Monday, December 6, 2010

The Cost of Food

One thing that amazes me as I read through the many ‘frugal blogs’ I subscribe to is how much money people spend on food.  In November, I only spent $76.63 on groceries (plus $5.69 at a Gyro restaurant). Granted, I am a household of one, but even if you multiplied that by four my grocery spending per month would not be unreasonable.  Which begs the question… just how much are ‘regular’ (aka, non-frugal) people spending each month on food?  I bet the answer would astonish most of us! 

I recently heard somewhere how much the average family that qualifies for food stamps receives.  Let’s just say it really shocked me!  I decided to do some research and found that a single person who qualified for the maximum amount in food stamps per month would receive $200 (see complete chart here).   If I spent $200 on groceries for myself every month I would go broke!

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am NOT knocking the food stamp program.  It is actually one of the few government-run social programs that I fully support.  Naturally, I wish there weren’t people out there who abused the system.  But all in all, I think food stamps benefit many worthy people who are facing difficult times (including children). 

No, I am not knocking the program at all.  Rather, I am giving a virtual ‘high five’ to all of us frugalities out there who keep our grocery spending well below the amount our government apparently has determined it takes to feed a family of (fill-in-the-blank) per month!  I feel weirdly proud about my frugal ways right now. 

I am also wondering how I can keep my grocery bill so low.  Especially since I am not really into couponing… at all.  I do the bulk of my shopping at Aldi, so coupons are not really a viable option, anyway.  I like good food.  I like to think I eat good, nutritious meals… but maybe I don’t?  I’m thinking of documenting my meals and doing a weekly listing – sort of like the weekly menu planning many of you post on your blogs, only after the fact (I am not yet organized to do a weekly menu plan!).  What do you think?  Would anyone be interested in seeing something like this?


  1. I really like reading other peoples menus! It gives me ideas for my own weekly menu. I read an article distributed by my local Extension office. They had posted what the government considered a thrifty, average, and extravagant grocery budget per person per month (based on age and gender). After calculating each person in my family based on the chart, I was $250.00 a month below the average thrifty plan per month. I was amazed how much people spend on groceries every month!

  2. food Stamps. The unfortunate thing is you can only purchase certain items. So, you get $200 -but the items are chosen for you.Then you have to be hassled by the people at the register.
    My daughter and her husband were out of work and applied. They ended up only getting the beans (dried-as if people, other than her, know how to cook them), milk (not skim- even though that is what the Doctor wants the toddler to drink), and crackers. Fresh fruit and veggies were not on the list. Neither was non sweetened fruit juice. They are frugal-so they figured out how to eat healthy on a minimum of money. Too bad food stamps did not help much:<(

  3. Janette, really? That's crazy! No skim milk or fresh fruits and veggies? That is very sad. I wonder if the rules are the same in every state regarding what can/can not be purchased.

    Tightwad Mom, do you still have that chart you mentioned? If so, I think you should scan it and post it on your blog for everyone to see. I bet a lot of people would be really amazed at the data!

  4. Janette might be talking about the WIC program which is very restrictive- usually food stamps just limit to no alcohol, no paper products or cleaning products, no pet food, etc

    Budget Confidential- I just found you- I think I am inspired :)

  5. Priest's Wife, thank you for the information, and for the kind words. I think you might be right about WIC vs. food stamps now that I have had a chance to do some internet research on the two. Thank you.

    I hope you will visit and post often.

  6. Thanks for posting the food stamp info. I have been very curious about it since watching the show "downsized" and finding out that they are on food stamps. They actually seemed to have quite the variety of food. I was also intrigued with the amount for a family of 4..$668.00. We spend a bit more than that a month, as we eat organic meats and veggies, which tend to be more expensive.

  7. Sharon, I have been wanting to see the 'Downsized' show and never seem to catch it. But from what I heard about it (Starbucks habit, dinners out, etc.), I think it would frustrate me. :)

  8. If I took your $76 for one person/month and multiplied that by the five people in my household-it would come out to $383. My monthly grocery budget for five is $240 :) My kids are young so they don't eat as much as adults do, but we frequently have guests over so I think it evens out.
    I agree with you-I played with the government calculator too and hypothetically we would get almost $800 a month! That's mind boggling to me.

  9. Sara, your grocery budget is great! I am going to check out your blog to learn your secrets.

  10. This is an eye opening post. I spend $400 or less for groceries for our family of 5 and that includes diapers for 2. I am always amazed when I watch Til Debt Do Us Part at the amount of money she gives the couples for food in their budget. It is usually very generous.