A Realistic Grocery Budget for a Family of Five

When I first started staying home, I was given an “allowance” of $80 per week to use on groceries, and I was able to keep the rest.  This was easier than it sounds, because most of our shopping was done at Costco, which did not come out of the allowance. We went as a family to Costco almost every week, got our meat, produce, and and dairy products. The allowance was used on little stuff needed throughout the week.

It worked when we were a family of two plus nursing baby. I was able to keep within the budget and have a little spending money to keep. I spent all my extra money going to Panera and Chipotle. Those were the days.

Then, the changes began. The baby grew into an eating person. Another baby arrived. We cut our Costco trip to once a month. A third baby came. I stopped couponing.  And somehow my budget has stayed the same. I have, predictably, gone over every single month for years. So I charge things to our shared credit card, and get interrogated about it. I would use birthday and Christmas money from my parents to buy groceries, just to avoid the questions.

Obviously this is not working.

So what is a realistic grocery budget for a family of five?

(I have gotten my frivolous spending under control after years of having basically no spending money. If there is something I would like that seems like a silly luxury, I will just put in on a list to ask for as a gift.)

I think we can comfortably do about $200/ week, including paper products and other household goods.

When I look up the average for a family this size it is much higher than that. But we do cook from scratch and don’t eat any expensive cuts of meat.

Also it does not include the cost of starting or maintaining the garden, which gives us a lot of produce. It does not include the cost of feeding the chickens, which give us eggs. So those are free inputs for me. Also we tend to either go out or get takeout once a week. Again…not out of the grocery budget

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The biggest thing killing my grocery budget is snacks.

Packets of goldfish, animal crackers, and fruit snacks that I send my kids to school with. That will have to go for sure.

I already meal plan and cook from scratch. It is chicken and ground beef constantly. I  haven’t bought anything organic in years. I don’t feel that there are that many ways to cut back. But when I really think hard about it, there are.

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Other changes to keep to my realistic grocery budget

1. No chips for the children. My oldest doesnt like normal snack food. So like an idiot, I have been buying her potato chips. Then the others want some too. No more. Easy one.

2. Less out of season fruit. These kids eat berries almost every day, all year. Not affordable, or necessary. Apples, little dears. Grapes. Whatever is on sale. I won’t force bananas on them because they are disgusting.

3. A hard one for me… cutting back on Chobani Flips. I will only have one a day, and only get them when they are a dollar. I have been eating 2 or 3 a day.  Spending $80 a month on one person’s yogurt habit seems…totally nuts.

4. The biggest one… waste less food. We throw out quite a bit. Leftovers will need to be eaten. I am always throwing out lettuce. Need to find a way to fix that. Going to try vacuum sealing them..

5. Grow more potatoes. They are kind of expensive at the store, and actually filling, unlike peppers, tomatoes, and um…sunflowers.

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I will not compromise on Boar’s Head deli meat, delicious seasonal beer, or King Arthur brand flour. Certain things are just necessary.

Every recipe I post will be made with ingredients purchased within the limits of this budget.

Is this actually a really large budget and I am bring ridiculous? I mean it’s $800 a month, which sounds like a lot!

Do you have a grocery budget? Do you stick to it? Does your husband pester you about it? Help me!

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Click here to subscribe By on August 28th, 2018

22 thoughts on “A Realistic Grocery Budget for a Family of Five”

  1. The biggest way we save money on groceries is by making meals with similar ingredients. We throw out less but still feel like there’s a variety. For example, if we get chicken for the week, then the meals that week are some combination of chicken and rice, chicken soup, chicken enchiladas, or fried chicken…etc.! Sides are much easier to buy in bulk/frozen and to eat before it goes bad if we cycle the meals around the protein.

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  2. I have trouble with our budget on food. We have food allergies,so it is difficult to stay on budget. We are gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy free diet.

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  3. I love your website! So many beautiful pictures and wonderful ideas! I love the free printable downloads for the homemakers binder.
    My family of 7 (me, my husband and our 5 boys) spends about $150-$160 every week at the store. This includes paper products and groceries. I do not coupon anymore, but I do “grocery store hop”. I shop sale products from different stores. I buy in season products. Stock up on dry goods when they go on sale. I also do not fall into the prepackaged trap. It is so much cheaper to buy a 64 oz. container of juice and fill the reusable juice boxes for lunches, and reusable containers for goldfish and fruit rather than single bags and fruit cups. We only eat out on special occasions (birthdays and trips), and it’s usually pizza! Only prepare enough food for what your family can consume, and if they are still hungry?…cereal and sandwiches! Hope this helps and encourages someone. You can always find ways to make cuts in your grocery/spending budget, they just may not be very fun at times!

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  4. My wife and I are empty-nesters now. We got on the David Ramsey train when our kids were in middle school. Groceries and eating out was 5 to 15% but I think household was another line item. Personal included toiletries and cosmetics was another 5 to 10%.

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    • Interesting! I hear so much about Dave Ramsey but I’ve never actually sat down and read anything by him! I need to, thanks for the suggestion.

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  5. Hey there, Katie! One of the things I try to do is turn my leftovers into casseroles. I had half an onion, leftover baked chicken breast and some green salsa. With some cheese and tortillas, I turned that into enchiladas. I made one pan and froze another.

    We buy in bulk where we can, take advantage of seasonal produce and I try and make what I can from scratch. I think I saw in the comments someone recommending taking a percentage of what you make and turning that to groceries – I’ve seen that work!

    I’m linking to another idea I’ve seen work – a cooking challenge! Maybe this will help? https://sierrabush.wordpress.com/2018/09/03/shelftember-cooking-challenge/

    I hope all that helps!

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  6. We are a family of five in the chicago suburbs and have a budget of $400/month for groceries – but separate amounts for toiletries and household products like toilet paper. But I think it’s funny that your husband nags you about the money, because in my home, I’m the one nagging my husband for spending money lol even though I’m not the one making it. Good reminder to me to not hassle him too much ????

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  7. I go with the 10-15 percent of our take home pay for groceries,costco and all things home at around $400. We go less than our take-home pay now because our salaries have greatly increased but we are saving hardcore so I have been able to stretch that $400 magic. Lol We have no children but I do have enough to buy for needy pantries and have guests over for supper. I say $600 is a great budget but the keyword here is the actual budget. Not more or less. We have to sacrifice alot and I dont budge on name brand detergents which I buy on sale and good toilet paper. When we were in debt we had to give up alot of things so now I just buy it on clearance or sale prices. Even Costco coupon prices:) I hope this helps and if you did not pick it up by now, our home are big fans of the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover to help with budgeting and goals.

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    • I’ve never really thought about doing a percentage of take home pay! That is a great way to figure out where you “should” be. I’ve heard so much about Dave Ramsey but never actually read the book. I will check it out next time I’m at the library. Thanks for the tips! P.S. Our toilet paper is terrible (Scott’s 1000), and my 5 year old always comments at other people’s houses how much nicer theirs is! Embarrassing.

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      • Yeah, Dave Ramsey put our house in order. Our family never talked about money so we were lost but we have been smashing financial goals. I think the hardest for 90 percent of households is the grocery budget so don’t feel alone in that!! Hahaha Time to change the toilet paper! Kids are brutally honest! Lol I think we are finishing Scott’s right now and I don’t think I will purchase again. Lol

  8. $600 a month sounds pretty realistic, we are a family of 8 and ours is about $900. Depending on if we need to buy something extra like our meat order. Even with menu planning, cooking everything from scratch, buying on sale items and using online grocery shopping I somehow still go over most month. But truth be told, I’m not super strict about it. I have tossed around the idea of adding a little bonus money into it as I can get kinda grumpy about food and sometimes need something a little more exciting than the casserole I had planned that night so we’ll change things up and will grab the yummy ingredients we need and the good ice cream. Plus everything is going up in prices here in Canada so we’ll need to adjust our budget a bit more. Good luck figuring it out????

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    • Alison, I was feeling really good about your comment until I realized it’s in Canadian dollars! ???? So you are spending way less than me per person.

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      • Ha sorry about that????I think though that as long as you aren’t putting yourself in debt feeding your family and that you are comfortable with your eating habits then maybe just try making a couple small changes that don’t make things harder. I tend to think I need to change my world and then it can feel so much harder than it should. If I do small things like put the money we spend eating out into the grocery budget for some more “luxury” food items and maybe decide to make a small change to the menu then I’m much happier than a huge overhaul.

  9. Thanks for sharing all this! You’re doing a great job! 🙂 I’ve found meal planning, shopping, making meals (and doing dishes, ha!), to be one of the most time-consuming parts of homemaking. Our budget has definitely gone up with each child we’ve added. While we do try to save as much as we can (i.e. one store we go to has Friday sales only on organic produce, so I go there at night to stock up – we’ve had to change our routine around to accommodate this), we also realize that at least for our family, this is an investment in our health, which has allowed us to be able to do more things. Our entertainment budget has gone down a lot since first getting married 🙂 . . . we just have prioritized what is most important to us. Yes, I used to have those cringe moments where I showed my husband what I had spent that month :). The trick for us was being realistic. $600 might be realistic for your family . . . and I think that good quality produce is just going up in value.

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    • Yes…sometimes I think about making more things myself but I already spent a LOT of time cooking and baking! I don’t even buy organic produce, so I think I am really off the rails!

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  10. I do not have a grocery budget and my husband does not pester me about it. But we also don’t track our spending the way we should. We just assume after seven years of grad school poverty that we know how to restrict our spending to needs. Which is sometimes true.

    Have you considered in any way trying to approximate the Chobani Flips yourself, either by buying a big tub of yogurt and mixing things in, or by making the yogurt yourself in an Instant Pot or slow cooker? Or does your part of VA have a Sharp Shopper closeout grocery store, too? That’s where I get any exotic and exciting snacks my kids have, like Gogurts. And if the Gogurts aren’t there, too bad, kiddos!

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    • I should definitely try mixing things in. There is some sort of delicious crunchy sugar in most of them but everything else would be easy to copy. I am afraid of making yogurt. Now I am looking up instant pots. Ahhhhhh.

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