Lowering My Food Budget: A Challenge

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Ever since I started dieting, I’ve really been thinking about food and how much money I spend on it. A few weeks ago, I researched online about how much one should spend on average and I came across the USDA’s Cost of Food at Home statistics. Every month the USDA puts together an average cost of groceries. The types of groceries analyzed are the ones that the Choose My Plate program recommends: whole grains, meat and dairy, fruits and vegetables, basically non-processed stuff and convenience items.

They break the statistics down to a thrifty plan, low cost plan, moderate plan, and liberal plan. Amounts are calculated in both weekly and monthly time frames. I was surprised to learn that a woman of my age spends $58 a week on the moderate plan, and $47 on the low cost plan. On average, I’m currently spending about $80 a week on groceries. That doesn’t include dining out, on which I spent about $92 a week.

I know. That’s a lot of money spent on food.

Granted, some of that may include other household supplies and miscellaneous stuff so maybe it’s just a matter of me categorizing purchases more diligently.

This month, I’ve tried to lower the amount of money I spend on food by about 50%. A lot of this is due to the fact that I need to be smarter about where I spend my money and what I consume, but my biggest motivating factor is I have some expensive dental work I had to do and it’s going to take up a significant amount of my income.

My Goal for August

  • Reduce my grocery spending to $200 per month (about $50 per week).
  • Reduce my dining out spending to $150 per month (about $37.50 per week).

My Progress

Here I am in week 3 of my plan and how am I doing? Pretty good. Although I’m currently under my budget, I’m definitely a little over where I should be in the month and I still have this remaining week and the next week to go.

In my opinion though, it’s not a failure at all. It’s a vast improvement from where I was last month.

What Did I Do Differently?

I’m going to divide this post into several since there’s quite a bit to go into. Stay tuned for the next post in this series later this week!

Before We Start

You should already have an idea of what you spend on groceries today. If you don’t, start keeping track of it. The first step to fixing a problem is identifying it. You can use budget planning software like You Need a Budget (what I currently use), Mint.com, or Quicken to help you keep track of all your spending.

Once you do that, you can move on to the next post in this series: Meal Planning.

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