From the Poll-a-palooza (now closed–thank you for voting!), I see that many of you are interested in actual numbers. The grocery/household budget that my husband and I set at the beginning of 2008 is $600/month for two adults, a 5-year-old and twin 2-year-olds. I lump grocery and household together so I don't have to dissect receipts, meaning that my $600 goes not only towards food but also health and beauty products, cleaning products, paper products (TP, etc.), and diapers for twins. We also entertain occasionally, bring meals to others, and buy food to donate to our local food bank.
For reference, the USDA suggests that my family could eat their “low-cost plan” for $743/month. I chose the”low-cost” column because I do make a lot of my own food and avoid processed and convenience foods that I imagine are part of the “moderate” and “liberal” plans. Remember, though, that they are only referring to groceries/food.
Now that we're more than halfway through the year, I'm looking back at that number and think we estimated well. I've gone as low as $379 (April) and as high as $975 (July–which I still don't understand and really think is human error–dear?). My average for the eight months so far this year is $516, under our planned budget. When you factor in the high cost-of-living here in the Washington DC Metro area, I am very pleased with the results. A couple of thoughts:
- I've tried giving myself a strict weekly budget, but it doesn't match the way I shop. If ground beef or chicken is at its lowest price, I'll buy enough for a month or two, to last me until the next sale. That would throw a weekly budget awry, and it's why some months are low and others high; many weeks of the month I don't need to buy anything but perishables like milk and produce.
- We actually eat a lot more than $515 worth of food a month. Remember that I spend pennies on the dollar at CVS, where I buy groceries in addition to the health and beauty products. I also collect gift cards for the grocery stores and Target through pharmacy coupons and points programs.
- We're not perfect! If it makes you feel better, we're spending $100-$200 per month on eating out. I think that's a lot, and each month I'm trying to find ways to cut that down. But sometimes Mommy needs a break, and Mommy wants someone else to prep, cook, and especially clean up after the meal. [idea for future post noted]
Most importantly, remember that it takes a lot of WORK to spend this little. You know from reading here, I spend quite a bit of time researching deals online, clipping coupons, and shopping at several stores a week, but I have the time to do it. I feel strongly that as a stay-at-home-mom, the way I “make” money is by saving money on our budget. It is a lot easier, faster, and more convenient to pick one store and buy everything there (and trust me, I've had weeks I do that too). By trying some of the strategies I outline here on the blog, such as meal planning, stockpiling, and couponing, you'll find a balance between time and money that works for you and your family.