If you have followed me for awhile, then you know that I’m the blogger formerly known as Stacy Makes Cents.
And while yes, the name of the blog has changed, we still focus a lot on budgeting. My husband has written two books on budgeting and getting out of debt. Barry and I are huge into encouraging people to get out of debt and live free.
We started with a budget the day we got married. We went on our honeymoon with our cash budget. I’ve had a grocery budget since then and for us, a cash grocery budget just works. We’ve always done a cash budget because it helps me reign myself in as far as spending on groceries goes.
Comparing grocery budgets is not straightforward.
When one of you ask what my budget is… it’s not really an apples to apples kind of comparison, because grocery budgets will differ so much based on where you live. I live in a rural area in the mountains of southwest Virginia. It doesn’t cost a whole lot for me to buy my groceries here. There are people who live in areas where food is just super expensive! I have friends who live in California, different parts of Canada and the islands of Hawaii that spend double (or more!) than I do on food.
Often you will find that cost of living varies quite a bit from place to place. For example, where we are, median household income is only $38,000 per year based on 2015 census data and average per capita income is a little under $22,000 per year (around $10.50 per hour). In other words, it doesn’t cost as much to live here (including food costs) but average income is also much lower here than in many other places.
Our grocery budget changes.
Our grocery budget was $450/month for a family of six, up until about a year ago. This past year, we had to increase our budget (twice!) to its current level – $600/month. Some of you are like, “Oh my gosh! How is she spending so much money on food?” And others are saying, “How does she only spend that little on food – are they eating crap?“ Like I said, it all depends on where you live.
Let me just say, my kids are human vacuums. I don’t know where they are putting all the food they eat! Maybe they have hollow legs? They’re eating the same amount I do, and then they say, “Mom, I’m still hungry”. I literally feed my kids what I’d serve a full-grown man, and they are only 7, 4, 2, and 1. And I’m told it’s going to get worse!
Where do I shop and what do I buy?
I spend most of my budget on fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy. This includes at least one trip to Aldi and Sam’s Club per month and usually a trip each week to Walmart or a local grocery store for fresh produce. (If you haven’t yet, check out my post on why I love shopping at Sam’s Club and what I buy.) It would be nice if I could shop at Aldi weekly, but the closest one is about 70 minutes away, one way! I am only able to go when I am visiting at my mother-in-law’s house.
I also save a lot of money when it comes to meat.
If I ever buy meat, it’s pork or chicken, with the rare occasion of salmon patties or tilapia. My husband likes to hunt and my daddy is a cattle farmer, so I don’t have to buy venison or beef. I do pay my dad for the processing and cattle upkeep, but it’s not a huge amount, and much less than if I were purchasing it at the store. Plus I know where that meat comes from and how it was raised.
Side note: I highly recommend you to consider purchasing a half or whole beef if you can. It’s perfect for a deep freezer. And not only are you getting high quality, local beef, but it’s also a very cost effective way to eat meat. If you can’t afford a whole or half, or don’t have the freezer space for it, you can usually find people to go in with you on it.
Don’t apologize for your grocery budget!
I feel like we spend too much time apologizing for our grocery budget and feeling like we spend too much money on food. In the U.S., we spend a smaller percentage of our income on food than most other countries do. But for some reason, we think we should only buy food if it’s cheap. I don’t mind spending extra money on food.
For example, last month there were some extra foods I wanted for fun. I had been hoarding my birthday money and decided that I would use it on some fun food items that we didn’t need, but I wanted! Barry said, “You can’t spend your birthday money on food! You should buy something fun.” But I said, “To me, food is fun! I’d rather spend money on food than anything else right now!”
Whether you spend $100 or $1,000, don’t apologize! If you have $1,000 available to spend on food each month and want to do so, go for it! Other people who can’t spend that much shouldn’t make you feel guilty. You shouldn’t feel bad that you can afford more or higher quality food for your family. Each of us makes a personal decision about what food to buy based on our income and budget. We each have to come to our own grocery budget conclusions. The sooner we learn not to worry about what everyone else is doing, the better off we’ll be!
Do you have a grocery budget? If not, I encourage you to give it a try. You can do it!