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What is a reasonable grocery budget?

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By Faye Prosser

Ever wonder if your grocery budget is on the frugal side or not? Some of you may not even have a grocery budget. Creating a frugal grocery budget isn't hard to do, but it will help you to live more comfortably within your means, which is priceless! Here are some tips to creating a frugal grocery budget, including those I discussed on WRAL-FM this morning.

What is a reasonable grocery budget?

California ShootingsWRAL SmartShopperGrocery budget

Well…..that all depends. There is no “right” amount to spend that applies to every family. There are too many variables that come into play such as the number of people in the family, allergies, type of diet (vegetarian vs. heavy meat eaters), coupon use, geographic location, amount you eat out, shopping options, etc.

Some experts say $15 per person per week is a very frugal budget. Others say more like $20 per person is reasonable. In a survey by The Dollar Stretcher (a fabulous resource for frugal living ideas), the average family of 4 spent $121 per week - $30.25 per person.

My budget is $80 per week, which includes food, cleaning, health and beauty and paper products. For our family of 4, that’s $20 per person.

Here in the Raleigh area, there are so many shopping options and fabulous deals every week. Most families of 4 should be able to spend much less than $121 per week by using couponing, store promotions and meal planning techniques.

The first place to start, when determining how much to spend on groceries, is to take a look at your current grocery spending. How much are you spending right now to feed your household each month?

**Important: Track how much you spend per week for at least 2 weeks. If you have receipts from the past couple weeks, use those. If not, track your expenses for the next 2 weeks. Include all those trips through the drive-through and any meals eaten at restaurants for a true picture of how much you spend on food

each month. Don’t forget vending machine expenses and money you give the kids for school lunches and trips to the mall food court.

Do your homework on Step One and you are well on your way to saving lots of money on groceries each month.

The result of Step One is that many of you will be SHOCKED! All those trips to Starbucks, McD’s and the vending machine add up quickly. Until you have an accurate account of how much you spend on food each month, you won’t be able to make the kind of dent in your grocery budget that you want.

Look at your expenses to see where the money is going. Are you spending a lot on fast food, expensive cleaning supplies or lunch at the nearest deli? You may find some surprises. Look for ways to target those areas where you know you are overspending. Bring lunch and snacks from home, only buy cleaning supplies on sale with coupons or make your own. Examine where the money is going with a fine-tooth comb.

Step Three

Slowly lower your grocery budget each month for the next 6 months by incorporating couponing, store promotions and meal planning techniques. I’ve read that lowering your budget by 5% each month is a good place to start. The ideal weekly budget for your family should allow you to eat well-balanced, frugal meals without having to spend every waking moment searching for deals. The less you eat out, the lower your bills will be and the healthier your meals will be.

Like all things worth doing, setting and sticking to a grocery budget involves discipline. Set your goals and stick to them every week. By the end of the six month period you should have found a comfortable, realistic grocery budget that allows your family to eat well and to be good stewards of your hard earned income.

Feel free to share your weekly or monthly grocery budgets below. It helps if you also share how many people you are feeding.

As I always say, it's your money - spend it wisely!

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