18 October 2013

How Much Should I Be Spending on Food?

How much should I be spending on food?  On average Australians spend around $200 a week on the food component of their grocery shopping (cleaning, toiletries, magazines etc. are additional).

That's a lot of money, and it's why I am asked so often how much you should be spending on food.

That's not an easy question answer. Every household is different. We're a family and household of five adults. We don't have any special dietary requirements. We live in a capital city with a vast range of supermarkets, grocers, butchers, greengrocers and markets. We have no debt.

We could easily spend $200 a week, or even more, on food if I didn't watch our grocery budget carefully.

I can't, shouldn't and won't tell you how much of your money you should spend on food.  I can and will happily tell you what we spend, how it's spent and what it's spent on (and I've covered this in other posts and in the Journal).

As I said every household is different. Your income will be different to ours, you'll live somewhere different to us, you may or may not have access to the variety of food sources I have and your financial commitments will be different. You may have a lot of debt or none, you may be on a good income or a low income. It's not my place to tell you how much to spend.

For this year, January through to the end of September our grocery bill has averaged $309 a month, about $60 per person per month. I budget for $320 a month, and the excess (when there is excess) goes into the grocery slush fund to pay for stockpile items and super fantastic specials too good to pass up.

I keep it down by having a set list and sticking to it. I buy as much as I can in bulk. I don't waste month on branded products unless we especially like them. I grow a lot of the vegetables we eat and what I don’t grow I buy in bulk and either freeze, bottle or dehydrate. I cook from scratch. And, and this is the biggie, we don't eat out very often (maybe twice a year) and takeaway is a once-a-month treat paid for out of our fun money.

If you want to get your grocery bill down, start with your next shop. Make a shopping list of exactly what you need and then stick to it.  Use your current grocery budget and try to come in under, 10 per cent under is a good starting point. If you find you can get everything on your list and still eat well, next shop trim your grocery budget by another 10 per cent. Keep trimming like this until you find you can't feed the family and buy everything you need, then just go back one week and use that as your grocery budget.

You can stick to it by shopping smarter and wiser. Look for less expensive substitutes, keep an eye out for good sales, shop around, stop wasting food by using everything you buy before it goes off and be more disciplined in your meal planning and shopping.

You don't need to go without the food you like or need. You do need to be clever and perhaps make some changes to the way you stock your pantry and fridge and to the way you think about grocery shopping (it's chore to be done, not a recreational activity).

There is no right or wrong amount for you to be spending on food. There is an optimal amount, that you can find using the 10 per cent reduction strategy, just right for you.

I don't want you to feel sad and deprived, that's not the point of spending less on your groceries. Take back control and make the choices that benefit you and your family. Ditch the stuff that's not important to you so you have the money to enjoy the things that are.

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