Budget Bytes for some easy and cheap recipes. I personally would nix the Freshly and Blue Apron subscriptions in favor of pre-made frozen amd fresh meals from the grocery store. Especially BA, you are paying $10/meal and you still have to cook (plus few leftovers). Rotisserie chicken and frozen veggies are cheap and can last quite a few meals.

    1. Joy ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      yea – I like Blue Apron a lot because it’s teaching us how to cook and has inspired us to remake some of the meals in our own style which is cheaper. We won’t do it forever but are enjoying it for now. Mr. HECC counts on Freshly to help him stay in his calorie limit and he’s losing weight which he’s never been able to do on any other diet before. He also doesn’t want to do that forever and plans to start cooking full time once he gets under his goal weight. I’ve heard good things about Budget Bytes – I’ll check it out!

  6. NZ Muse says:

    We are about half of your take home pay. I would love to spend $2.5k on food and god knows we could!

    We actually spend more like $600 on groceries, including food for 2 dogs and random household stuff (cleaning, razors etc). Eating out varies a lot but maybe around $200 – we don’t go out much…

  7. Lisa M says:

    August was a high food month for me too. We usually try to stay at $2000 or under for food and drinks, but we eat out almost exclusively and go to a lot of happy hours (plus we live in a expensive-ish city). We are also DINKs, but are not planning on having any kids.

  8. Michelle says:

    We spend a decent amount of money on food each month, between restaurants and grocery shopping. We travel full-time in an RV, so we always want to try out popular restaurants in the areas that we visit. I estimate that we spend over $1,000 a month on food…

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