Save: How much do you spend on groceries?

Two weeks from today, I am moving. While I’m not moving far, just a mile, I am not moving into my new apartment until September 1st. I’m going to be a nomad for a month living at mother’s cape house, renting in Nantucket for a week and crashing it on a couch or two in the city. I am not one to waste food. Rarely does my produce go bad. If it is close, I’ll freeze it if I can. The next 14 days are going to require some serious creativity to figure out how to use up the foods in my freezer.

TJ Chicken Burger

Yesterday’s lunch was asparagus with a chicken patty from Trader Joe’s, avocado and a little ketchup. It was surprisingly really good. I was in a rush however and about 2 hours later in the dentist’s chair my stomach was grumbling. I wish I had included a handful of almonds. Instead, I went to Whole Foods afterwards to pick a few items for the week to supplement our freezer.


Instead, I was lured in by the salad bar. I got a side of hearts of palm salad which came with asparagus and grape tomatoes in addition to grilled portabello mushrooms. I pan fried some chicken and weighed out 4 oz. I topped a bed of baby spinach with the hearts of palm salad, mushrooms and chicken with a drizzle of Trader Joe’s Balsamic Glaze.

Summer Salad

Despite not using the ingredients in my freezer, I still felt creative and didn’t spent a fortune like usual creating my entire salad at Whole Foods. Speaking of WH, there was an interesting article on Boston.com yesterday that compared all the local supermarket prices and found that WH actually had the cheapest milk available. Their eggs were the most expensive however. The article concluded though, that WH really isn’t that much more expensive when it comes to staple items and often is cheaper. Yesterday I bought a box of oatmeal for $2.49 at WH for Roomie. There are 5 servings. I usually buy his at TJ’s for $2.99 for 6 servings but still, as long as you’re not hoarding kale chips (which cost $5.99 for like 1-2 servings), you can escape using your whole paycheck for groceries.

Three Sisters Oatmeal

Last side note to mention, we spend much less of our total budget on food today than we did 100 years ago. According to a Forbes.com article, we spent 50% of our budget on food in 1901 compared to 8-12% now.

The more Americans make, the less they spend on groceries. The bottom fifth of earners spend a whopping 12% of their yearly budget on food at home, compared to 9% for the middle fifth, and 6% for the top fifth.

In the past, feeding our families took a much bigger bite out of American budgets –and it hardly ever included dining out. In 1901, according to a 1997 Bureau of Labor Statistics study, the average family spent almost half of their budget on food. Just 3% of that went to meals away from home. Today, we only spend an average 13.3% of our budgets on food–but 42% of that money is spent in restaurants. [Source]

While this story is from almost 6 years ago, the numbers still hold true. We spend less than any other country on our food as a percentage of income. Not sure how much your budget should be? Check out this nifty calculator from Iowa State University that does not factor in your income. If you do factor income into the mix, it is suggested that we spend between 9 and 14%. Take that number and divide by 12 to figure out your monthly allowance. I do not budget my groceries but know I should. I’m curious just how many people have and attempt to follow a grocery budget?

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