Stay on top of your budget this month—and every month.
Most families can relate to the stress of shelling out for groceries when you’re stretched thin for cash, especially if you’re buying food to feed a large family. Yet we all have to eat, right? While shopping for groceries is a major and necessary expense, it’s not an automatically fixed cost. Unlike with fuel and our utility bills, it can be difficult to determine how much money to set aside for groceries, even if you’re an avid planner and coupon clipper.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), most Americans spend, on average, around 6 percent of their disposable income on food. Combined with a 5 percent spending rate on dining out at restaurants and fast-food chains, that can swell a family’s allotted food budget up to 11 percent each month.
Fortunately, there’s an easy-to-follow chart, created by budgeting website Growing Slower, to help you figure out if you're overspending on food for your family. The nifty table uses information from the USDA’s Cost of Food report to show you how much your family’s monthly grocery bill should be based on your family size. The family size starts at one and goes up to 11. For example, if it’s just you, your spouse, and one child, Growing Slower suggests spending between $475 and $558 a month on your grocery bill.
In recent months, the spending guidelines chart has been widely shared on Facebook, causing many parents to pat themselves on the back for spending less than the recommended amount each month to feed their family.
MJ Krolick Klawson wrote: "Family of 5 pretty accurate, but it also includes for us non-food items purchased in those trips. Thought I was spending a lot. Nice seeing we fall into the norm."
Another Facebook user, Ashley Teems, commented: "Family of 4 here, and we spend less than a family of 1, according to this list. We average around $160-200 a month on groceries (food items only)."
Of course, the chart isn’t an exact science, as it doesn’t take into account fluctuating costs in more expensive cities or the money you spend on dining out per month. Also, keep in mind that a family of four with younger children who are picky eaters versus one with older, hungry teenagers who will eat anything in sight can’t be measured the same. Likewise, families with various food allergies often have to visit multiple grocery stores to get what they need, and those trips can eat up a significant portion of a family’s budget.
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Still, this budgeting chart can be a valuable tool to monitor whether your family's spending is somewhat on track. Not to mention, it gives you the chance to access what items you may need to cut back on to trim your grocery bill.