Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Groceries Pt. 1: How Much Do You Spend?

We went to the grocery store yesterday to pick up a few items.

Spaghetti for dinner. Cereal. Some veggies. Spices for Olivia's "A to Z of World Cuisine" meal from Afghanistan tonight.

Amazing how we can go into the grocery store convinced we'll keep it under $200 -- and totally fail!

(photo credit)

We've been thinking a lot lately about how much we spend on groceries. Back in the day (when the kids were little and we weren't eating organic fruits & veggies and humanely-raised meats), we could feed our family of five on $400 a month. But these days we budget twice that amount and still go over!

It doesn't help that the girls are now teens/tweens who have opinions about food, like to cook their own meals, and tend to graze throughout the day. And when they have friends over -- Let's just say we know quite a few girls who can wolf down more food than a Jr. Varsity football team!

To get an idea if we're overspending, we asked our Facebook and Twitter friends how much they shell out each month on groceries. We asked them to give us the total spent (including cleaning supplies, personal hygiene, pet food and alcohol) and the number of people and animals in their house.

The results were surprising!

We heard from 21 families, ranging in size from 1 to 5 people. The amount spent (per person, per week) ranged from $19 to $125!

(To figure your own, take your monthly $ spent on food, multiply by 12, divide by 52, then divide again by the # of people in your family.)

Here's the distribution:

$19 - 2 families
$23 - 3 families
$28 - 1 family
$37 - 3 families
$39 - 1 family
$40 - 2 families
$46 - 4 families
$55 - 1 family
$67 - 1 family
$69 - 1 family
$125 - 1 family

Yeah, that last number is pretty stunning! It's a family of two spending $250 a week on groceries. What are they buying?!?

But the other outlier ($19/person per week) is also interesting. One family spending this amount ($250/month) is a single mom with two kids and two dogs. Money is tight. There's no other way to put it.

The other family is Tanya's sister Kris.

Kris is a Coupon Queen and knows how to pinch a penny to feed herself, her husband, their infant son and 75 pound lab. Kris's husband is a firefighter and eats at the firehouse roughly 10 days a month. On those nights, Kris often stops by the parents' house for a meal. So that cuts down on the food bill too.

So, does this little unscientific poll make us feel any better about the $9600 we spend each year on groceries?

Kinda. Break it down and we're only spending $37/person per week, which puts us towards the lower end of the distribution.

Still, many of our friends are middle or upper-middle class professionals. Do they simply spend more (than necessary) because they have the money to do it? Tomorrow in our series we'll write about how much the government thinks we should be spending.

In the meantime, tell us -- how much do you spend at the grocery store each month? What are your secrets to saving money? Do you have any great coupon tips to share? Maybe you have some money-saving websites or books to suggest? Can't wait to hear from you!


  1. we spend $225/week for a family of 4 = $56.25/person
    It is a cartload of food (filled to the top, & bottom rack too!). I even use coupons, shop BOGO's, etc., saving about 10-15% of my total bill. Our purchases also include household supplies like shampoo, detergent, toilet paper, etc. Those items easily account for $25 of our weekly bill.

  2. Sounds like a lot of families we're hearing from!