Friday Question of the Day – How Much do you Budget/Spend per week on Food?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Lucas Keene

Another succinct reader request:

“What are people’s food budgets (in some ranges) and do they stick to it?”

So how much do you budget for food per week including restaurants? Do you stick to your budget? How much do you spend on groceries per week? (If you give your answers in the comments please say if your budget is for 1, 2 or more.)

131 Comment

  • I’ve wondered this too. I feel like we spend SO MUCH… but maybe that’s just a function of where we live and being working parents? We’re a family of three (two adults and a toddler). We spend $100-$150/week at Wegmans, plus $100 on lunches downtown, and $50 at fast casual restaurants like Chipotle on the weekend. We don’t go out for fancy meals or happy hours, and our weekly food budget includes our booze.

    • Two $10 lunches a day downtown will do that. (Your $100 downtown lunch figure divided by the two adults divided by 5 days a week is $10/lunch.)

      Packing your own lunch could cut your food budget by a third.

      –someone who packs their own no-frills and super-healthy lunch and drinks all free water he wants

  • My wife and I spent $12k in restaurants last year, which is ridiculous. We have been remodelling and unusually busy. We spent another $80/week on groceries. DC is an expensive city. When I travel to Chicago, I realize how expensive dining out and Metro are in DC relative to most major cities.

  • My wife and I spend about 100/week in breakfast + lunch, 50-100 or so in groceries depending on the week, and then 300-500 in dinners out. So we’re around a totally ridiculous 500-600/week. It’s got to be our biggest expense. Something we need to cut down.

  • $150 a week for 3 adults, 2 kids and Family Sunday meal where relatives come over. I have a latin family, so steak is very important.

  • HaileUnlikely

    Two adults, about $125-$150 on actual groceries, about $75-$100 for carry-out lunch on workdays, only eat other meals out on special occasions (about once a month). We’d like to get back to bring lunch more often (small increase in groceries, big decrease in lunch out) but there is some inertia associated with that…

    • “but there is some inertia associated with that…”

      Instead of intertia you mean laziness. You have all weekend coming up to buy some groceries. I’ve been roasting my own lunch meat for years now (rotates between turkey, beef, and chicken). Bread, the meat, sandwich toppings, vegetables and fruit effectively come out to about $10 a week for me, so let’s say $15 for you and your partner. Cheaper, healthier, and better-tasting than most anything you can buy out.

      • Then again, if your frugality is offset by being a jerk that no one wants to be around, you may end up shortening your lifespan that way. Something to think about.

      • That is a big assumption that anyone would have “all weekend” to prepare for lunch the following week. Not everyone has tons of free time even on weekends.

      • Anonynon

        how do you roast your own meat?

        • @Eponymous – Not sure why you’re offended by my response. My point was that most people I know who say they “want” to cut their food budget have every opportunity to do so (kitchen, grocery store) but are just too lazy (really no better way to describe it) to do so.

          @ mvexplorer “All weekend” = 1 trip to the grocery store and roasting takes about 30-70 minutes depending on what you’re roasting, including prep time. I can’t speak for anyone’s personal schedule, but what’s nice about roasting is that you can do other things while the oven is on.

          @ Katayaburi – In an oven with a roasting pan ($20 from sears). I line the pan with foil to catch drippings. Beef takes closer to 50 minutes at a bit lower temperatures (you want it rare) while poultry is in the mid-to-high 300s (I do 375) for about 40 minutes. Comes out nice a juicy if you eat it fresh. Coat with whatever you like, but I choose usually salt, pepper, garlic. Chicken breasts are 1.99/lb from the butcher’s counter at Harris Teeter (compare that to like $8-9-10 from the deli window).

      • HaileUnlikely

        I basically agree with all of that. Yes, inertia was my euphemism for laziness. I brought my lunch to work every day for years – saved a boatload of money and ate better. But then I fell off the wagon and haven’t been able to coax myself back on yet.

        • I wasn’t trying to troll or anything…and it sounds like you’d be in a perfect position to attest to how lunches can cost (or save!) money depending on how you do it.

          • HaileUnlikely

            No worries – I didn’t think you were. I used to throw my lunch together while making my breakfast in the morning. Bringing lunch obviously costs more than zero, but much less than $10/day. Over a year, it adds up to about $2000. Daaaamn…when I write it out that way it looks like serious money.

  • $650/month ($163/week) for all food and alcohol, which includes restaurants, groceries, coffee shops, and bars. Some months I’m a little over, some a little under, but on average I’m right around that number. That’s just for one, because my SO and I keep separate finances and trade off paying for meals/groceries.

  • 2 adults, $200-300/ week not including meals I charge to my work. Eat out most of the time and when we cook, we like fancy stuff.

  • says I spend $575/mo on groceries (which includes both real grocery/food + laundry detergent/etc).
    Which translates into a very shocking (to me) $135/week for 1/2 adults. I don’t have a budget per se, but still I wondering where I’m spending this money (almost $20/day!)

  • About $1,000 a month to feed one (myself) but that is mostly restaurants and carry-outs and coffee shops. Not really too many groceries. Just don’t like to cook.

  • Family of four, $650/month, includes restaurants and booze.

    • Teach me your ways, oh sensei.

      • Cook at home and drink at home as much as possible, simple as that.

        Dinner at a restaurant and drinks at the bar – $70 or so.

        a 12 pack of nice beer and a dish to bring to a dinner party – $30 max.

        • TenleyExPat is on the right track: Be a one-income family…Like to cook…Grocery shop with a shopping list…Shop knowing how much $ you have left to spend that month…Cooking Light magazine and menu plan…Brown bag work lunches…Watch receipts/balance check book manually and regularly…Eat leftovers…Eat out only at end of month as reward for staying on budget…Know that saved $ is going in college fund.

  • binpetworth

    This is fascinating. I’m on the lower end; I spend about $50 a week and I always clip coupons! I eat carryout once a week and do a sit-down restaurant only once a month. And I only buy alcohol when I eat out or host a party so that keeps costs down. It helps that I love to cook and eat leftovers.

    • I’m the same way. I usually spend about $40 a week on groceries and love coupons! I’ll buy lunch at work once a week for about $10 and go out to eat about twice a month. I only drink at happy hours or house parties 2-3 times a month so that’s not a major cost.

      • SFT

        This blows my mind. I spent $40 on lunch yesterday. Granted that’s not an everyday thing and yesterday was a particularly rough day so I splurged a bit. But $40/wk seems like what I paid for groceries in college. How much money do you save couponing? I tried to do it once after watching the extreme coupon shows, but fell flat. I just can’t seem to get into it. Plus there are never coupons for fresh veggies or meat 🙁

        • I don’t save a ton couponing but it is rewarding to see a bit come off of the total at check out. I can usually find pretty good coupons for soups, dairy goods, and sometimes lettuce. I only eat meat once or twice a week, incorporate a lot of beans in my diet, and rely on frozen veggies probably more than I should mostly because fresh stuff tends to go bad before I can eat it all. I can’t have gluten and I eat more brown rice pasta than I probably should with sauces that I make myself. Breakfast is always a protein shake, lunch is usually brown rice/frozen veggies/beans or chicken or rice cakes with peanut butter and fruit, and for dinner I resort to pasta or a stir fry. I tend to make more intensive meals on Friday and Saturday nights.

        • binpetworth

          Like AliceinDC I don’t save a ton using coupons, but they’re good for things that I buy & use regularly, such as canned tomatoes, toilet paper, dishwasher detergent. But between paper coupons and SafewayForU deals (which seem to correspond to stuff you buy often, in my case tofu, bananas, etc.), I do save probably between $10-$20 a week by paying attention.

    • Actually, only drinking alcohol when you eat in and *not* when you eat out is how to save money. You can buy an entire bottle of nice liquor (plus mixers) for what half a dozen cocktails will cost, similar markup on wine and beer.
      (I hope that doesn’t sound judgy, I’m not trying to suggest you change anything, just pointing out that drinking out is not what’s keeping your costs down, not drinking a lot is what’s doing it).

  • In 2014, this (cheap) single guy who cooks most of his meals spent just under $7k at bars (actually all alcohol), restaurants, and grocery stores combined – about $130 a week. The total for groceries and alcohol were approximately the same (sigh) at $2,800, and meals out came to around $1,300.

    • Yeah, I am pretty low-end myself. Maybe $140/month on groceries, if it’s a big month. I eat dinner at work twice a week for about $10/meal, so that’s another $80 (unless it’s fast food). And then maybe 3 times a month I go out for dinner and drinks with myself and a good book – maybe another $150.

  • I’m middle of the road apparently – one person, about $300 in groceries and $300 in all eating out in a month. I try to limit the coffee shop breakfast and buying lunch at work to once a week, so most of the eating out is socializing and therefore takes the place of what other people might spend on buying expensive hobby gear or going to the movies all the time. Grocery bill could be lower, but I really love to cook and am totally willing to buy (and use!) things like organic/seasonal/local/artisinal/agreed-to-be-eaten-in-the-first-place produce if it fits in the budget. Also, wine.

  • Such a great Friday question of the day! As most of us have probably already spent money on coffee and bagels and will probably waste more of our budget on Chipotle for lunch! I’m ashamed to say I don’t even set a budget. WOMP I’m a single mom of ONE and now that he’s older I’m kinda loosey goosey. I stock up on the basics and we eat most dinners at home, but we definitely spend too much on eating out on the weekends and when I fail to plan for my workweek lunches. eeerrrgghh!!

  • $200-300 (closer to $200) for two adults here

  • It’s hilarious that this topic came up because I literally just finished updating our monthly spend budget last week and was shocked at the food cost. My wife and I go out to eat maybe twice a month and do all our shopping at TJ’s, Safeway & WFs and make food at home. All in this costs us approximately $1,600/month, which comes out to roughly $400/week, $200/person. I guess it’s not that ridiculous when I look at everyone else’s food spend. However, it doesn’t help when you buy everything organic. I worry about kids and how much they add onto the food costs. Can anyone comment on Costco’s organic selection?

    • Costco has GREAT organic meat–that’s where we buy the bulk of our chicken breasts, ground turkey, and ground beef. I’m not sure they have organic steaks and the like, though. But while you have to buy 3-5 pounds at once, it’s separated into three packages that are attached together so you can just pop it into the freezer without having to separate it out into ziploc bags beforehand. It’s AWESOME!

    • I can tell you. In 2010 our average month for food/eating out/liquor for a family of 3 was $488. Now a family of 4 and we’re up to $650/month. The current 4 year old (and inflation) is worth $162/month.

  • Without happy hours I spend around $80 a week on groceries.

  • Absent any special occasion, our family of three varies between the $300-$400 and $400-$500 range. Groceries are about $150 per week, another $90 or so on coffee/breakfast and lunch during the week, and eat out once or twice at a sit-down restaurant, and throw in one meal at a fast casual place.

    • I should add that in the summer, grocery bills go up because of the farmers’ markets in Columbia Heights and Mt. Pleasant. The produce and meat are a little pricier, but much tastier and healthier than store-bought. I also forgot our bi-weekly milk delivery, which runs about $25.

      • Milk Delivery?! What is this that you speak of? How do I get in on the action?

        • Google “South Mountain Creamery”. It’s excellent. In the winter, when the farmers markets are closed, I sometimes add meat to the order. We do delivery once every two weeks, because with only one kid we go through about a gallon a week. But, you can set it up for weekly delivery if you like.

  • It’s just me, so I spend roughly $45 to $55 at Harris Teeter each week (I’m probably saving money by being- for the most part- vegetarian). I’m also saving money by making the vast majority of my meals- including homemade cookies and cake that I freeze. I also eat out 1-2 times a week, usually at a cheap place like Chipotle ($10) or pizza ($25). I don’t drink alcohol, so I definitely know I’m saving there!

    • I wouldn’t call either of those places cheap. Pay $25 for a good cast-iron skillet. You can buy pizza dough for about $1.50 and sauce for about $1.50 from Trader Joes , but you get about 2-3 pizzas worth of sauce. A bag of cheese will cost about $2.50 on sale, and you get two pizzas per bag. Toppings (meat, vegetables) are whatever you want, but you shouldn’t need to pay for more than about $2-3 worth of toppings (cook an italian sausage and freeze the leftovers, same with peppers and onion parts you don’t use).

      A home-made pizza for one shouldn’t cost you more than about $6.00 to make (rounding up). Gives you four slices with two topping (about a small-sized pizza). At $25 a pie as you mentioned, you’ll pay off the cast iron skillet after the 2nd pie that you make, and there on out you say $19 a pop. Adds up quickly.

      • You wouldn’t call Chipotle or pizza cheap? I understand you can make it cheaper at home, but by that metric nothing is cheap. $10 for a meal is objectively cheap.

        • binpetworth

          I agree. Also, it appears that anonymous is already doing a great job with a modest grocery budget, so if he/she wants to “indulge” in a $25 pizza, more power to him/her.

          • +1. And I didn’t read it that pizza alone costs $25. I read it that a pizza meal at a restaurant does. For a meal out, that’s pretty darned budget-friendly.

        • ” I understand you can make it cheaper at home, but by that metric nothing is cheap. $10 for a meal is objectively cheap.”

          Except it isn’t….you could make an analogous rice bowl at home for a few bucks. (

          There’s nothing wrong with going out because you want to “indulge” or “don’t want to cook”, but understand that at most places, you’re paying for the prep of the food, not the food itself.

          • Again, you’re missing the point. By the metric of “I can make it cheaper at home,” no restaurant meal is cheap. (Well, that’s not true – it would cost me a lot more to fly the pigs blood tofu and pig intestines in from Asia than to go get a meal at Thip Khao.) Just because A is cheaper than B does not mean that B is not also cheap.

      • HaileUnlikely

        This is the one money-saving thing that I actually do. I love making my own pizza. A couple of notes on homemade pizza: I find a can of Tuttoroso brand crushed tomatoes better for sauce than anything that is sold as pizza sauce. And if you make pizza often enough to justify the expense, a cast-iron pizza dish makes the crust come out really nice (mine was $50 but I’ve used it at least twice a week every week for 10 years now). Even if one doesn’t care about saving money – it’s so easy that it can be ready faster than delivery would arrive.

        • Definitely faster, and you have the advantage of your house or apartment smelling like a pizzeria.

          • Pizza = convenience. When you work late, have a child that won’t go to sleep, and just need food….pizza delivery is a thing of beauty. No clean up. You have leftovers. It’s not always “it’s not that hard” when reality bites.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Fair enough. I worked at a pizza restaurant for several years when I was younger – I used to make over a hundred pizzas in a day. I can whip one up in about 2 minutes (excluding baking time) pretty much on auto pilot. My rare go-to easier meal is Chinese carryout.

  • It’s just me- I spend about $75 in groceries each week, but my eating out is totally erratic- some weeks I go to 3 happy hours with dinners after, and that’s probably $150-$200, some week all I buy out is a few cups of coffee. So my weekly food budget varies from about $80 to $300…

  • emvee

    My household of two adults (and one dog who is pretty into vegetables) spend about $100-$150 a week on groceries and eating out, and that includes booze. We don’t go out to eat or get take out that often, and I am all about making double the dinner and having leftovers for lunch. However, we both like a glass of wine with our dinner and until discovering that the Bota box is pretty decent, that luxury was doing some damage.

  • We buy most of our groceries at Trader Joe’s, are vegetarian, and in the summer have our own garden. We’re able to keep our weekly grocery bill to less than $80 a week for the two of us which includes 3 meals a day for mostly 7 days a week. Maybe we’ll each have 1 lunch out, but we only go to a sit down restaurant probably once a month. I love cooking and don’t mind making all of our meals.

  • I’d say about $400 a week for a couple between groceries and restaurants, with additional semi-frequent splurges for really nice dinners out (like Iron Gate a few weeks back, which was SO worth it). We love food, though, work long, hard hours, and save and invest wisely. Good food and cooking bring us joy, and is a big part of our time together and with friends, so the money is well worth it. We’re both so cheap about other things (clothes, cars, furniture, etc.) that I don’t feel the least bit guilty about good food being our main indulgence.

    • We too choose food as the expense area to splurge. Our 2-person household does try to stick to a budget, but it allows for $160/week on groceries (including household products and pet food), more during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays. We also alternate treating each other to nice $100 restaurant meals once a month. In all, we probably spend $70/week per person on eating out (held down by bringing our lunches to work).
      We’d probably spend less but we like to support the local produce stores and small business cafes and bakeries.

    • We too splurge on food and save on everything else. I know i can save money by bringing a lunch to work and eating in front of my computer, but instead I choose to save my sanity and enjoy by one hour lunch out, get out and get some fresh air. For a family of two (very hungry) adults we spend about $300 per week on lunches/booze/groceries/dinners.

  • On average my monthly food budget is ~250, although I think last month it peaked at $400. Usually when I go out with my bf I pay for the both of us, but its not that often. My food budget used to be so low when I worked at a place that was in a residential neighborhood and there was absolutely nowhere to go to get food.

  • For two adults, usually around $120 per week for groceries (including things like laundry detergent, toiletries, and cleaning supplies), $20-30 for lunches or breakfasts out during the work week, and another $100 or so on restaurant meals on the weekend.

  • 100-200 dollars for two people – vegetarian household. Mostly buy organic and local and since we live in a small place, nothing really in bulk. Also, we’re not big drinkers so when we do go out to restaurants, it’s not the expensive.

  • $150 per week for 2 people. This doesn’t include eating out on the weekends which we always do.

  • I’m almost exactly $100/week, so depending on the month I’m either $50-$100 or $100-$200 (I went with the higher one, because that’s where I am this month), and for just one person (most of the time). Most months it’s $250 restaurant, $250 groceries, but I’ve been cooking a lot more this month and I tend to buy mostly fresh produce, and it’s wrapping up to be maybe a $350 grocery/$100 restaurant split. Groceries also include fancier-than-my-average food for other people, since I like to invite people over for dinner with nice steak, wine, etc. because I’m a good cook and my friends have similar budgets (i.e., we’re in the same boat that making fancier stuff at home is just as tasty and way cheaper than going out, and you don’t have to wonder if you should buy that next glass of wine because the bottle’s already open).

  • My husband and I spend around $150-$200 a week at Harris Teeter. We both buy our lunches during the work week, so that’s about another $50 per person. So $100 in lunches. We usually only go out to dinner once a week on either Friday or Sat night. So I’d guess $400 a week. We keep no budget.

  • We’re also two adults and a toddler. I clicked on $50-$100, but $100-$200 might be a better approximation. It’s probably in the vicinity of $100/week, and then a monthly costco trip that could be close to $100 (not just food, though). We don’t order takeout or go to restaurants frequently, and I cook/prepare lunches & dinners largely from scratch. However, we do get organic milk & organic meats and lots of fruits & veggies, so it adds up.

    • How in the world do you go to Costco and spend only $100? I’ve never been there and spend less than $250. Though buying meat there (especially chicken) is a real saver.

    • That’s impressive to get out of Costco for $100. My partner and I only got every 2-3 months and we somehow always end up spending at least $400.

    • We always have a list. And maybe I’m misremembering–my wife does that shopping trip so I don’t internalize the amount. Actually she just called–sounds like the average is more along the lines of $150-$200 most months, including beer and paper goods, etc.

  • Have found that buying meat for dishes the day of or before has made our grocery expenses a lot cheaper. Although it can be a hassle to go to the grocery every other day, the meat is usually cheaper if you can find the stuff that’s closer to expiring. Also, it helps with not over buying and then having to throw away later when you don’t use as much as you thought.

    Side note, I live across the street from the building in this photo. Does anyone know if it will ever open or operate as a market again? Would make my life so easy.

  • I spend 185/month on Groceries and 30 on alcohol, then 140 on Costco Groceries and another 30 on booze from Costco. I try not to eat out and if I do I usually budget it as a separate expense – like a Valentine’s Day gift, in which I case I splurge and spend $200 on a night out for both me and my date. I do this maybe 4 times a year.

    So all told – ~80/week on Groceries and $15/week on alcohol.

  • We are a family of 5 (2 adults, 2 preschoolers, 1 toddler).

    We have a set monthly food budget and stick to it.

    $30 for booze
    $20 for coffee
    $400 for groceries
    $20 for restaurants (mostly lunch during the work week)
    Total: $470

    My husband works at a bar so our restaurant budget would be higher if it weren’t for the free food and booze we get at his place. I think we do a pretty good job of keeping our food budget in check and I track it regularly on Mint to make sure we stay in budget.

  • I clicked 200-300- family of four– we budget $1000 per month which includes all groceries, restaurants, lunches, wine, alcohol etc. We (parents) also have a “personal” budget of $50 each month to cover whatever we want- which may include lunch/dinner/drink with a friend

  • Perfect timing on this question! My partner and I are having a Come To Jesus meeting about budgets this weekend and I know this is going to be a big topic.

    I’d say we’re at about $250/wk right now, that’s 2 adults and a kindergartener. I buy lunch at work 3-4x/wk, we eat at home 90% of the time and the kid brings lunch to school. It’s higher than normal because I’m pregnant, feel like crap and have developed an aversion to cooking, so we’ve been buying convenience food instead of making things from scratch. At least our alcohol consumption is way down!

    My goal is to get it around $150/wk. I normally enjoy cooking and meal planning, I just need to find the energy again somewhere.

    • Would a new cookbook help to inspire? Check out “Make Ahead Healthy Meals”–the recipes are huge, so you have plenty of leftovers for the week or to freeze for later. They’re usually pretty easy and super tasty.

      • Thanks! Unfortunately it’s not so much lack of inspiration material as it is just lack of energy and appetite. It’s hard to cook when you feel like you could sleep standing up and nothing looks appealing. The husband’s been cooking, so we’re eating healthy, just not efficiently, since there’s no meal plan and he doesn’t buy on sale when he shops. I’m starting to feel more like myself again (in flashes), so hopefully we can get back on track soon.

        We’re also in the market for a small chest freezer since we have very little freezer space. I’d love to make stuff ahead and freeze, but there’s no room right now.

        • B – Check out Let’s Dish. It’s great for husbands who are willing to cook but need some help with meal planning etc. They also have lots of kid-friendly options. We’ve used Let’s Dish for years, and I find that we actually save money (fewer wasted groceries and meals out).

      • I would like to check out this cookbook. Googling turns up Make Ahead Meals Made Healthy. Is that actually the name of the book? Thanks for the recommendation

  • My fiancee and I probably average about $100/week at Trader Joe’s, which typically covers all breakfasts/lunches and I’d say around 5 dinners per week. Additionally, we probably spend another $50-75/week on fish and meat from the market or Whole Foods. We splurge on eating out maybe twice per month, but always at good restaurants. Our days of mediocre and overpriced DC dining are behind us! I’m not factoring in alcohol, which can get costly given our interest in collecting wines, but certainly that isn’t a necessity.

  • So we also spend $350 – $400 a week for 2 people (including groceries, dining out and alcohol).

    Those who don’t spend that much, any creative advice? Sounds like people would suggest cooking/eating/drinking at home more. Anything else? We do a lot of that anyhow, because we really like to cook, but I would really like to reduce this to $200 / week if possible. Are there inexpensive grocery options out there or a source for couponing you’d recommend?

    • We spend $250-275 per week for two people, and that’s shopping mostly at Whole Paycheck. My guess is that your eating out budget is the culprit, not your grocery budget. Unless everything you’re buying has truffle oil in it 😀
      Seriously, though – just make a budget and stick to it. We try to keep any meals out under $50 and generally don’t eat out more than twice a week. Maybe once a month we’ll go someplace where the bill is in the $100 range for two people.

      • The El Salvadorean grocery stores in Mount Pleasant have really cheap spices, which is one small way to keep costs down!

    • There are a few options. I don’t like the coupons that come in the paper because you have to buy 3 or 4 of everything to get 25 cents off, and I just don’t have that kind of storage space. But if you go to safeway or harris teeter, there are apps where you can add coupons to your loyalty card, and we use those to safe a lot of money.

      We also only buy non-perishable staples when they’re on sale – so if pasta is 99 cents a box, we’ll buy enough for a month or so. Chicken breasts when they’re 1.99 a pound will go in the freezer. If you know you’re going to need laundry detergent, keep an eye on prices for a month or so. Then base what you buy on what’s on sale. If tortillas and salsa are on sale, we’ll make tacos. But that means either looking up what the sales are before you go to the store and planning accordingly, or being flexible about what you’re cooking that week when you’re already at the store. We tend to “save” about 10% of our grocery bill total based on shopping sales (e.g. if we spend $100, the “you saved” amount at the bottom of the receipt is about $10).

      As other folks have mentioned, not eating meat — or at least eating meat only every 2 or 3 days — makes groceries a lot cheaper. And limit the number of “special” ingredients you buy, or if you buy them one week have plans for using them in multiple meals (e.g. broccoli works for roasted vegetables as well as stir-fry). You shouldn’t be throwing food out at the end of the week – if it’s rotten, you’re not using that item enough. Have a mental list of staple meals (chicken and veggies or pasta with meatballs) that use ingredients you have on hand to fill in the gaps. Basically, you don’t have to do something fancy or “special” every night.

      And my favorite is making 1-2 extra servings at every meal and packaging them for lunches to go!

      • binpetworth

        These are all really good tips and ways I keep my grocery bill down. I’d also add that when eating out for lunch, get water instead of soda–it’s amazing how that extra $2 will add up.

    • I browse the weekly circular of my grocery store (Harris Teeter) and create a grocery list based on the sales. This is really easy to do via their website or mobile app. Then I plan meals based on that. After doing it for a while you start to see patterns in the sales. Like every couple months they do buy 2 get 3 free on shredded cheese, which freezes well, so I wait until that sale to stock up. I don’t bother with coupons which are rarely worth the trouble.
      We happen to prefer vegetarian/vegan which makes things cheaper. And we buy very little processed food (but you like to cook so you probably don’t either). Sometimes when my girlfriend’s visiting her mom in Springfield she’ll get produce at El Grande, one of those cheap Asian grocery stores. But mostly we just stick to Harris Teeter.
      According to Mint I spend about half as much as you do on food, and we go out to eat at least a couple times a week. However, my grocery expenses generally don’t include non-food items like cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc. I usually get that stuff from the Dollar Tree or order it online. That stuff could be making your bill higher than mine.

    • Thanks for all the tips! I’m definitely going to download the HT app to follow their specials.

      We have expensive taste – we like to sous vide steak for instance and go out for a fancy meal more than we should – so I’m trying to cut back on those things in addition to getting smarter about groceries.

    • -Shoppers and Trader Joes are sort-of “always low prices” stores, so they’re good places to go.
      -Always focus on unit costs…if a hunk of beef has a good unit price, but a high overall price, don’t freak out. Just portion out the extra meat beyond what you plan on cooking and freeze it.
      – The opposite with perishables…only buy as much as you plan on eating.
      – Use all your ingredients, even if you’re cooking for one. You’ll wind up with leftovers, which are a later lunch or dinner.
      – You can make yourself a heaping breakfast of coffee, juice, eggs, toast, and bacon/sausage, for all of about $2-3 per person.
      – Stovetop popcorn (oil in a pot, some raw kernals) are pennies on the dollar compared to microwave, cheaper than all other snacks, taste better and are healthier.
      – Figure out the meals you eat alot, and learn to make them. That’s why I learned how to make pizza from scratch and roast lunch meat.
      – Eat out the meals you can’t do at home. I can’t deep fry well, and I can’t do Vietnamese well, so I’ll dine out for falafel or fish+chips, or go to Eden Center for Vietnamese food.

      • binpetworth

        “Eat out the meals you can’t do at home” – This is the best advice! That’s why I hope the Greek Deli never goes out of business (I don’t have the time or patience to make my own spanakopita).

    • planning out what you’re going to eat in advance helps a lot. also cooking/prepping on a Sunday helps bring the cost down and help with morning preparations.

  • LisaT

    Two vegan adults, guessing we’re in the $300-400 a week range, not including booze. I’m impressed by those who know such accurate totals! We’re doing it wrong. LOL

  • Shopping for one, I spend about $300 on groceries per month-including some household stuff and coffee. I usually make a medium sized Costco run and some supplemental TJ’s/Giant/Whole Foods/farm stand runs. I try to eat healthy, so I go through a lot of produce. I bring most of my breakfasts and lunch during the week, unless I’m feeling lazy or there is a particular food truck I just have to have that day. I’d say I’m probably spending about $150/month in eating out-mostly for socializing, so for happy hours or dinner at a nice restaurant.

  • mtpgal

    We’re a family of two adults and one toddler. We usually spend $75/week on groceries and booze and maybe $100-150/month eating out, so maybe $400-450/month total. We get produce from Washington’s Green Grocer and supplement at Aldi. Our spending has gone WAY down since discovering Aldi.

  • 2 adults, monthly grocery budget of about $350-400 (Safeway) which includes two CSA produce boxes and the occasional bottle of wine or 6-pack. Our coffee/happy hour/dining out schedule is pretty erratic and usually based on our social calendar, so we tend to pay those costs out of our own pockets.

  • As part of my new year’s resolution I went through all of my expenses debit/credit cards from 2014. It was eye opening. I am a single guy and discovered that I spent $6000 on bar tabs and eating out – about $115 a week at bars/restaurants, another $50 on groceries and $35 on lunch during the workday ($200 a week or $800 a month). Most disturbing was the $6,000 a year on bar tabs. I decided to budget this year. I have a $50 a week for groceries and give myself a $200 month budget for entertainment. A drastic reduction. As part of my strategy each paycheck I take out $100 in cash for use at bars to avoid running up tabs. It makes the world of difference in my spending behavior. Furthermore I now bring my lunch. At the end of the Jan I had tons of extra money left over and am on target for the same in Feb. I recommend budgeting. It makes a world of difference.

  • I budget for $260 of groceries/month and $100 for restaurants for one person. The latter usually getting me at least one nice meal out per month if I want it, or a few brunches, a day or two where I buy Chipotle for lunch, or a meal out where I also pay for my SO. I’ve tried very hard to keep from inflating my lifestyle — only 24 years old, though, so haven’t had that long for balloon to grow.

  • Last month I spent $275 per week on groceries, alcohol, dining out, and takeout… for one person (eek)! I think January was an expensive month for me, though because it was my birthday month. This month so far has been $230/week. I definitely thought this month would be less before I just calculated that. Wow, this is a great question because I just realized I spend far too much money on food an drinks!

  • I usually spend about $22-$30 per week on groceries for myself. That’s enough for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for about 5 or 6 days.

    • So you claim you are paying anywhere from $1.22 to $2.00 per meal for an entire week? You’re gonna have to share your menu if you want anyone to believe that.

      • You’d be amazed what you do can working with bulk purchases of rice, grains, and beans. Don’t need meat, don’t need drinks. All you’re really paying for extra then is produce (cheapest from the Asian groceries) and some dairy (questionable necessity anyway).

        • I know one CAN eat very cheaply – the question is to what ends are you prepared to go to eat very cheaply. Subsisting largely on rice/grain and beans, no meat, no drinks (alcoholic or otherwise), no extras, etc. is not something I’m willing to do. I enjoy food, I’m a very good cook, I think it’s important to eat healthy, and it’s important (to me) to expose my daughter to good, well-prepared food. I also love eating good food out, both because of the food and the social aspect. And, truth be told, I do enjoy the occasional nip, and I’m too old and work too hard to drink rockgut bourbon at $7 per liter.
          All that said, I’m very skeptical about claims that food costs don’t exceed $2.00 per meal for the vast majority of meals. That’s why I asked for the menu.

          • I have to agree with dcd but also want to point out that for those of who don’t have cars (thus can’t easily get to a cheap Asian market out in Annandale) or large homes (thus don’t have storage for bulk purchases), it’s NOT easy.

          • I spent $20-30 a week on groceries in college. No access to Asian grocery stores, and I lived in a group house so there was very little space. I even baked something (cakes, cookies, pie) every weekend and shared it with everyone. I think the price of groceries must have gone way up since 2005, because now I spend five times as much for the same food.

          • In college I spent $20-30 a week on groceries. No access to Asian stores, and I lived in a group house so not a lot of storage space. I even baked something every weekend (cakes, cookies, pie) to share with everyone.
            I think food prices must have gone up a lot since 2005, because now the same food is costing me five times as much.

      • HaileUnlikely

        I used to do that. 20 pound bag of rice, 4 pound bag of dry black beans, 3-pound bags of pasta, and store-brand just-add-water buttermilk pancake mix. About $10/week. It wasn’t the healthiest, and it was kind of boring after the first several months, but it kept expenses under control very effectively for a period of time when I was very poor. I wouldn’t go back to it if I didn’t absolutely have to, but it can be done.

  • KSamps

    My husband and I usually spend around $100-$150 a week and around $50-75 on eating out. Although when I lived alone I could get by on $50 a week at Trader Joe’s.

  • Life changes quickly.

    When I was single I didn’t buy groceries and instead spent $200/wk eating out and $400/wk drinking out.
    After I got married, it went to $100/wk groceries, $300/wk eating out and $200/wk drinking out (for both of us).
    Now after our newborn, it’s more like $150/wk on groceries and $100/wk eating-drinking out (for 3 of us).

  • SFT

    I’ve never really thought about it before. I probably spend about $600-700/month on groceries. I tend to eat out for lunch, so that’s an additional $75 per week. Add in another $25/wk for coffee and bagels. We cook a lot now that there’s a kiddo with an early bedtime, so don’t spend too much on dinners out. That all adds up to more than I thought, about $1100 per month and doesn’t include my husband’s lunches at work. WooOoow!

  • Interesting exercise! Over the past 60 days, our house (2 adults) has spent an average of $113.42 per week on groceries (including wine, beer and cheese when we feel luxurious, our weekly CSA produce, and the breakfast and lunch we bring to work most days).
    If I include meals out in the grocery budget (admittedly higher than normal because of house guests and taking them to fancy places, plus some unusual coffee shop runs when we’ve been out of coffee to make at home), the total jumps to $146.37 per week.
    Overall, not nearly as terrifying as I thought, but it certainly makes me feel fortunate that we can spend that money without hurting.

  • I don’t track it closely but – shopping for one – I spend about $75/week on groceries (erratic b/c sometimes I’ll go 10-11 days without food shopping and run up a $120 bill – also I buy meat every other week basically, that sometimes includes household products/laundry/drug store items). I bring lunch every day and never pay for coffee because my office has coffee machines. Considering lunch+coffee could easily run $12 a day, I figure saving those costs entitles me to a nice dinner/drinks with friends on the weekends. (Although, to be honest, I probably spend a bit more than that on going out).

  • According to Mint I average just over $110/week for a single person, no kids. That doesn’t include cash purchases, so the real total is probably $120-130. Some months are much higher, others much lower, but the yearly totals are remarkably consistent from year to year. The biggest factor is how often I bring my lunch to work. Those $10-15 lunches downtown really add up fast.

  • 150-200/wk….two adults and a toddler. Prob another $40-$60 on delivery depending on the week. And it depends on whether we need household goods like paper towels/toilet paper. We get diapers from Amazon. I HATE how much we spend. But good news is when you have a kid, you don’t have the money to eat out because babysitters are so expensive!

    When we go to Wegmans, it’s more than our normal bills because I stock up. Trying to spend less and less at WF.

  • For one:

    $20 a week for breakfast. Coffee and a smoothie (frozen berries, banana, greek yogurt, chia seeds) — all in bulk from Costco

    $20 a week for lunch. Hummus, bread, turkey, mustard, spinach — Costco. Same lunch every day. Just like elementary school! Water to drink.

    Dinners and drinks in-house (plus cleaning supplies, etc) are less than $100/week.

    Weekly Verizon Center events are what blows my budget. Sports make me hungry and thirsty.

  • In 2014 I averaged $65 a week in groceries and $35 a week in eating out for a household of one. I don’t separate out toiletries, paper goods, pet supplies, and other things I buy at the grocery store from food, so that’s bundled in there too I guess. I don’t eat much meat but I go through a ton of fresh produce, which can get expensive. I pack lunch every day and often pack dinner as well, so I can eat at my desk before I go to evening classes.

  • Wow, I am so impressed by those of you who regularly monitor how much you’re spending on food per month. I have not taken the time to do this since I was single, partly because it was so much easier to keep track then. Now, I probably mirror some of my husband’s spending on food / meals, which is very unwise because he has a lot more disposable income than I do.

    • I really had no idea until I looked it up on Mint just now. I like and need food too much to set a budget for myself, although an internal warning bell will go off in my head if I’m spending more than usual on eating out.
      It’s fascinating to me that you and your husband have separate food budgets!

      • Ah Mint, I used to be so good about using it! Now I’m delinquent. My husband and I have separate budgets for most things that aren’t joint purchases. He makes >3x what I make so he has way, way more disposable income. Sometimes I miss the splurge purchases I used to make when I was single!

  • For 2 people – We try to keep the grocery bills under $500/month. We both pack breakfast and lunch 4 out of 5 days a week. Money spent in Restaurants and Bars varies by month. We will usually spend $200-500/month on food and drink outside of the home. I’ve been trying to cut our grocery bill, but it seems like we are pretty average (if not below average) when compared to other couples. This discussion was very interesting. Thanks POPville!

  • justinbc

    No budget. Food is one of the few things where I feel like spending whatever makes me happy and healthy is worth it.

  • Emmaleigh504

    I find it fascinating the extra information people give in answers. Like breaking out booze and coffee as separate from groceries or eating out. Then we have eating out broken into smaller categories from lunch, to supper, to bars. Fascinating.

  • Probably $500 per week, mostly on eating (and drinking) out.

  • The most surprising thing about this exercise for me is the number of people spending more on food in 1-2 weeks than my entire monthly income (after taxes and rent)! I didn’t think my salary was THAT low. 🙂

  • This is a very appropriate thread because my wife and I just slashed our food budget by $800 per month. We previously shopped at whole foods and would spend $600 per month on groceries, $60 on coffee, $100 on lunches, and $300 at restaurants.

    We now shop at Costco for all ingredients, pack lunches, and plan dinners two weeks in advance to avoid the desperation delivery and take out nights. The new budget will save us $100k over 10 years and shorten our working careers by 12 years.

    It may not look like much on a monthly budget plan, but over several years, buying crappy $10 lunches will add up and postpone your retirement by several years. Somebody pointed out that they work hard and “desire” and “enjoy” fancy dinners. Working hard to make more money to spend on “fancy dinners’ is a really bad habit if it will prolong your working life.

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