There are many expenses that a family faces each month, and priorities may vary according to personal needs and preferences. However, one expense that is likely considered a top priority by any family is the monthly food budget. This may be dictated by the lifestyle of the family as well as the choices in types of foods that each family prefers.
National Food Budget Averages
As of March of 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated that a family of four spent an average of £5,533 per year on food, or £460 per month. Additionally, the amount of money that is spent on food each year by families increases by 4 per cent each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Dining Out Vs. Eating In
According to The New York Daily News, based on these figures, an average family of four is likely not spending much on gourmet food, nor is it dining out very often (except for fast food). According to Consumer Reports magazine, the average family spent up to 44 per cent of its food budget dining out, as of 2006. While this statistic did not reflect a categorisation of types of restaurants, the indication seems to be that nearly half of an average family's food budget was paid out to others for meal preparation.
Food Budgets and Nutrition Concerns
The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion reports that although 52 per cent of the primary food preparers in American households claim to stick to a strict food budget, 75 per cent of households with three or more members that stay within their food budget average less than £26,000 in annual income. The concern for proper nutrition on a limited food budget is expressed by nearly 50 per cent of household budgeters whose yearly income is between £13,000 and £26,000.
Choices Dictate Expenditures
Staying within a strict food budget, especially for people with annual incomes below £32,500, often requires adjustments in food choices. The need to provide nutritional minimums is likely part of the decision-making process for most families, but limits on high-dollar food items, such as meat, may also require some different approaches. Protein is important, and substituting less expensive meats or cuts of meat can save money. Alternative protein sources may be considered as well, such as beans in side dishes or as part of soups, stews or casseroles. Fresh fruits and vegetables, including organic items, can often be found on sale.
Tips on Food Budgeting
Making shopping lists in advance can save money if they are adhered to. This can also eliminate impulse buying, which can account for an unexpectedly high amount of expenditure. Limiting shopping trips to two or three times a month may also help in staying within a budget. Spending time on comparing prices between brands as well as food stores can also help. The use of coupons can save money, although a store discount can often be more than the savings provided by a coupon.