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On changing grocery budgets

Recently, I had some temporary trouble sticking to my $150/week grocery budget, and quite a few readers asked me about whether I’d consider raising my budget.

Here’s a somewhat representative question:

I’m curious at what point would you consider changing your budget, food or otherwise? I’m guessing you spend more on food with six people in the house than you did when it was just you and your husband, and I’m sure your kids’ food intake has changed over the years. But when did you officially change the number?


Back in the day, I spent between $80 and $100 per week on groceries. This was partly do-able because my kids were all smaller and less hungry, and partly because I was a whole lot more careful about what I bought.

Because Mr. FG’s income has gone up, and because our kids are hungrier now, we felt like it was appropriate to bump it up to the current $150/week level. 

This allows me to buy more food, and also allows me to venture beyond the very cheapest things at the grocery store.

As a result, we eat more cheese, fruits, nuts, vegetables, meats, and seafood than we did before, which is lovely.

I could definitely spend less than I currently do if I focused more time and energy on my spending and also if I changed what we eat. But at this point, we can afford $150/week, and normally I can stick to that fairly well without pouring a lot of hours into grocery savings.

So, that seems like the right amount for us. But if I start to consistently struggle to stay at $150, I’ll rethink that amount.

On that note, how do you know when to change your budget?

  • If you haven’t changed anything with your shopping/eating habits, and it’s getting really hard to stay within your budget, it might be time for a change.

(Growing families and rising food prices can make this happen!)

  • If you are at a point in life where you have more budgetary wiggle room, and you’d like to not think so hard about grocery spending, you might want to bump up your budget.

banana yeast bread

  • If you’ve decided to change your eating habits (dietary needs, a renewed emphasis on healthy and/or local eating, etc.), you’ll probably need to rethink your budget.

chicken enchilada filling

Of course, this assumes you have some wiggle room with your finances.

If you don’t have extra money to throw at groceries right now, look at some other budgetary categories.   Is there some other expense you could reduce or get rid of entirely?   If so, you could use those savings to increase your grocery budget.

Readers, how did you decide on your grocery budget amount? And how do you know when it’s time to change it?

P.S. On a related note, here are my top ten ways to save on groceries.

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Wednesday 14th of March 2018

I grocery shop twice a month as I drive an hour to the store. I had a budget of $150 every two weeks ($300/month). Of course there are only 3 of us (mom and two kids). My oldest has moved out and got her own apartment. So now there is only the two of us. I'm looking at dropping the grocery budget down to $200/month or less. We do grow a lot of our veggies in the summer so that helps. But I'm finding myself throwing more food out to the chickens and pigs. So I'm definitely looking at reducing the budget. I'm actually looking at under $50 during the summer when our veggies are in full production. Any savings I can do helps me to pay off debt faster.

Diane C

Friday 9th of March 2018

I feed a family of four adults, including my MIL who has Alzheimer's. I do not budget. You know that saying, "Set it and forget it"? That's my grocery strategy. I chose the stores with the best pricing on the things I buy most and then buy what I need/what they have from each. First stop, 99 Cents Only Store, second stop, just across the street, Grocery Outlet, third stop, around the corner and up a ways, Costco. I am more of a Pantry Principle shopper, a la Amy Dacyczyn. I scoop up the deals at each place and complete my list at Costco, where I also fill the gas tank. I do this about every ten days. I do small fill-ins as needed at a nearby Sprouts, preferably on double dip Wednesdays.

When I am near one, I lurves me some Winco, especially their bulk bins. I try to hit one at least quarterly. Also we have a getaway place that has an Aldi nearby, so I go crazy there when we visit. Woot! I wish both of them were closer, but I can't complain about the resources I do have.

When I first got married (and got all three humans for the price of one, lol) I made a list of the things I buy on my phone. I then listed them (on paper) and compared prices (another nod to Amy D). I did this just to have an idea of what things should cost, so I know when to load up. Now I just check off what I need on my phone list before I go shopping. Easy-peasy. Unlike dear Kristen, I do not meal plan. My life is crazy enough as it is. We are blessed with a large pantry and an extra refrigerator and upright freezer in the garage. Silly as this sounds, I use my shopping list to count my blessings that I no longer need to squeeze every penny.


Thursday 8th of March 2018

Grocery shopping is such the balancing act, weighing nutrition, flavor, environmental sustainability, and price! I try not be be rigid about any one criteria so that I feel ok about the balance in the end. I just realized I'll have to up my budget soon, as my boys are eating more as they get bigger (7 and 12) and I'm not having as many leftovers to pack for my own lunch. :) I increased my budget last year when I got a raise and decided to put some investment into buying more organic, which feels good. I've also started ordering from Thrive Market too, their prices for sustainable and organic products are often better than the grocery store, especially the snacky type of stuff and fair trade coffee. It is definitely more expensive to buy organic, organic milk is literally almost twice the price, same with eggs! But on the weeks when I have to buy more things I don't buy every week (like detergent or parchment paper, etc.) I buy more conventional than organic to balance the budget.


Thursday 8th of March 2018

I spend around $25 a week at Aldi for fruits n veggies, another $60 or so at Meijer or Kroger. I don't really keep any budget with groceries but I do keep a budget with restaurant meals because they add up so quickly. I also spend $100-150 at Sams or Costco but that includes dog & cat food. For eating out we either hit a local grocery store that does pizza for $6 or $7 depending on toppings or a local restaurant that does breakfast for $3.49 to 4.99. Heck 2 to 4 of us can have breakfast and walk out under $20 with tip. We only go out to more expensive restaurants less than once per month. That usually includes a gift card from Swagbucks so another savings there.


Thursday 8th of March 2018

Our usual budget is $600-$700 per month for seven of us, with the five kids being ages 8 to 17. We don't buy a lot of organics these days (some, like apples, spring mix, and spinach) but do stick primarily to whole foods. We do not include pet food in this budget as we have quite a few critters to feed. Milk comes from a local-to-us place (Braum's) and we have chickens for eggs.

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