Guidelines for an average family food budget

Written by carolyn kay neeley
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Guidelines for an average family food budget
Going for luxury brands will cost you more, especially at high-end supermarkets. (Danilin/iStock/Getty Images)

Many families set aside a specific amount of money for food each month, yet often end up spending more than they've budgeted for because they don't really know how to get the best value when grocery shopping. Setting a strict family food budget can go a long way towards feeding your family without exceeding your limits if you follow some simple strategic guidelines when forming your budget and while out shopping.

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Spending limits

It's often difficult to determine how much you should spend on food. Sometimes this is necessarily dictated by how much money you have available, but if you're trying to set a budget or find ways to cut back on your spending, it can help to track your spending for a couple of weeks to see where you're spending your money and how. For example, keep your supermarket receipts and tally these up at the end of two weeks. Then decide if you can really afford to spend that much or if you need to trim your spending. There really is no hard and fast rule for how much a family should spend on food, but experts recommend anywhere from five to 20 per cent of your income. Families with a lower income typically have a higher percentage devoted to basic needs like food than higher-income families. You need to determine what works within your overall budget and then make efforts to avoid overspending. Also, it helps you to stay within your monthly budget if you know exactly how much you can spend each time you go shopping, so keep a running total of all of your grocery expenditures.

Keep a list

Plan ahead by creating a weekly menu and a shopping list of the items you'll need before you do your weekly shopping. Having a shopping list will help you avoid impulse purchases, and the weekly menu keeps you from eating out as often just because you can't think of what to make for dinner. Additionally, it is often easier to gauge how much your grocery bill for the week will cost since most of the basic staples -- like butter, bread, milk and eggs -- do not generally fluctuate too much in price. You should also check your cupboards and fridge before making your list each week so you know what you already have.

Vouchers and offers

Clip vouchers from your local paper or print them up from online sites and use them when you shop. However, even when you're using a money-off voucher you should comparison shop to see if you're getting the best deal. For example, even with a 50p discount, there may be a cheaper brand of the same item. Also, you should look for special offers at your local supermarket and stock up on items like canned goods, soups, frozen items and pastas or cereals when they are on sale. Although your weekly bill might be slightly higher from stocking up, you're saving money in the long run.

Own brands

Choose supermarket own brand alternatives when possible. There is virtually no difference between many name-brand foods and their private label or supermarket-brand alternatives, and it's usually merely a matter of personal preference and not nutritional value in choosing a named brand over generics. However, own brands can save you a lot of money on items you may have no strong preference for, so it's worth at least giving them a try.

Bulk buying

Sometimes it makes sense to buy in bulk, and whenever you can actually save money you should do so. However, carefully evaluate bulk purchases to make sure you're actually going to eat whatever you've bought before it goes off. Additionally, if you're buying bulk frozen goods, like meat, then you must evaluate how much room you have in your freezer to avoid wasting items simply because you don't have a way to store them properly.

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