Monday, December 5, 2011

Grocery bill high? It could be worse.


How much money does your household spend on groceries in a month?  Probably a whole lot less than someone who has kids.

I was out with my friend Sara on Saturday.  She's a mom of 2 young boys, so her household has 4 people total.  We were talking about money and how expensive everything is these days.  She lamented that her $800/month grocery budget makes it almost impossible to keep her family fed for an entire month.  I almost choked.

I thought I was hearing incorrectly, so I repeated back the figure she told me to make sure I heard right.  Yep,  I heard right. $800 a month.  For groceries.

When she saw how shocked I was, she clarified that the $800 figure includes things like paper products and cleaning supplies.  I guess she thought that hearing that might make my eyes recede back into their sockets.  I was still shocked.

You see, hubby and I spend about $200-$300 a month to keep ourselves and our three cats fed, and that seems like a LOT to us.  So you can see why I almost fell off my chair when Sara told me she spends $800/month and can barely get by on that.

$800 JUST for groceries.  That's $9,600 a year!  For ONE expense.  Now on top of that, add on the other household expenses like mortgage, taxes, utilities, cars, insurance, clothing and the list goes on and on.  And factor in that my friend is a stay-at-home-mom, so she and her hubby are living off one salary.  Yikes.

I should mention that Sara is a not a spendthrift.  She's a frugal shopper, carries piles of coupons with her everywhere she goes, and strategizes her shopping trips to get the most for her money.  Yet she is struggling to feed her family on $800/month.

Hubby and I often complain about our expenses - about how so much of our take home pay is eaten up by bills and how so little is left for the fun stuff.  Well, I think we need to adjust our perspective and remind ourselves how easy we have it, comparatively speaking.  I realize that no matter how financially stretched we fell, we would probably be on the verge of financial collapse if we had children.

UPDATE:  12/7/11

I had lunch with another friend today, Samantha.  Samantha also has a family of 4 - a husband, a 10 year old daughter and a teenaged son.  She is a prudent woman who is good with money (in fact, she is an accountant by trade).   We were talking about money issues and about how prices have been shooting up for everything. I asked her to estimate what she spends on groceries for her family in one month.  She paused and gave it some thought, and then answered that if she "is really careful" - i.e. shops the sales, and is strategic in her buying - she can "keep it at around $1,200/month".

!!!!!!

She said a lot of the grocery bill is due to having a teenaged son who eats whole boxes of cereal in one sitting, and drinks 2 gallons of milk per week on his own.

And now, she is struggling to figure out how to help him with college.  He's applying to engineering schools - his choice school having tuition in the area of $45,000 per year.  Although he has been awarded scholarships in the amount of of $20,000 per year, that leaves my friend and her husband with a tuition bill of $25,000/year.

38 comments:

Francois Tremblay said...

800$ a month for food would bankrupt us. I sure am glad I don't have children...

CC [AKA Frugalista] said...

My goodness that is insane! My husband and I spend about the same amount you do and that is plenty. Every single expense you already have just goes way up when you have a kid. I still don't know how people do it.

Dave said...

Ouch, that surely is a lot. For me, a single person with no children, I spend about $150-$200 a month at the supermarket (and that includes a small amount for non-food products). The only disadvantage for me is that by buying for one person, I am often unable to take advantage of lower unit pricing for larger quantities (especially for perishables) because I either can't consume them fast enough or lack the storage space.

Still, I would rather have my problems than have the far steeper problem of having to buy food for 4 people. My "problem" helped lead me to retire 3 years ago at age 45. :)

shell said...

About $400 a month is what hubby & I spend on ourselves and our 2 dogs. I make weekly trips to Whole foods and Trader Joes. I also make stops according to what I need and where I am at the time at Costco, Sprouts, the local gourmet mkt, farmer's mkt, veggie and friut stand. We try to eat mostly all vegan.

Zyanya said...

800 dollars on groceries is terrifying. I spend under $100 on a myself and clip coupons. I'm a college student (with loans)who works part time and I'm relieved I don't have children. Its always nice to be reminded that things could be worse.

Zazzu said...

We probably spend about half that for the two of us. I don't really keep track closely (don't need to, don't have kids!).

A friend with three kids (ages 12, 10 and 6) just told us that their grocery bill is insane. Just wait till that 10-yo becomes a teenage boy.

Didn't any parent think about this before they decided to have(so many)children?

Temujin said...

This is very alarming. I find it hard to believe these numbers. Where do you all live? Are my wife and I just really bad shoppers, or do we just eat too damn much?

We spend about $800 a month for the two of us, with no kids at all!

Are you all going out to eat every other night?

sara star said...

My husband and I spend more than most on food. Maybe food prices are expensive in my area? Not sure, but our monthly budget for two and a cat is about 600-700. However, if we had kids it would be twice that. (we buy some expensive things like protein cookies and greek yogurts that are or over a dollar each and we each eat one a day, so it adds up). I am grateful that my husband and I can choose these luxuries. I like my life the way it is--if I had kids I would be sad to give up my protein cookie and special greek yogurts.

l00zrr said...

how ironic, my dad and I were JUST talking about this. My dad works at a non-profit, helping people refinance their homes. Today he had a couple with ONE child come in saying they don't have enough money to keep their home (they do). They were spending $1,200 on food (for 3 people!) and $850 for the child's private school per month, $250 for the child's music lessons, and $100 for karate lessons. $1,200 on food and $1,200 on the child, the ONE child. I wonder how much they'd be spending if they had two...

shell said...

Considering that it costs $220K to raise just one kid to age 18 with just the basics - no braces or music or dance lessons - that works out to what? about $12,220
a year ? So that figure is for food and clothing and medical care & a few misc things for the child? If you kid has to have braces or wants tennis or ballet or music lessons, the costs rise. I don't see how people do it either.

Stephanie said...

I think about that all the time. Almost all of my friends have kids and I'm amazed that they can afford it at all. My husband and I both have pretty good salaries and figure that we make about twice as much as our friends with kids. If we had a kid I think we would still probably be ok, but much less likely to enjoy all of the fun things we get to do now, but most of our friends do all of those things while having kids and I just sit back and wonder where their money comes from. The only thing I can figure is that they have to be living on credit. I just can't even imagine it.

Happily CF said...

Good point. I do have to say, though, that I think your grocery bill is on the low side for two people. I would say ours, for two people, is about $400-$500. I think it depends on where you live, what you buy (obviously) including how much alcohol you buy. , not counting eating out, of course. We live in an expensive area of the country, and since we only have two people and have good professional jobs, we don't pay attention to prices. I think a larger family which was REALLY careful could spend about the same amount... but of course, they would have to be incredibly careful, which is a huge drag.

Childfreeeee said...

We live in a major metropolitan area and I think it's fairly expensive, but I think it does come to the kinds of things you buy, where you shop and how careful you are with your spending.

For example, I buy generic products whenever possible. I shop at stores like Aldi and Bottom Dollar FIRST and get as many staples as I can there, and then work my way up to the more expensive stores for items I can't find at the discount stores. I buy my produce from one of the produce places where they sell in large quantities. We don't eat meat. I have mental price limits for convenience items. For example, I refuse to pay more than $2 a box for cereal. If I can't find cereal for $2 or under, I don't buy it.

I take notice of where prices are cheapest for items we consume a lot and make a point to shop there.

I also make most meals from scratch and don't buy a lot of ready-made foods, like frozen entrees, etc.

We also do not eat out a lot. When we do, we use restaurant.com gift certificates or Groupons.

So we see how hubby and I are keeping our grocery budget reasonable.

BUT my friends ALSO use these same tactics, or at least most of these tactics and look what they are spending. BECAUSE THEY HAVE KIDS, period.

KP said...

OUCH. Back when I had a roommate, I only spent ~$150 bucks a month on groceries, and that was with three cats and two dogs! We were vegetarian, which helped a lot, but still, $800 a month? Holy rice krispies!

By the way, Childfreee, I don't know if you've seen this Garfunkel and Oates video or not, but if you haven't I think you would appreciate it. =)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJRzBpFjJS8

Marina said...

I guess that's why they get all those govt subsidies

Temujin said...

I think another factor with kids is that they are often much more particular about what they eat than adults are, at least at certain ages. With kids, your grocery options may actually be more limited and shopping will probably be a little more hassle. Having a kid doesn't mean you just buy a little more of what you bought before. You'll be buying a lot of kids' food -- expensive kindercrap also comes in edible forms, don't forget.

Perhaps I'm just oversensitive, but the idea of pushing a grabby kid in a cart through a grocery store sounds like a nightmare to me. The thought makes we want to do that little snip myself.

Unknown said...

I live in Japan, so prices are different. My diet consists of salmon, egg, natto, whole grains, and fresh fruits & vegetables. I don't eat out. I rarely eat non-minimally processed foods. I'm into body building and healthy lifestyle choices. I spend $382.50 on salmon alone a month. Another $206 on Yebisu beer. Throw in the other things and I easily spend at least $700 a month on just myself. I'm not rich, either, I just highly value being able to eat foods that I consider healthy. I foresee my diet becoming even more expensive, so I'm glad that I'm child free so that I don't have to compromise what is to me one of the most important aspects of my lifestyle.

Stasha said...

2 people, 3 cats on premium food, we're at about $250 a month in Chicagoland and go out to eat about once a week. We choose non-chain grocers and stock up during good sales (hooray for the Foodsaver and a deep freezer) but we don't really deny ourselves much — we love expensive cheese, lamb, other pricey ingredients in moderation. We do one stop every 6 weeks or so at the big grocery store and pick up fresh stuff at Trader Joe's throughout the week. I just can't imagine spending $800+.

Nyx said...

Our family has 4 adults (my husband and I plus my folks - we live together to help wish the cost of living all the way round) in it thus we spend about 700 on food each month. The cost of living has gone up and the cost of food do to increase in fuel prices (that and we import a lot it seems from the US, as much to do with it I am sure).

Crochet Homemade! said...

It's crazy what some people need to pay. I am one of three children (5 in the household), and when my mom used to take us to the grocery store, she would always spend close to $500 a trip, and we would fill two grocery carts. Then of course, ungrateful as we were, we would leave milk, cheese, etc out to spoil and I always wondered why she would get so upset. Nooooww I understand! Reason #5476 to remain childfree =)

Spectra said...

I like to buy "good" food--lots of produce, locally raised meats, etc. and we spend around $600 a month on groceries and household supplies like soap, detergent, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. I do think we probably spend more than the average 2-person household but I cut back in other areas to make up for it. We don't eat out at restaurants or buy clothes very often. I can't imagine how much our bill would be if I were feeding kids.

bikegirl said...

$800 a month?! Holy crap. When I lived alone, I spent at most $120 a month on groceries for myself, and I live in Canada. Food is more expensive here than it is in the US. I didn't starve myself, either.
I can't imagine what groceries I could possibly buy that would amount to $800 a month.

Jennifer Black said...

Woah. I live by myself with two cats (on premium food) and spend MAYBE $200 a month on food, and that's if I splurge on things. My best friend has a husband and three teenagers to feed. Plus, she keeps kosher (religious reasons) and she herself keeps gluten-free (health reasons) and her bill is anywhere from $1200 to $1500 a month. Makes me glad I'm single with no kids, have no food allergies and no whack-a-doo religious dietary restrictions.

Jin's Blog said...

Wow, what kind of kid can eat a box of cereal in one sitting?!! I hope he eats the healthy kind at least.

Anna said...

I would suggest that the parent of the "box of cereal in one sitting" does what my mum does and makes musli in bulk for him. I don't know what the USA equivalent of "Bin inn" is but they should go to a shop where you can fill your own containers and buy in bulk. My husband and I spend $700-$800 a month on groceries but we know exactly why. We buy what ever we want. We get lots of expensive "treat" type products and buy a lot of expensive vegetarian products. We also buy wine or beer with our grocery shop. End of the day we know we can cut back on our grocery spend if we want to but because we don't have kids we don't need to make those sacrifices. I think here in NZ prices are pretty high for groceries as well so it can be hard to compare.

PensiveFashionista said...

Feel free to tell your friend that her son can attend a two year school first. That can save a lot of money.

While I do agree that people without kids don't spend a lot on groceries compared to people with kids, let's not give the impression that those without kids are just swimming in money.

There are a lot of assumptions that since one doesn't have kids, they automatically have a lot of money. Wages haven't grown in decades yet the cost of many things is rising.

Valerie said...

I am a bit of a "foodie" and probably spend a larger percentage of my annual income on food than most American households. I have a CSA, shop at Whole Foods, and have to feed my beast of a rabbit two heads of lettuce a day. But I don't think that even I spend $800 on groceries!

Shar said...

Count me in as someone on the opposite end of the spectrum - I'm shocked they can feed/get groceries for a family of 4 on as little as $800/month!!! To echo Temujin, I don't know if we're in an expensive area, and/or poor shoppers, and/or just eat out too much, but we regularly spend in the $600-900/month range for groceries and food for the two of us and one cat. That number does include everything at the grocery store - not just food but hard goods such trash bags, razor blades, personal hygiene, etc., as well as eating out. And I admit I don't bother with trying to find deals or keep it cheap. But you've got, say, 93 meals in a 31-day month. $800 is only $8.60 per meal - for a family of 4, isn't that pretty good? Am I crazy?

Moiraine said...

We easily spend $800/month on groceries, but that's our maximum. However, we don't eat a lot of processed foods, eat a fair amount of organic products, and cook a new meal almost every night of the week. Also, when Mr. Tyger is working out and gaining muscle, he has to eat a LOT of food, including protein powder, and a ton of vitamins. So when he's doing his body building he can easily spend close to $800 in a month on himself alone.

When we made our budget we realized that we would rather spend more money on good food and supplements, than eat crappy food and have more disposable income. For us, we can't have both at the moment. So we pick our health over the fun stuff... although cooking together is definitely one of our favorites things. :)

Moose said...

Wow...that's crazy. I am uber careful with our grocery budget of $140 a month and it's just my husband and I...we're big eaters, too. Since I got laid off earlier this year and decided to go back to school full-time, we had to cut back. It doesn't leave much for fun stuff like chips, etc., but those aren't really necessities anyway. My parents took a 12 year break between me and my 4 younger siblings - they have 4 kids living at home who are only a year and a half apart. My mom fills up 2 shopping carts with food every week or two and spends $400-$500 with 4 teens in the house who are BIG eaters. Couple that with the outrageous cost of health insurance today and I don't understand how anyone can afford or would want multiple children.

Irene U.L. said...

I forgot to mention I live in Spain I have three lovely cats and a tortoise.

Irene U.L. said...

Me and my boyfriend also spend about 200 euros a month, and we thought it was too much! When I lived alone I used to spend even less on food, around 80 euros, but my boyfriend eats more than I do (I suppose most men eat more than women in general).

Judi said...

We are avidly looking for ways to cut expenses - like your friend our family of 4 also spends an average of $800 a month on groceries alone!

markvcr said...

$1800 per month for family of 3 in Vancouver

brettc said...

We spend about $400 a month on food for two people and a dog. Our dog gets high quality food, and my wife is allergic to gluten and dairy so we have to buy some special/more expensive food for her. I can't imagine having to feed one or more kids. Especially because if we had kids they would likely have crazy allergies too! I'm getting snipped on Jan. 27 so worrying about undesired kids will be a thing of the past soon.

kathrynd said...

Groceries do not cost this much, even for "good food".If you purchase correctly, and don't buy too much processed food, there will be no problems.We raised 4 kids.I took my work lunch out for the next day. Meals were then served on their plates.Along with 2 cats and a dog, the budget hovered around $100 week.This also included toiletries and cleaning supplies.Knowing when to shop for reduced food, and loss leaders is essential.Some people are too brand loyal,or else not look at prices.

seltzermint said...

This stuff blows my mind!!! My husband and I spend around $200 per month on groceries although that doesn't include 2-3 nice meals out each month or our paper products and toiletries. However, we eat very healthy and some premium items...when we were on a tighter budget and ate more processed foods, we could totally live on $140-160 per month for groceries for the two of us and our small dog.

A friend of mine (married mother of 3 school age children) started making her own laundry detergent recently. The start up supplies sounded pretty expensive to me, around $70. When I expressed that concern she said it normally costs her $100/month for laundry detergent and fabric softener because of her large family and her husband's preference for Tide and other name brands. I just about flipped my lid. We buy generic liquid at $4 a bottle and it lasts us for 2 months, even though I do at least one load of laundry every single day.

Amy said...

Not sure if people with children are allowed to comment;) And obviously I'm late to the game. I was googling something else when I came across this and I felt compelled to comment. While you are educating people on the misconceptions about being child free, I also feel it necessary to dispel some myths people have about couples with children. My husband and I have 6 children. (nobody fall off your chairs or choke on your breakfast). And don't judge me, because I'm not judging you, thank you very much:)And we were married before any of them were conceived, so there goes another myth.

I spend 1200 dollars a month on groceries(toiletries and household products included) for a family of 8. I do not buy that much processed food. I make everything from scratch. We rarely eat convenience food, other than chips for lunches. My children are all healthy, normal weight. They get plenty to eat and they eat healthy. We have lived in a variety of places, and my grocery bill only rose as we had more children or as they have grown. So I have no idea what people with a family of 4 are buying if they spend 1200 dollars a month on groceries.

My kids are all good students, caring individuals. They fight sometimes cuz siblings do. But they aren't running around dirty, or unsupervised or getting into trouble. They are loved and we make family a priority. None of them were on accident.

I know that many parents feel that their children are entitled to having their college paid for, a car of their own, and every lesson and activity they want paid for. I feel that children are entitled to love, shelter, food, clothing and an education. But they can find a way to pay for their own college. My husband and I paid for both undergrad and graduate degrees, while having kids. If my kids want a car, they can pay for one or drive the family car. If they want to go to Harvard, well hopefully they will be getting a job afterward that can pay for those student loans. Nothing bothers me more than people with a sense of entitlement. Those who work hard and pave their own way will be successful. Maybe not always rich, but they will be successful human beings who know how to take care of themselves.

And eventually those 6 children won't live with us and we won't pay for their food or needs. And because we started young, we will have lots of life left to be just the two of us .

So while there are parents who do what many of those commenting have stated, not all of us do. And not because we can't afford it, but because our children deserve better than to have everything handed to them.

So I am glad you are happy with your life. And I don't expect you to understand mine anymore than I understand yours. But I just wanted to let you know someone else's perspective. Peace:)