If you're new to living on your own or have recently moved in with a romantic partner, you may be surprised, if not shocked, at how much you spend each month on food alone. Unfortunately, there's not good way of figuring out what a food budget should be, because how much you spend on food depends on so many factors, including the cost of living where you live, where you shop for groceries and how often you eat out. However, by looking at your individual situation, you can come up with a budget that makes sense for you.
Aside from rent or mortgage and car payments, food bills are often consumers' next biggest monthly expenses, notes a 2009 Daily Finance article. Keeping a budget for all major, regular expenses can help keep your spending on track. Thus, making a budget for how much is reasonable for you and your housemate will ensure that you're not overspending on food, and encourage you to find ways to save. After all, those who don't keep track of how much they spend on food each month are 20 times more likely than those who know how much they're spending on chow on a monthly basis to get into serious debt, according to BCS Alliance.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics issues national standards for 2010 in various spending categories, including food. For two people, that amount is £349 per month. Roughly 13 per cent of the average American's household annual expenditures went to paying for food in 2005, notes an MSN Money Central Article. About 7.5 per cent of that was spent on groceries, while the rest was spent on meals eaten outside the home.
Factors to Consider
A couple who lives in New York, shops at Whole Foods and goes out to eat various times a week at fancy restaurants is going to have a much higher monthly food bill than a couple who lives in Iowa, shops at Walmart and goes out to eat once a week at a modestly priced mom-and-pop restaurant. Thus you'll have to consider cost of living in your location, prices at the supermarket where you regularly shop, and how often you spend money on meals outside the home to come up with a reasonable budget for your situation. As an example, the Coordination Problem set out on an experiment to make the same dishes using foods bought at Walmart and foods bought at Whole Foods. While the dishes tasted exactly the same and used the exact same ingredients, it cost just £81.9 to purchase them at Walmart versus £113.7 at Whole Foods.
To create a budget, start by writing down how much you spend on groceries. To come up with this figure, keep your receipts from all of your trips to the grocery store for a full month, and tally up the individual trip totals. Add to this the amount you spend on meals outside the home---both on the run and sit-down restaurant meals. Lastly, add little expenditures like soda purchased from a vending machine at work and candy you pick up while pumping gas. The best way to get an accurate picture of these expenses over a month is to save all your receipts or write down everything you spend money on for a month. Have your partner do the same.
If you feel that you're spending too much each month on food, look at your spending closely to see where savings can be achieved. Cut down on your eating out to once or twice a week, take a brown-bag lunch to work instead of purchasing a lunch, compare prices at different grocery stores in your area and clip coupons, suggests a BSC Alliance article. Combine strategies for maximum savings.