Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

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HardHitter
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Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by HardHitter » Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:26 am

The wife and I have a $700 budget for food, however every month we seem to come to that limit or even over it. On some of the threads here I am seeing families having a food budget lower than us and I'm trying to understand what my wife and I are doing wrong as $700 seems high to me, but we continue to be higher. What are you guys eating!?

mortfree
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by mortfree » Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:30 am

Is that truly only for food or does it include other items that you buy (non-food) at the grocery store.

First thing is to be sure your accounting methods are similar to others.

I track my grocery store purchase but that includes other items that are not food related.

Nowizard
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by Nowizard » Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:35 am

It is also important to be sure you are comparing with people reporting entire food budgets, including eating out and whether you eat leftovers. Those factors, along with the amount in your pantry are significant. For example, our son's friends from childhood quite literally "Tour" our pantry when visiting today since they recall we always seemed to have enough food to last a lifetime.

Tim

stan1
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by stan1 » Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:37 am

Seems like you'd have to look deeper into your spending and make the decision on whether $700/month is reasonable to eat the way you want or if you can save more. There's a wide variation in food costs by geography, where you shop, and what you eat. If this budget includes eating out there's a wide spectrum of choices there too.

The first thing I'd do is look at your bills and figure out what the cost drivers are. You are at about $11.67 per person per day. What items have you spent over $25 on in the course of the month? Could you eliminate some of those or replace with something at a lower cost?

HardHitter
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by HardHitter » Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:38 am

mortfree wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:30 am
Is that truly only for food or does it include other items that you buy (non-food) at the grocery store.

First thing is to be sure your accounting methods are similar to others.

I track my grocery store purchase but that includes other items that are not food related.
Majority of the time, it is strictly food items. Anything that is general use (paper towels, toilet paper, body soap, etc.) goes under our "shopping" budget separate from our food budget.

Any of the following gets categorized under our food budget: grocery shopping, fast food, going out to dinner, convenient store trips (e.g. 7/11 for energy drinks or a quick snack)

What we've decided to do next month is to "split" the food budget into his/hers to see where the spending is coming from. I am known for getting fast food and/or energy drinks while my wife often times will go out and spend $25-$30 with her sisters at a restaurant, which to me seems like a ton of money for 1 person. We will do that for a month or two and see where the spending is and then dive a level deeper to see where it is coming from to better adjust (for example, if it is my fast food/energy drinks, then cut down on it and vice versa with spending smart when going out with her sisters).
Last edited by HardHitter on Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

daheld
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by daheld » Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:39 am

I think in order for people to help you, we need to know what YOU'RE eating. Where do you live? Does that figure include only groceries or groceries and dining out? How much are you spending relative to your income? Is food a hobby and a thing the two of you enjoy or are you spending a lot because you're busy and rely on expensive convenience foods and fast food? All these things matter and will help people answer your questions.

There's this misconception that you HAVE to eat like a college student and rely on ramen and rice and beans in order to save money on food. It's just not true. You can buy and prepare nutritious, affordable ingredients while still having food that looks and tastes great.

Please answer the above questions, but here are a few things off that top that will help almost regardless of your situation:

1. Make it a priority. Just like anything, it won't happen if you don't make it happen. Prep meals ahead of time, pick out a day per week that you and your spouse can both go to the grocery store, with a plan of what meals you're eating when and what ingredients you need. Get what you need and do some prep ahead of time. Doesn't mean you have to spend all day Sunday in the kitchen doling out food into food prep containers. But literally just washing and cutting produce ahead of time will help save time.

2. Buy some stuff in bulk, especially proteins. We just bought a half of a hog and paid about $2.39/lb for about 75 lbs of pork. Chops, pork steaks, bacon, breakfast sausage, ham that'll come in handy at Christmas. That's WAY cheaper than if we were buying pork every week at the grocery store. Plus, we have it on hand when we need it, and it's from a local farm.

3. If you don't have a crock pot, buy one. Then google "cheap healthy crock pot recipes". Set it and forget it. You can make a lot of food that'll provide dinner and leftovers for very little money.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by HornedToad » Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:39 am

Does that include dining out or just groceries?

How much are you actually spending? If you are $800 that's one thing, $1200 is a different scenario and would have other approaches for solution.

Most likely that you are either including restaurant or non-food spend or you are eating lots of fresh fruit, seafood, potentially gourmet salads or smoothie drinks or things of that nature.

We are right around $700-800/mo for groceries as well and that isn't counting dining out periodically which cuts the grocery side of the bill.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by HornedToad » Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:42 am

HardHitter wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:38 am

Any of the following gets categorized under our food budget: grocery shopping, fast food, going out to dinner, convenient store trips (e.g. 7/11 for energy drinks or a quick snack)
Since you are including fast food and dining out then I think $700/mo is pretty great. 1-2 nice dinners in a month or semi-regular sushi takeout could be ~$150-300+ and then the grocery portion would only be $400-550. In that case you'd need to break it up in order to have anyone able to suggest to see if the cost driver is dining out or groceries.

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Pretzel lover
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by Pretzel lover » Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:48 am

Another couple question-

How much are you eating (i.e., portion sizes)? Eating 2000 calories or 3500 calories?

Are you 'eating to live or living to eat'? For example- foodies?

Are you guys more active than 'normal? Weigh 150 lbs or 250 lbs?

HardHitter
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by HardHitter » Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:54 am

HornedToad wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:39 am
Does that include dining out or just groceries?

How much are you actually spending? If you are $800 that's one thing, $1200 is a different scenario and would have other approaches for solution.

Most likely that you are either including restaurant or non-food spend or you are eating lots of fresh fruit, seafood, potentially gourmet salads or smoothie drinks or things of that nature.

We are right around $700-800/mo for groceries as well and that isn't counting dining out periodically which cuts the grocery side of the bill.
So within the last 3 months our food spend was: $729, $524 and this month $1,013 which now that I think about it aren't that bad overall. We've really "tightened" up our budget and focused on it, but previously it was consistently over $1000/mo. The only thing that was "out of the ordinary" during this months food was a night out with friends where we went to dinner and spent $160 between the two of us and then I ended up covering a round of drinks after dinner ($90) because the other couples had brought bottles of wine that we drank during dinner.

My overall thought is that our food consumption could be lower. I'm very simple in my dining and don't think I spend that much on food. A protein such as ground beef, chicken, etc. along with a side of broccoli or vegetable is all I need. I eat just because I need fuel for my body and don't need all the fancy sauces, seasonings, etc.

We are going to go 2-3 months with the $700 split $350/$350 and see where it all adds up but I couldn't understand how I was seeing family of 4 with $400-$500 food budgets yet here we are struggling to stay within $700 for just 2 of us.

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Pretzel lover
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by Pretzel lover » Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:59 am

Do you ‘Brown bag’ lunch at work or buy there? That can add up too

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by bob60014 » Mon Jul 30, 2018 8:11 am

We average $500/mo for groceries. Any paper, cleaning and personal items are separate. Wife is a good cook and is able to create great meals that often provide leftovers for lunch. We shop every 3-4 days (retired so easy to do) for Fish, chicken, fresh veggie, fruits. Very little red meat is consumed. There is very little in the way of waste so our efficiency is about 95 percent or better which make a big difference in cost.

HardHitter
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by HardHitter » Mon Jul 30, 2018 8:12 am

Pretzel lover wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:59 am
Do you ‘Brown bag’ lunch at work or buy there? That can add up too
90% of the time I come home and have a meal that I've prepped for the week.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by 4nursebee » Mon Jul 30, 2018 8:17 am

We rarely spend so little on food. Our non food items regularly get lumped in with food though. About 30% comes from eating out, generally lunches. Avoiding beef, eating out, and booze helps the bills be cheaper.

I think of food as a fixed cost and do not budget for it. In other words, I just keep track of what we spent, do not plan on what we will spend.
4nursebee

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Pajamas
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by Pajamas » Mon Jul 30, 2018 8:21 am

There are threads on this topic on a regular basis and you might find some of the previous ones helpful:

https://www.google.com/search?sitesearc ... ood+budget

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Pretzel lover
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by Pretzel lover » Mon Jul 30, 2018 8:24 am

Some cost cutting measures if you don’t use while shopping-

Buying store brand where appropriate instead of brand name?

Buying what’s on sale (and possibly stocking up)?

Clipping e-coupons as a member of grocery online site?

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by BogleBike » Mon Jul 30, 2018 8:27 am

Quick comments and then a direct answer...

You're on the right track with your tracking. The answers will emerge when you track your expenses more precisely.

What most people find in my experience:
-You're right, restaurants add up really fast. Break out those separately from groceries and convenience stores.
-Your wife is right, energy drinks and convenience stores add up faster than you think. Not as fast as restaurants though.
-Food from the grocery store is cheapest
-Food (ingredients - meat, vegies, spices, grains) are cheaper than products (veggie burgers, microwave meals, soft drinks)

So the people who eat cheapest are those buy ingredients and cook them.

Direct answer - I eat about 70% food that I cook/chop/assemble (cost is ingredients), 29% food products (veggie burgers, my favorite bread, ice cream), 1% restaurants. The 1% is for social reasons, usually taking girlfriend or her and a friend to lunch/dinner. Tracked costs for first half of this year: total $170/mo...roughly $150/mo groceries, $20/mo restaurant average. I went to restaurants 4 times in that period.

Favorite meals at home -
turkey sandwiches on Ezekiel bread with cabbage (tried cabbage the first time, delicious to me...maybe I'm the only one);
egg and toast, side of mixed vegies, grapefruit (sorry, personal taste);
black bean tacos on crunchy corn tortillas with avocado, onion, & tomato;
nuts and toast or oatmeal, fresh cut broccoli and carrots, plus a fruit.

Ice cream's not a meal, but IRL I eat 2 or 3 good meals, then a dessert. :)

You can eat almost anything for under $250/person/month if you cook, $150/month with moderate price shopping. I just eat simple stuff because I like it and I'm lazy. Slowly adding cooking skills over time.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by Jags4186 » Mon Jul 30, 2018 8:35 am

Become better cooks, learn to eat more plain, be able to eat the same thing over and over, and be able to adjust on the fly. When I go food shopping I go over to the meat section first, see what is on sale/mark down, then decide what I'm buying around it.

This week chicken sausage was marked down 50%. So I bought 10 links of chicken sausage for $5.00 and we're having pasta with sausage two night, and sausage sandwiches for another 2 nights. Pasta costs maybe $1.50 for 1 lb which is enough for both of us to have 2 dishes, and a jar of the good pasta sauce costs $9. 4 rolls cost $2.76. Then you get a bag of frozen vegetebles peppers and onions for $2 or $3 and boom, you have 4 dinners, 8 meals, for a grand total of $2.66/meal.

The problem is when people make their meal plans without regards to what is on sale, or they have decided that they can only eat fresh/non-gmo/organic/whatever else. Get yourself down to about 5-10 meals you are comfortable making and always make enough to have leftovers for a second meal.

Njm8845
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by Njm8845 » Mon Jul 30, 2018 8:43 am

HardHitter wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:54 am
So within the last 3 months our food spend was: $729, $524 and this month $1,013 which now that I think about it aren't that bad overall. We've really "tightened" up our budget and focused on it, but previously it was consistently over $1000/mo. The only thing that was "out of the ordinary" during this months food was a night out with friends where we went to dinner and spent $160 between the two of us and then I ended up covering a round of drinks after dinner ($90) because the other couples had brought bottles of wine that we drank during dinner.

My overall thought is that our food consumption could be lower. I'm very simple in my dining and don't think I spend that much on food. A protein such as ground beef, chicken, etc. along with a side of broccoli or vegetable is all I need. I eat just because I need fuel for my body and don't need all the fancy sauces, seasonings, etc.

We are going to go 2-3 months with the $700 split $350/$350 and see where it all adds up but I couldn't understand how I was seeing family of 4 with $400-$500 food budgets yet here we are struggling to stay within $700 for just 2 of us.
You shouldn't draw the conclusion that you're doing anything "wrong" because you have a higher spend than other families, as so much depends on where you live. I just moved from Seattle to rural Georgia and, whereas I knew the cost of living would be cheaper, am shocked at how much cheaper groceries in particular are. Our spending on groceries is down 20%, and we're not really doing anything differently.

I will echo the sentiment that alcohol really adds up. We never buy alcohol. You can see from your one example of recently eating out how much that round of drinks adds to your bill. Not saying you shouldn't do it, as presumably you enjoy imbibing, but if you want to minimize your grocery bill, that's a very good place to start.

One last point - you seem to say the right things about food (only needing it for nutritional purposes), yet you admittedly consume a lot of fast food and energy drinks... Is there a contradiction there?

mega317
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by mega317 » Mon Jul 30, 2018 8:53 am

You've gotten some good answers, I'd just like to frame it a little differently. How did you come up with $700 for the budget in the first place? Is that all you have left after your other expenses? Just because some families spend less it doesn't mean that's right for you. We have a family of four (but two eat only breastmilk and frozen chicken nuggets), and we double your number sometimes. Food is a source of enjoyment for us, healthy is important, and we can afford it so who cares? If you earn enough you might have an non-problem here.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by Pigeon » Mon Jul 30, 2018 9:26 am

I would categorize the budget very differently.

We track our spending on groceries, and consider restaurant eating as entertainment. We rarely get fast food, and convenience store purchases are usually things like milk or eggs, and are rare enough that they don't matter. Restaurant eating is disproportionately expensive and is largely unnecessary (although fun), which is why we track it as entertainment.

We meal plan around what meats and fish are on sale. For grocery shopping, it's generally the proteins that drive the cost of the meal, not "fancy sauces." If you are cooking from scratch, sauces tend to be made from things you have on hand and generally don't require a bunch of high priced special ingredients. I find that having a well stocked spice cabinet actually saves money as I can make higher quality, tastier meals at home, which then means we aren't blowing money on restaurants.

I shop at Aldi once or twice a month for certain things that are a whole lot cheaper there, like rice, crackers, some pantry staples and cheeses.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by Sandtrap » Mon Jul 30, 2018 9:33 am

HardHitter wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:26 am
The wife and I have a $700 budget for food, however every month we seem to come to that limit or even over it. On some of the threads here I am seeing families having a food budget lower than us and I'm trying to understand what my wife and I are doing wrong as $700 seems high to me, but we continue to be higher. What are you guys eating!?
DW and I remember too many years, decades, with "hamburger helper (tofu), without the hamburger". Also known as. "soyu and rice" days. Or spam and rice.
So while we might stick to a budget of sorts on "things" and "expenses", food is not a place to scrimp. It's the one place where scrimping too much interferes with quality and enjoyment of life. While we rarely go out to eat and shop carefully, don't drink or entertain, we don't otherwise cut food costs.
Also depends on if one is retired, senior or super senior, etc.

IMHO 700/mo. is not extremely high.
And, it depends on food costs in your area vs where other "Bogles" live.. . not to mention varied diets and household sizes.
j

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by jebmke » Mon Jul 30, 2018 9:37 am

Eating out is generally expensive. I'm not against it but if your goal is to move the needle on cost, this is the first place I'd look. Next would be processed food and/or alcohol depending on what your buying habits are.
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by basspond » Mon Jul 30, 2018 9:40 am

Grocery stores have sales constantly. Always keep an eye out on staples/non-perishable items. Always make more for leftovers and freeze anything you are not going to consume in several days. Some vegetables, like green beans, can be blanched and frozen for later. Do not go for name brand items, most store brands are compatible.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by Nate79 » Mon Jul 30, 2018 9:48 am

I would suggest to try one month on the cash/envelope system along with better meal planning coordinated with your budgeting. I bet the cash/envelop system will better control your impulse purchases.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by nyclon » Mon Jul 30, 2018 9:49 am

HardHitter wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:38 am
Any of the following gets categorized under our food budget: grocery shopping, fast food, going out to dinner, convenient store trips (e.g. 7/11 for energy drinks or a quick snack)
Break out your budget using those categories. It'll be insightful to see groceries vs restaurants vs impulse buys. The last two categories are where you can make a difference by transferring the costs into the grocery budget (lower cost, higher yield)

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dm200
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 30, 2018 9:52 am

Look for whether (and how much) food is being wasted - uneaten food at meals, spoiled food purchased but never eaten, etc.

Can you substitute lower cost items for higher cost? Maybe things like Veggie Chili - lower cost and better for you.

What about breakfasts? Oatmeal and fruit is low cost and better for you.

When you shop - do you have lists or decide to purchase things that you happen to see?

One possible technique is having an absolute limit every week - just buy nothing else - and see what happens.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by dsmil » Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:03 am

$700 per month for groceries plus eating out seems fine. Of course you could cut down on eating out or buy cheaper groceries, but I don't think your spending levels are something to be worried about. Some easy fixes that I can think of are buying store brand items, packing a lunch, buying less meat, using cheaper but filling foods such as beans, rice, and pasta.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by 22twain » Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:10 am

HardHitter wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:38 am
my wife often times will go out and spend $25-$30 with her sisters at a restaurant
HardHitter wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:54 am
a night out with friends where we went to dinner and spent $160 between the two of us and then I ended up covering a round of drinks after dinner ($90)
You might consider separating these sorts of expenses into a separate budget line, under "entertainment" rather than plain old "eating to live" (groceries, fast-food lunches). The first category is more "discretionary", the second is more "essential" (albeit with a discretionary component in terms of specific choices).

We spend a lot less on food than you do, probably no more than $400 per month for everything, but we live in a small town in the South and probably have a much different lifestyle from you. For us, "eating out" usually means $10-$15 (including tip) per person at a pizza joint or fish camp, a couple of times per month, and "social eating" usually means inviting people to our house for lunch (occasionally dinner). When we were working (college teaching), we either brown-bagged lunch or took advantage of the faculty discount in the college dining hall. The latter also took care of a lot of our socialization. :wink:
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HardHitter
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by HardHitter » Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:17 am

Thanks everyone for the feedback. In regards to what the food budget is of overall savings, we save about $6K/mo so going over $1-$200 isn't a huge deal, but I don't want to get into a habit that it is "OK". Sure there are going to be special occasions like when we go out with friends and/or travel to see her family where we are going to have expensive months due to eating out at those times.

Like I mentioned, I have a feeling after a few months, we will realize where the extra food costs are coming from. When I was single, I used to live off of $200/mo and I felt like I ate fine. When I go grocery shopping, I go to the meats section and find what is on sale and if I can make it "last" for a few days. For example, I can get a Costco size of ground beef and do so many different meals with it (spaghetti, tacos, burgers, etc.) and usually that can last me a week or so. My one downfall are energy drinks which are usually 2 for $4. At drinking one a day, it can really add up.

As far as food waste goes, I will only buy what I will be able to eat. I will only go back to the grocery store when the fridge is empty and I am about to finish my last meal. I am content with eating the same meal for the entire week because again, I only eat food to fuel my body and not a "foodie". Total opposite of my wife though hah. My meals look something like this

- Breakfast: 2-3 eggs & maybe an english muffin/toast. On weekends, maybe some hashbrowns/bacon
- Lunch: Chicken/Ground Beef with a carb, usually rice/quinoa and then a veggie
- Dinner: Same as lunch typically
- Snacks: Chips (will only buy when there are 2 for $X deals or buy one get one free), popcorn, nuts (typically almonds, expensive but healthier)

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dm200
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:19 am

My one downfall are energy drinks which are usually 2 for $4. At drinking one a day, it can really add up.
Yes :)

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by Spirit Rider » Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:34 am

Here are my basic guidelines, some of which have already been mentioned and others that will arouse the peanut gallery:
  • Learn to prepare/cook: For both cost and health reasons don't buy prepared and/or processed food. You are paying someone else to do what you can do yourself without all the added chemicals
  • Time the market: Not the stock market, the Fruit and produce market. Learn when fresh product is available in order; local, regional, U.S. and international. Many times frozen is far cheaper and healthier the rest of the year. Canned is a distant second because of the chemicals.
  • Ignore the hype: Low-fat, natural, organic, cage-free/free range and organic. Even the CDC can not justify the cost/benefits.
  • Concentrate on staples: Grains (whole), legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, dairy, seafood, lean meats, poultry and eggs. Less expensive cuts of meats can be enhanced with preparation and cooking. Use herbs, spices and seasoning to enhance the flavor.
  • Waste not Want not: Depending on the study, the average American family wastes 1/4 - 1/3 of their food budget (up 50% in just 40 years). One poster mentioned they had a 95% food efficiency, that is what they were referring to.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by HornedToad » Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:38 am

I would guess that $400/mo for groceries and $300/mo for fast-food, eating out, etc is below average for total food costs. You should decide if saving the extra couple hundred dollars a month is worth changing either eating habit or amount of entertainment/dining out when you save $6k/mo.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by N10sive » Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:46 am

HardHitter wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:17 am
For example, I can get a Costco size of ground beef and do so many different meals with it (spaghetti, tacos, burgers, etc.) and usually that can last me a week or so. My one downfall are energy drinks which are usually 2 for $4. At drinking one a day, it can really add up.
Where do you buy these energy drinks? By the sounds of it you buy them at a convenience store or grocery store. If you shop at costco, why not buy them at costco when they are more like $1.50 per can. If you buy other bags of chips etc at the convenience store, buy those in bulk and put into ziploc baggies. Convenience stores are overly priced compared to grocery stores and that is how they make money. You have to put in a little work to save a bit of money on food. But in the end is it worth the time and effort especially at your savings rate.

I'm single and live in a VHCOL area. I spend about $400 a month on food, which I eat out lunch almost everyday at my cafeteria which serves very nutritional food that would cost $12-15 at a restaurant. I could drop this a little if I made my own food but im not the greatest cook. I eat very plain for dinner most of the time. So $700 a month isn't that bad and if you can afford it, doesn't seem like a huge deal.

It could also be that summers here. I went on vacation where we ate out most of the time and a few nights out with the nice weather and my food bill with restaurants is going to be close to $900 this month. That included a few nights of drinking as well. With the nice weather Im more inclined to go out along with my friends which inherently raises my dining out budget but I know it will only be for a month or two(granted this one included a vacation).

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by H-Town » Mon Jul 30, 2018 11:25 am

HardHitter wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:26 am
The wife and I have a $700 budget for food, however every month we seem to come to that limit or even over it. On some of the threads here I am seeing families having a food budget lower than us and I'm trying to understand what my wife and I are doing wrong as $700 seems high to me, but we continue to be higher. What are you guys eating!?
Dining out and waste of leftovers are the two primary culprits driving up the cost of food.

I don't have a budget for food. I just keep track of how much we spend on food (groceries & dining out). It's average $300-400 a month for a family of 2.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by mortfree » Mon Jul 30, 2018 12:32 pm

Skip the fast food and 7-11. Stock up on energy drinks elsewhere. You will also save time since you won’t have to stop at 7-11

Separate out groceries from Dining.

Re-evaluate your budget.
Last edited by mortfree on Mon Jul 30, 2018 12:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by Blueskies123 » Mon Jul 30, 2018 12:34 pm

I am really confused by the $700 seeming high. My wife and I usually spend twice that, excluding eating out which we rarely do. My wife likes to cook but the ingredients are usually chicken, turkey, or ground meat - sometimes fish - Costco salmon. We shop at Walmart, Costco and if we need just a few items then Publix.
She doctors everything up with cooking wine and spices. Portions are small to medium.
I like to eat fish over beef so that might be some of it and we invite people over for a barbeque a few times a month. I wish I could get ours down to $700.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by stoptothink » Mon Jul 30, 2018 12:40 pm

Blueskies123 wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 12:34 pm
I am really confused by the $700 seeming high. My wife and I usually spend twice that, excluding eating out which we rarely do. My wife likes to cook but the ingredients are usually chicken, turkey, or ground meat - sometimes fish - Costco salmon. We shop at Walmart, Costco and if we need just a few items then Publix.
She doctors everything up with cooking wine and spices. Portions are small to medium.
I like to eat fish over beef so that might be some of it and we invite people over for a barbeque a few times a month. I wish I could get ours down to $700.
There are countless factors (region, what you eat, food waste...), but check out some related threads, some of us (my family of 4 included) are spending half what OP is.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by bengal22 » Mon Jul 30, 2018 12:45 pm

HardHitter wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:26 am
The wife and I have a $700 budget for food, however every month we seem to come to that limit or even over it. On some of the threads here I am seeing families having a food budget lower than us and I'm trying to understand what my wife and I are doing wrong as $700 seems high to me, but we continue to be higher. What are you guys eating!?
Simple solution. Raise your budget. Why cut back on what you eat???
"Earn All You Can; Give All You Can; Save All You Can." .... John Wesley

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by Artful Dodger » Mon Jul 30, 2018 12:46 pm

Based on what you're including, I don't think $700 is high at all. You said groceries, fast food, plus eating out. We probably spend $700 on groceries, plus another $100 on personal eating (me - Subway, Panera, occasional McMuffin, etc.) plus another $300 to $500 eating out. The $700 grocery figure will include $40 to $60 beer plus lower cost wine, but doesn't include our shipped wine and/or liquor store purchases.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by livesoft » Mon Jul 30, 2018 12:52 pm

Just went grocery shopping.

A quarter cup of unpopped popcorn is all I need for lunch. I make it the microwave, no added salt, no added sugar, no added butter. It's $1.79 for a 32 oz bag, so that's 16 servings per bag or less than 12 cents for a lunch serving.

Oatmeal is what I eat for breakfast, about 3/4 cup uncooked, 42 oz is $2.49 which is at least 20 servings, so about 13 cents for breakfast. I'll add some things to make it palatable. This week, a pint of blueberries is $1.99 which is enough for 6 breakfasts, so add 33 cents. Put some walnuts in there which are $5.99 a pound which is about 16 servings (a small handful), so add 38 cents.

Thus breakfast and lunch everyday is under a dollar a day per person. I could do takeout or eat out dinner and with the leftovers, I could be under $150 a month and never have to cook dinner.
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dm200
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:00 pm

Regular Oatmeal at Costco is about 80 cents a pound.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by Irisheyes » Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:03 pm

700-800 dollars a month seems reasonable to me. We are in CA and we spend about that for 3 of us. I do not scrimp on food though we rarely eat out and very rarely get take out. Cooking and eating is one of life's major pleasures, afaic. I am not about to eat 1/4 cup of popcorn for lunch and my family would look askance at me if I offered them that (though more power to those who are happy with it) nor am I going to eat ramen and sausage 3 or 4 days a week.

If you can afford that amount, and you are not wasting food, why worry?

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dm200
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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:06 pm

For health reasons (from credible sources) - I have nearly eliminated meat, fish, dairy, eggs from what I normally eat.

Lower food coats and I expect lower health/medical expenses. WIN - WIN for me and LOSE - LOSE for medical providers, and producers/distributors of meat, fish, dairy, eggs :)

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by Katietsu » Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:23 pm

HardHitter wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:54 am
HornedToad wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:39 am
Does that include dining out or just groceries?

How much are you actually spending? If you are $800 that's one thing, $1200 is a different scenario and would have other approaches for solution.

Most likely that you are either including restaurant or non-food spend or you are eating lots of fresh fruit, seafood, potentially gourmet salads or smoothie drinks or things of that nature.

We are right around $700-800/mo for groceries as well and that isn't counting dining out periodically which cuts the grocery side of the bill.
So within the last 3 months our food spend was: $729, $524 and this month $1,013 which now that I think about it aren't that bad overall. We've really "tightened" up our budget and focused on it, but previously it was consistently over $1000/mo. The only thing that was "out of the ordinary" during this months food was a night out with friends where we went to dinner and spent $160 between the two of us and then I ended up covering a round of drinks after dinner ($90) because the other couples had brought bottles of wine that we drank during dinner.

My overall thought is that our food consumption could be lower. I'm very simple in my dining and don't think I spend that much on food. A protein such as ground beef, chicken, etc. along with a side of broccoli or vegetable is all I need. I eat just because I need fuel for my body and don't need all the fancy sauces, seasonings, etc.

We are going to go 2-3 months with the $700 split $350/$350 and see where it all adds up but I couldn't understand how I was seeing family of 4 with $400-$500 food budgets yet here we are struggling to stay within $700 for just 2 of us.
I would suspect that anyone spending $400-$500 a month for a family of four is not eating out or buying energy drinks at convenience stores. And if they are, they are not including it in their “food” number.

The USDA considers about $600 a month to be thrifty for a family of four. They calculate based on all meals being prepared and eaten at home.

About $600/month is also the estimate for 2 adults for a moderate plan. Again this assumes $0 for fast food, restaurants, energy drinks, etc.

It sounds like your in home spending is on the low cost to moderate side for the most part. You will need to decide if the extras are worth it to you. I had dinner with my sisters once a month for $30, I would definitely consider that to be a worthwhile expenditure. I would be annoyed if my DH questioned it, provided it was in line with our household finances. But that is for you to decide.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by mancich » Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:35 pm

Our family of 5 is averaging about $1,600/month, plus another $200 a month for eating out (Panera, pizza, etc). I hate it that we spend that much, but the kids are eating machines :D

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by limeyx » Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:37 pm

HardHitter wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:26 am
The wife and I have a $700 budget for food, however every month we seem to come to that limit or even over it. On some of the threads here I am seeing families having a food budget lower than us and I'm trying to understand what my wife and I are doing wrong as $700 seems high to me, but we continue to be higher. What are you guys eating!?
Same here. Ours does include a lot of wine/beer though (which also explains why my shirts are "shrinking" so much recently)
It's one of the two main areas ("Restaurants" being the other) that we want desperately to cut but have the hardest time with.

Especially with two young kids -- makes it harder to go to the store on fixed intervals and we end up going multiple times per week and overspending

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by RobLyons » Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:56 pm

I applaud you keeping a budget and trying to stick to it as best as possible! Most people don't do this.
We don't figure out a budget, just buy what we like, sticking to sound principles of common sense and sometimes penny pinching
For reference, I'm 195lbs into bodybuilding, I don't sacrifice nutrition for penny pinching, but we still come in under $800 usually for groceries, family of
Also, what fun is life if you are always skimping on one of the greatest joys of life - eating!!?


To specifically help you in your situation, cut out the $2 energy drinks in favor of coffee (if you don't mind the taste). I get coffee pods from amazon at a cost of $0.30 per cup.


-We shop at a wholesale warehouse club, where deli, milk, bread, muffins are much cheaper
-Never any high end items (nice cuts of steak, seafood, high priced produce out of season)
-Use everything we buy, limit throwing out food
-Accept left overs and farm fresh eggs from in laws
-Fresh caught fish (many friends/family like to fish in the summer)
-Wife cooks enough for several left over meals
-We rarely use coupons, time for us is more wisely spent with family, friends, house projects, etc


Cheapest, best food items for me are:
canned tuna $0.99/can
on sale chicken breast $1.89/lb,
skim milk $2.79/gal
on sale baby lettuce $4-$5 tub that lasts a week

And for kids...
pasta, cereal, sandwiches, apples, pancakes


Hope some of this helps!
Last edited by RobLyons on Mon Jul 30, 2018 3:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by runner540 » Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:56 pm

HardHitter wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:17 am
Thanks everyone for the feedback. In regards to what the food budget is of overall savings, we save about $6K/mo so going over $1-$200 isn't a huge deal, but I don't want to get into a habit that it is "OK". Sure there are going to be special occasions like when we go out with friends and/or travel to see her family where we are going to have expensive months due to eating out at those times.

Like I mentioned, I have a feeling after a few months, we will realize where the extra food costs are coming from. When I was single, I used to live off of $200/mo and I felt like I ate fine. When I go grocery shopping, I go to the meats section and find what is on sale and if I can make it "last" for a few days. For example, I can get a Costco size of ground beef and do so many different meals with it (spaghetti, tacos, burgers, etc.) and usually that can last me a week or so. My one downfall are energy drinks which are usually 2 for $4. At drinking one a day, it can really add up.

As far as food waste goes, I will only buy what I will be able to eat. I will only go back to the grocery store when the fridge is empty and I am about to finish my last meal. I am content with eating the same meal for the entire week because again, I only eat food to fuel my body and not a "foodie". Total opposite of my wife though hah. My meals look something like this

- Breakfast: 2-3 eggs & maybe an english muffin/toast. On weekends, maybe some hashbrowns/bacon
- Lunch: Chicken/Ground Beef with a carb, usually rice/quinoa and then a veggie
- Dinner: Same as lunch typically
- Snacks: Chips (will only buy when there are 2 for $X deals or buy one get one free), popcorn, nuts (typically almonds, expensive but healthier)
It sounds like you and your wife prefer to eat differently, but you want to control that $100-200 in a monthly overall budget with $6,000 o savings. I'd suggest a grocery only budget line item, with both of you participating in meal planning/prep/shopping/clean up, so you both are aware of and communicating about the tradeoffs. Then individual envelopes for any eating out/snacks.

We have a food category that is pretty stable month to month, but sub categories of alcohol, dining out, weekday lunches out, and coffee/snacks.

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Re: Consistently over budget on food - what are you guys eating?

Post by nimo956 » Mon Jul 30, 2018 4:02 pm

When I started paying attention to my food budget, I found a lot of the savings to be obvious. I was paying a premium for smaller, individualized packaging, pre-sliced fruit, prepared meals (not frozen dinners).

PAY ATTENTION TO THE UNIT COST, which is next to every price tag in the supermarket.

For example, I would buy microwavable single serving packets of rice. I calculated that this is 17x more expensive than a 10lb bag of rice + rice cooker! Same thing for pineapple, apples, etc. Just buy the unadulterated ingredients and prepare them yourself. You get the same food and save a lot of money.

My strategy is to "stick to the outside aisles and avoid everything in the middle." This means I buy things like:

Bread
Eggs
Milk
Cheese
Nuts
Fruit
Green Vegetables
Potatoes
Rice

Essentially, I don't buy any packaged foods in a box (outside of pasta). No frozen dinners, Cheez-Itz, Goldfish, cookies, soda, etc. Limit what is processed and buy as many natural ingredients as you can and cook them yourself.

Not only is it cheaper, but healthier as well. It's a win-win.
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