Grocery Stewardship

In this thought-provoking post over at Faith and Family Live, Danielle asks “How much do you spend on groceries?” After adding my own thoughts and comparing my spending to that of other families, it hit me.

Variety of Groceries in Paper Bags

What we spend on groceries compared to others is irrelevant. I can’t evaluate my family’s food budget next to another family’s without considering our needs, food availability and costs, lifestyle, and nutrition (as we know it).

  • Does your store take coupons?
  • Do you have access to farm eggs and raw milk?
  • Do you know how to cook at all?
  • Are you feeding a family of 5 with three small children or three teenagers?
  • Do you live in a tourist trap?
  • Do you prefer to buy locally?
  • Is there a CSA in your area and do you participate?
  • Do you strive for a whole foods diet or eat whatever’s cheap?

All factors that will ultimately affect the cost of our food.  It’s not about what we’re spending.  It’s not about how we measure up to other families.  It’s about how we are stewarding our food purchases.

Tips that we can all use to effectively manage our own, unique food spending:

  • Pray over our spending.  God is in the details!
  • Prepare and consume more food for nourishment rather than pleasure.
  • Plan our spending.  By planning a menu we are better able to utilize what we purchase.
  • Eat simple, whole foods as much as possible.  The fancier or more refined food gets, the more (sometimes) it costs and the less (nearly always) it nourishes.

What do you think?  How big a deal is your grocery budget?  Is it a game of “how low can you go?”  Is it worth your worry?  Do you compare your budget to others?

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This post is linked to Frugal Friday.

Image from Allposters.com
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Comments

  1. Excellent post! Those are all points I try to make hit home in my workshops – *what* you spend is really irrelevant, it’s how wisely you’re spending that amount that matters!

    If you spend $20 a week on groceries but eat out three nights a week and every day for lunch, that’s not very impressive!

    It’s hard not to compare budgets, but I try not to and try to encourage others not to, as well. There are so many circumstances that affect how much we spend – we just need to encourage each other to do the best possible!

  2. Great post! What works for one family will not work for others.

  3. Great post!! This is sooo true!

    When I first started reading frugal blogs, I would compare with others and then it hit me that my family’s lifestyle(our likes and dislikes) are not like others. So I have gone back to what works best for my family. It has brought my stress level down several notches and I have a manageable system that works for me! :)

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts! It has helped me to realize that I am on the right track for my family. :)

  4. Oh, excellent…great points! :) So easy to compare!

  5. I find that being more intentional in what you eat helps a great deal. Like it is easy to grab a bag of chips and sit at the computer or in front of the tv and consume the whole thing w/out noticing. Much better to put a reasonable portion in a bowl. Things last much longer that way!

  6. Good post, thanks! I live in South Africa so I’m forever sifting through USA-specific info and advice. Even though much is written that doesn’t/can’t apply to me and my family, I still draw much motivation and inspiration from reading frugal food posts, so I keep reading.

  7. Good point indeed!

    It is so easy to compare yourself to other bloggers. It is great to have other people to share ideas with, but when it all comes down to it the real importance is in providing for your family.

    :)

  8. I love how you put this into perspective! One thing I noticed over there is the huge range of grocery budgets. I suppose you could find a median and try to aim for that, but as you mentioned it is stewardship and wisely using what we have to nourish our family well that counts! I have heard people with my family size spending $30-40 a week on food, but it is not food that is healthy or that I would choose to feed my family. Some families can make that budget work for them. That is the key: what works for your family, in your season of life! Loved this post!

  9. I am playing the how low can you go!

  10. I’m kinda in the middle. I like to get lots of stuff free or nearly free with coupons but the bulk of our groceries is whole foods-meats, veggies, good fats, fruit and grains. Because of this, I really haven’t been able to or don’t desire to lower our grocery budget at the moment.

    There are times that I will significantly lower our budget for a little while to save money by eating from the pantry and freezer.

    I realize that my budget at approx. $50 a week for two is the same as many people’s budget for a family of 4. I read different $25 a week plans for 2 people and we are much bigger eaters. We eat 3 good-sized meals a day and rarely eat out.

    Excellent post!

  11. This is a great post. I think all too often we look at what others spend, but not at the circumstances. I have to remember that I do not have a chain grocery store or a store that doubles/triples, so my “buy” prices will be higher than others. Thanks for sharing this! =)

  12. You are SMOKING this week! Whoo, Amy! :>)

  13. Thank you so much for this post! While I try to be as good a steward as possible with our money I also try to balance bargain shopping with other priorities we have. It’s very important to me to buy locally grown foods including meat and produce directly from the farm, to support our local natural foods store/co-op, and to feed my family as many high quality organic foods as possible. So my grocery budget is larger than many people I know and I am filled with gratitude for the luxury to use our money in this way.

    Too often I visit money saving websites only to see the kinds of choices I make mocked and degraded. Sometimes we forget there’s more to good financial stewardship than always buying the cheapest thing available. Thank you for this thoughtfully written post.

  14. Balance is always the conundrum. This morning it was so difficult to choose between buying produce on sale and buying good local food from the Farmer’s Market. If only money grew on trees… ;) Kidding, of course. My blog is actually dedicated to finding the balance of money, time, earth and nutrition. Even so, I don’t have all the answers, but we’re all doing our best in prayer. Thanks for the wisdom of this post — I’m constantly asking/wondering what others are spending to try to assure myself that I’m doing Okay with my own budget. You make a very good point!

  15. Delores says:

    I, too, posted on the F&F Live post about what we spend on groceries. Reading everyone’s comments was so liberating for me! I read so many “frugal” type blogs and get frustrated because we just don’t have an Aldi’s or Publix or some such store, and there are 8 of us, and our coupons in our newspaper are pretty pathetic. And yet in comparison, I am a little below the $25 per person per week amount that I think was a pretty good average. I realized that it is okay and realistic to spend some more because we have a large family and because of what stores we have available. I think what happened is I never felt like I could stay under $100 so why try? Now I feel like $150 is reasonable; go for that and see if I can reduce it after that. Rather than just feel guilty or frustrated, I feel empowered to actually budget a realistic amount and stick to it!

  16. Hi Amy,
    I love this post. I am going to link to it on my blog. I spend alot for 2 people about 800.00 a month. However we both have heath challeges and I buy mostly organic and healthy food. Part of that is Ensure for my dh.
    I am so happy to see you address this.
    Hugs,
    Elizabeth

  17. I agree completely. I’m an avid meal planner myself. I love to cook, love to grocery shop, love to plan out our weekly menus and hopefully stay within our budget. Since I am a SAHM, it is important for me to stick to our $100 per week budget. This feeds the five of us, plus one large-ish dog. My 3 kids are 11, 10 and 7 with good appetites.

    However, I don’t compare my budget to others because what I spend is totally irrelevent for many of the reasons listed. I choose to shop at one major grocery store instead of several. My husband and I are doing Weight Watchers, so I do spend more on lots of fresh produce and leaner cuts of meat and fish. I am a scratch cook and don’t buy many convience foods. My husband isn’t crazy about casseroles, so I make a pretty complete (meat, starch, veggie/salad, bread, maybe dessert) meal nearly every night. You get the idea :).

    I used to feel badly about not getting a full load of groceries for $35 per week like on some of the blogs I read, but not any more. Everyone’s circumstances are different.

  18. I also enjoyed that F and F post and didn’t realize you had also referenced it here!

    We are able to keep our grocery budget almost abnormally low because I live in the center of 4 great groceries, 2 of which do triple coupons. People don’t believe you can buy lots of fresh produce and meat on $60 a week, but it’s totally possible IF you stop buying processed foods to cook with them.

  19. Rebecca says:

    Thank you for this post! I follow a blog where the blogger’s weekly grocery budget is about 2/3 of mine, and I work for a farm (free seasonal veggies)and live in an area with good sales and double coupons. So for a while I kept thinking “what am I doing wrong?” But then she posted her meal plans…my family would starve if we ate like that. It’s terrific if your family is happy with only soup and bread for dinner, but there is nothing wrong with serving a full meal every night either! Everyone just has to be the best steward they can be :)

  20. I think another factor, which you haven’t considered, is that of having a garden. A garden does take some money to put in–sometimes a lot, depending on where you live (the ground is so hard here you have to jackhammer holes for trees, and the dirt is WHITE and dead of nutrients, so dirt must be brought in, which can cost quite a bit).

    A garden can be a huge blessing and help in the family budget. We have eaten lettuce from our garden for months now. I spent about $5 on lettuce seeds, and I have certainly reaped more than $5 of lettuce. Plus, I can control what goes on it. My lettuce has never been sprayed with anything.

    If you want organic produce for less, learn to garden organically. Learn about organic sprays (because bugs can destroy your garden still) and fertilizers.

  21. Your right. Every family is diff. We need to adjust to our needs and not the Jones.

  22. ArdenLynn says:

    Right now, I have the luxury of being able to decide what my grocery budget is because we pay our bills and have some left. There have been times in the last 20 years where I didn’t have that luxury and my options were 1)feed our family as healthfully as possible on $50 a week or 2) find a job. There are people that are really struggling and they are having to make decisions such as grocery shopping vs. paying an overdue bill.
    Remember in the Tightwad Gazette she compared how to make a pot of chili; canned, homemade with store ingredients and homemade with homegrown ingredients. I don’t compare to compete, I compare to learn.
    Just for fun I will share that I spend $175 a week for our family of 10. That includes diapers and eating out (almost never. I keep a huge pantry and two freezers. I keep us stocked to the point where I can skip shopping if need be.

  23. Thank you so much for posting this, Amy! It is so easy to get caught up in trying to do what others do, but it might not work for your family. I also like that you are asking God what He wants you to spend. What a blessing!

  24. Another thoughtful post, Amy. Thanks for cheering on those of us who are trying to do our best!

  25. What a terrific post! I have often been frustrated that my family spends $100 a week on groceries (I always shop the sales, clip coupons, etc.), but after reading your post and the various comments, I now know why I spend so much more than most. My stores do not double or triple coupons and I buy most of my groceries in the meat and produce departments. My husband and I are doing weight watchers so we buy the leanest cuts of meat possible (which costs more) and lots of fresh fruits and veggies. I easily spend 75% of my budget on those items alone. Once we reach our goal weights, we will be able to buy cheaper meats…which should help a little..but I plan to continue feeding my kids all the fruits and veggies they are used to now :-) It costs more–but it’s healthier and will have longer good health benefits.

  26. Thank you for writing this, and for Jessica for linking from her site. I have been going crazy trying to meet the grocery spending I see on some popular blogs. But really, it’s very inaccurate to try to do so. I have 2 large eaters out of four people, we have to have white meat chicken and lean ground sirloin, we don’t eat any pork or shellfish ( ham is a good buy, I know) we can’t eat regular eggs ( we eat eggbeaters, which are $$$$ even T the warehouse club.) Plus I like to get organic fruits and veg from the “dirty dozen list” that have the most pesticides. Oh , and I try to buy organic milk or at least hormone free and zero hydrogenated oils Nevertheless, the bloggers are so engaging and inspiring, that I was convinced that I could spend $ 125 – $150 a week. Hello! I can’t do this, and this goal only made me frustrated. And the $100 a week grocery bloggers probably can’t do what Brandy Simper (who has an amazing website called the prudent homemaker) does when she feeds her family of 8 entirely on food storage and donated food for two years! We can be inspired by others to set our own, achievable financial goals – and then work hard to meet them.

  27. Good reminders. I spend more because I shop at one store (Publix), with a foray to the farmer’s market if I can manage it, and we eat organic as much as possible. We go through tons of produce, but it’s all costing far more than it used to! I also go through about 6 gallons of organic milk a week, so there’s almost $40 right there! I also make everything we eat, and our garden was scorched this year and attacked by squirrels. So we got nothing but the herbs they didn’t like instead of loads of berries and produce. I also upgraded my wine budget a little this year and cut back on sweets, which I hope canceled each other out! I’m hoping to cut our bills with coupons for stuff like toothpaste and diapers and household cleaners, etc.

    • In the end, quality food is just more important to us than other stuff… cable, decorating the house, etc. etc. And yes, our milk and egg purchases straight from the farm amount to over $20/week. $40 total… not gonna happen. ;)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] All food budgets are not created equal. Or as my friend Amy puts it, what you spend is irrelevant. [...]

  2. [...] Be responsible for using the time and money that God has given you wisely. My friend, Amy, from Amy’s Finer Things, has a few thoughts on this topic. (I KNOW! How did I become so blessed with so many great [...]

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