The New Home Economics

The grocery budget, part 1

2 Comments

About a year ago, I was watching a slide show at work about Twin Cities demographics.  One statistic that got me thinking: apparently, an average family of 4 in the Twin Cities area spends around $5,000 a year on groceries.  My hunch was that my family spends more than that.  I was right.

I added up all of 2008, but then decided I needed more data, so I waited until the end of 2009 to do my full calculations.  And here’s what I came up with (click to enlarge):

Grocery chart

Total grocery expenditure, 2008: $7,661
Total grocery expenditure, 2009: $7,609
Average for both years: around $640 a month

What does this data tell me about my grocery budget over the last two years?  Mid-2008 was when I started trying to be thriftier at the grocery store — this coincided with our kids turning 1 and transitioning from formula/breastmilk to solid foods (they are twins).  With all the efforts we’ve undertaken: gardening, making foods from scratch, etc., I expected to see at least a slight reduction for 2009.  Well, the verdict is in and I spent about $50 less on groceries in 2009 than in 2008.  WOW!  All that effort… for $50!  Hmm.  OK, I’m going to embark on a Making Myself Feel Better Exercise.

Feel better points:

1. I hit $800 a month several times in 2008, including 4 months in a row.  In 2009, that only happened one time.

2. For 2009, the total amount also includes $300 that we invested in a CSA and $200 that we spent on 1/4 bison that we split with Adam’s brother.  We still have some bison left in the freezer.

3. We have two growing kids, and our food bill hasn’t gone up (yet).

4. We ate healthier this year than we ever have, and really well: it’s not like we were huddling around cans of soup all year.  We ate tons of fresh organic fruits and vegetables, and meat and milk from grass-fed animals.  I can’t even imagine how much all those fresh, free raspberries that we picked in our yard would have cost in the store.

5. How much does an average family of 4 spend on restaurant food per month?  This is one area where we’d be shining stars.  I have not tracked our restaurant expenses, but I would guess that we come out around $50 or less every month, on average.

7. Adam just looked over my shoulder and he thinks my math is a little fuzzy, that we actually spent a bit less every month in 2009 than I calculated.  I had assumed $50 per month on impulse-buy groceries at Target, and Adam said the actual amount was likely lower than that, most of the time.

OK, I feel better.  But I am going to try and post a real reduction for 2010.

Question: does that $5,000 per year figure sound right to you?  If so, then I have spent about 1.5 times the average, despite my efforts.  I am not sure how old that data is that I saw, but I assume it’s from the last couple years.

Go to part II

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2 thoughts on “The grocery budget, part 1

  1. Yeah, I think we spend quite a bit on groceries too but I want to buy from decent vendors, want to have organic and high quality too. I wish people would be willing to spend MORE on food instead of the Walmart special mentality of getting everything for the cheapest possible.

    Thanks for the posts!

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