Family Budget Planning: How Much Should You Spend On Food Per Week?

This article discusses how a shopper can budget the family's grocery bill, with tips on trimming it.

Grocery bills are a constant, whether for a single person, or an entire family. However, families always seem to be trying to cut costs, especially where groceries are concerned. How much should a family spend for groceries, and how can they cut corners?

Every family is different. Some families have large gardens and the vegetables they harvest from the garden will help lower their food bills. A family with three teenage girls will not need nearly as large a food budget as a family with three teenage boys. So, a hard figure is difficult to calculate. One good way to get a ballpark figure is for the main grocery shopper to save receipts for about a month, and calculate how much she is spending on food, and average it out for a week. But, is this how much the family should be spending on food? There really are no hard and fast answers. Every family will have to answer that question according to their own needs. However, there are many ways a shopper can help trim the food costs without sacrificing too much.

First, a shopper should clip coupons, but only for those items her family will eat. Coupons are no good if the family refuses to eat the food purchased with them. Also, a shopper should determine if the coupons are really a good deal. It does nothing for the budget to buy three of something if her family will not eat all three before the expiration date. But, intelligent coupon clipping will often reap a $5-$10 savings on food, and over a month's time, that adds up.

A grocery shopper should also not be so picky about brand names. There are food items that are just as good in the store brand as the brand name. Staples such as salt, pepper, beans, rice, cooking oil, instant potatoes, instant pancake mix, and a host of other items are just as good in the store brand or generic label as they are in the brand name label. These generic brands will often be as much as 50 percent off the price of the brand name item. Cereals are also heavily discounted in the store brands. If the shopper buys the "generic" crisped rice cereal, rather than that from the factory in Battle Creek, Mich., then she may save over 50 percent on the price of the box with the three little guys on it.

The family's grocery shopper should also consider buying in bulk with this caveat: will it be eaten before it goes bad and does she have a handy place to store the bulk items, like a deep freezer? If the answer is no, then buying in bulk will not help her very much. But if the answer is yes, then the frugal shopper can get great buys on bulk items such as cheese, or chicken breasts, staples that will allow her to plan nutritious meals.

A shopper can also trim the budget by trimming the junk food. Everyone has heard the news about obesity in children and the dangers of junk food. But junk food is also expensive. A shopper can buy less expensive snacks and drinks that are healthier for the whole family and trim the budget at the same time: surely a win-win situation.

Advance meal planning also has numerous advantages for the cost-conscious shopper. She can buy the major ingredients for meals in advance, which allows her to more carefully budget the food bill, plus buying everything in advance helps eliminate those last-minute trips to the grocery store that can cut heavily into a food budget. The shopper can also plan to use coupons for these trips, increasing her savings.

The main thing a shopper needs to remember when planning the family food budget is to plan satisfying, nutritious meals. She can even throw the occasional treat in, like cookies, a pie, or cake. However, buying generic when possible, advance menu planning, eliminating junk food and using coupons will help a shopper make the most out of her food budget.

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