How Much Should My Grocery Budget Be?

how much should my grocery budget be

SAVING MONEY WITH A BUDGET

 

Last week Mr.CBB asked me, “What do you think is a reasonable weekly grocery budget for 1 person in Canada?” The question got me thinking: You can’t define a single weekly grocery budget that will work for everyone because there are too many variables.

 

Determining your grocery budget

 

First and foremost, a budget is determined by income. Some people can afford to spend more on food than others. A Budget is also affected by food prices, which can vary depending upon your location. For example, because the weather is inhospitable to farming and the location remote, food will always cost more in the Yukon than it will in Ontario.

Through need or preference, some people will have special dietary needs. If you need to buy special ingredients due to an allergy or illness, or if you choose to eat only organic foods, you can expect to pay a premium for shopping to accommodate those requirements.

 

How much effort are you willing to put in?

 

Grocery budgets are also affected by how much time and effort a person is willing to invest in food preparation and meal planning. When I’m not earning a pay-check we spend less money on food out of necessity. We achieve that goal because I spend a lot of time preserving, cooking from scratch, and foraging for wild food.

When I am earning a pay-check we tend to spend more on food, both because we can and because I have less time to invest in the labour intensive processes of canning, baking, and cooking.

 

How many people are you feeding?

 

The number of people you are cooking for will also significantly affect the amount of your grocery budget. The usual rule of thumb is that the cost per portion for a dish is inversely proportional to the number of servings being prepared.

Regardless of whether you’re cooking a small quantity or a huge batch, you still have to buy all the ingredients required to make a recipe. It’s usually not possible to buy a teaspoon of cinnamon or four tablespoons of butter, so you end up buying a whole container of cinnamon and a whole pound of butter even though it’s more than you actually require for that particular dish.

If you’re preparing a larger batch, you’ll use a larger percentage of those purchased ingredients, but you’ll still have paid the same price to buy them.

 

How much are you willing to spend?

 

There’s also the issue of comfort level. Some people are comfortable with spending a larger amount on groceries than others. I have a friend who regularly spends around $1000.00/month to feed her family of four and she’s fine with that. Another friend with a comparable income is uncomfortable when her grocery budget exceeds $400.00/month.

Although I’m inclined to favour the lesser expenditure, it’s not my place to judge either budget.  Both of my friends have defined what works for them.

 

How to estimate your grocery budget

 

So…With all of those variables how do you estimate how much money you should spend in the grocery budget each week?

  • First you look at what you can afford and you shop within that limit.
  • Next you look at what your shopping has provided you.
  • Lastly, are you getting enough to eat?  Are you eating a healthful diet?
Have I Budgeted Too Much For Food?

If the answer to these questions is yes, you’ve probably budgeted enough money for food. Now, look at what goes into your garbage can and recycling bin.  Is there a lot of waste in your kitchen? Is your food spoiling before you use it up? Do you find yourself discarding a lot of packaging?

If so, chances are you’re spending too much on food.

So…How, then, do you decide on what is an appropriate amount to budget?

Well, you set a benchmark, try it on for size, and then adjust it after you’ve worked with it for a couple of months.

In most of Canada, a single adult with normal dietary requirements can eat well for about $50.00/week. (This amount is for food only, not household items or personal items.) If you are buying for one person and can afford to spend that much on food, that amount would be a good place to start.

If you’re buying for more than one person, try starting with a monthly grocery budget that is roughly 10% of your month’s take-home pay.

If, over time, you find that you can eat well without spending the full amount you’ve allotted, cut back your grocery budget and put your savings toward something else.

 

Have I budgeted too little for food?

 

If you find that you are stretching to make it to the end of the month while staying within your grocery budget, look first to what you’re buying and how you’re using it. Are there ways you can use your food dollars more efficiently?

Address these challenges first.

  • Are you “shopping” your fridge and pantry first when planning your meals?
  • Or are you heading straight to the grocery store?

If you can’t make your grocery budget work by adjusting your habits, then adjust your budget upward – a little at a time – until you find the number that works for you. Just remember: The more efficiently you manage your grocery budget, the more money you’ll have to direct towards the other goals in your life.

Editors Note:

If you want to start saving money with your grocery budget join us here weekly to post your grocery shop in The Grocery Game Challenge. You will learn all you need to know about grocery shopping and how to save using coupons, flyer sales, meal planning and more.

My family budget is $235.00 a month for 2 people and a $25 stockpile budget which may include health and beauty, cleaning supplies and toiletries. Follow our journey every Tuesday when I post our grocery shop, grocery budget numbers, coupons used, coupons found and much more in The Grocery Game Challenge.

Many Canadian Budget Binder Fans have lowered their grocery budget simply by posting their shops and being mindful of what is going into their shopping cart. No matter if you have a Grocery Budget for 1, Grocery Budget for 2, Grocery Budget for a family of 3, Grocery Budget for a family of 4 or more you need a budget in order to save money.

Read how one fan went from spending $1100 a month on Groceries to just $600 a month by reducing their budget and making changes to the way they think about spending money.

 A few of our most popular Grocery Game Challenge Posts:

You can see our grocery budget example for 2 people and also see examples of family grocery budgets from our fans who post their shops in the comment section of the post.

New! I now have an Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide that shares all of the secrets we know about grocery shopping!

Also check out my Free Money Saving downloadable Tools Page where you can get all sort of lists that you can print such as a pantry list, freezer inventory list, furnace filter change chart, over-time tracking chart, Net Worth Calculator, Shopping List, Garage Sale Route List and so much more and it’s all FREE!!!

One last thing to help you with your grocery budget is knowing about The Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) educate yourself and learn how you can save money at the cash!!

 

Contribution Post By:  Aunt B’s family jokes that she started writing because she just doesn’t know when to be quiet! In truth, her blogs grew out of a long illness and helped her to keep in touch with the world around her.  She’s interested in everything, and shares her interests at Aunt B on a Budget.

Are You New To Canadian Budget Binder?

Mr. CBB
I’m from the UK and now a recent permanent resident in Canada. I bought my first house at the age of 21 after University then my second at the age of 24. I’ve always been fascinated with personal finance, savings, learning to make money and watch it grow while combating debts along the way. Canadian Budget Binder is a place where I get to share my experiences with personal finance and learn about yours along the way. I hope you stick around and check me out on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest where I am active on all social media sites. Cheers, Mr.CBB
Mr. CBB
Mr. CBB

Comments

  1. Great post! My budget is $100/week for groceries including cleaning, laundry and baby items. I can make it work most weeks :-) I also always shop the pantry before heading to the grocery store to see what I can make without having to buy stuff and to make sure I haven’t put something on my list that’s already in my cupboard. I find that having an actual budget and posting in Mr CBB’s Grocery Game Challenge has really helped my to spend less on groceries :-)

    • Hi Jen,
      That’s smart to look in your pantry to see what you already have. We had to start doing that as well because we simply had too much food in the house. There’s nothing worse than working hard to save money on food for it to spoil. I can see from your Grocery Game Challenge Posts how well you are doing compared to when you first started. It’s amazing how simply posting your shop will keep your budget in check. The ultimate goal is to take control of the entire budget which you started to do in the past couple months. You should be proud of your accomplishments to date Jen. Cheers darlin.. keep up the good work! Mr.CBB

  2. I go to insane lengths to use everything I have without going to the grocery store, though that has more to do with me being lazy and not wanting to leave the house. When I live on my own my cupboards are bare before I go shopping again. I get quite creative too.

    • Ha! I hear ya mate. I was the same way and so was Mrs. CBB. I would only shop enough food for the week and that’s about it. I bought no convenience foods when I lived in the UK. It gets much more complicated when you get married or even more so when you have kids. Thanks for your post and for dropping in. Nice to hear from you. Mr.CBB

  3. Alea Milham (@AleasLeftovers) says:

    Very well thought out budget advice!

  4. Where I live in NS, a report came out stating that one adult could purchase a weekly “nutritious food basket” for $45/week. That was considered the bare minimum to eat healthy, and it doesn’t include personal care, paper goods, cleaning supplies, pet food, etc. This must not include any convenience foods either! Interestingly, when my spouse and I do meal planning, buy the bare minimum and cook from scratch, it runs us about $90/week (for food alone).

    • Hi, Thanks for your comment! Mrs.CBB and I spend $190 a month (well that’s our goal) for our grocery budget which includes health and beauty. We eat very healthy although we just started meal planning. SOme factors that influence price is
      1-where you live
      2-how much you eat
      3-allegies, diet restrictions
      4-what you eat
      5-do you use coupons or shop reduced meats, cheese,bread and other products?
      6-Do you barter for products with others ie: You have an abundance of raspberries and your mate has blueberries so you trade… or make a deal
      7-If you email companies they often send you product coupons or free products for paper, health and beauty and cleaning supplies ( again all depends on where you live)…
      8- Cooking from scratch which we do and continue to do as much as we can. We like to experiment.
      9–Do you have a garden? We grow vegetables and some fruits which helps the budget

      Those are just some of the ways. I think you will like a guest post I am posting today.
      Thanks for dropping in!
      Mr.CBB

  5. Wow! I can’t imagine how someone can feed a family of 4 on 100/month. Holy crap!!! What are they eating?? I have a budget of 344/month for JUST ME and I always go over! I am particular about what I buy, but according to what I make, I should be spending a lot less on groceries. I’ve yet to reconcile this problem.

    • We spend $190 on the 2 of us but we don’t eat alot of meat but we do eat alot of vegetables, grains and fruits. This budget includes our health and beauty and laundry. Another perspective to look at is how much people are eating. Most people feed themselves far more than they should be when all we really need is a small portion. Others might have dietary restrictions or like in your case you are particular with what you purchase (maybe organic) which can drive the costs. There are reasons how and why people can eat for so little but the misconception that it’s because one is using coupons to buy cheap crap to eat is so far off the mark. For anyone who does use coupons and buys processed boxed foods as their meals it may be that any food is better than no food at all. Cheers and thanks for stopping in! Mr.CBB :-) Enjoy your weekend.

  6. I spend 22K a year on groceries – but I run a full time daycare… it is one of my biggest expenses after Savings (yes I consider that an expense – something I budget for and is necessary) and my mortgage and my extra payments… I think If I did not have a daycare my grocery budget would be different , but I think buying organic is important (and FYI I make my own bread and cook from scratch most of the time)

  7. This is a cool site. My first time here!

  8. cakebatterandovenmitts says:

    This is a really great post! We spend $90 a week on groceries for two of us. This includes food and cleaning supplies. I’m like Jen P. I always check what I have I have in the fridge and pantry first before I make my grocery list. Also, if I go over budget one week, (e.i., I didn’t feel like cooking one night during the week, so I ran to the grocery store and grabbed a frozen pizza which put me over my grocery budget) I always deduct it from the following week. That ensures that everything is evened out by the end of the month.

    • Hi!
      That’s what we will be doing next year when we post our shops in the grocery game. We will take any overage for the month and transfer it to the next month. There’s no point setting a budget for the year if we consistently go over budget and not carry it over. Would love to have you join us, would you consider posting your shop? Cheers Mr.CBB

  9. Good post except you forgot family size in your equation… We are a large family of 6 and there is no way 10% of our income a month would feed us for a month. Mind you, our income is low… So it would only be $320 for us. We’d starve. lol! Unless you’re a vegan eating mostly veggies, beans & grains… This would be a great feat for most I think! I’m also in Ontario, so know the prices here are not cheap. :(

  10. I take $125.00 cash to the grocery store every week to feed our family of 4. (I have two teenage children) $115.00 is for food and $10.00 is if I come across a great deal that I can take advantage of! Any money that is left is carried forward to the next week. This budget includes our cleaners and personal needs. I do use coupons for non food items unless and if I can find one for fresh food we use them too. We try not to eat too much processed food although we do buy the odd frozen pizza! I always keep my pantry stocked with the basics and cook from scratch. I do not do menu planning, I buy whats in season and on sale then cook meals based on whats available. You just need to be a little creative! If I have money left at the end of the month, which we often do, I order out as a treat/reward.

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  12. Hi There My Friend, This Article on time as Always and so Informative. Thanks for stopping by have a Great Week Ahead.

  13. WOW! Wouldn’t I just love to have such a flush grocery budget!

    $50/week per person! Yikes!! That’s MORE than DOUBLE what we spend per month.

    Even the 10% rule would mean an extra $100 a month in the grocery budget… but I’d have to eliminate both cable and cell phones to cover it. :-(

    Our groceries are $190 per month for two people. Which shakes down as follows:

    $47.50 per week (or $23.75 per person)

    – 3 of the 4 weeks we shop
    – the 4th week we use the funds for stockpile goods
    – if there is a 5th week in the month, it’s a NO SHOP week

    • You both shop pretty much the same as Mrs.CBB and I shop. It all boils down to budget in the end. There is no magic number online even though people think they wil find it. If I did a blog post about A Family of 5 should budget $500 a month I bet I’d get tonnes of hits.. why? because people want the convenience. They want someone just to say.. do this, do that.. and this is how it is done. Perhaps investing a bit of time in one’s overall budget and finances will simply give them that magic number besides… the internet is just a tool.. we have to make our own decisions based on our own personal situations. Cheers Mary!!! :-)

  14. Times have changed at our house… now that I am Gluten Free, we are shopping a lot more regularly in the US. As such I am now operating a Canadian Budget and a US Reserve. It breaks down as follows:

    $190 Canadian per month for two that is saved monthly from hubby’s pay cheque. One tip, the funds being set aside are for next month. I never spend what is not already in the bank account. My mother used cash in a grocery envelope in her purse as her method to stay on budget…I do the same sort of thing except, I use a credit card and get points BUT I post my funds spent every shop and move them out of the grocery category on my spreadsheet and add them to the credit card payment category. It means I always have the funds ready to pay the bill in full as soon as it is issued. 😀

    When we are in the US we spend $100-$150 every month to two months. I fund our US grocery budget 4 ways: 1. if there’s money left in the Canadian budget at month end, I move it over to my US reserve, 2. If we are on vacation in the US…that week’s Canadian grocery budget is added to the US reserve since I am not in Canada to spend it anyway, 3. I save every month in a Vacation – Food account and if a vacation I have set “food money” aside for is either postponed or cancelled, those funds are then transferred to my US Grocery Reserve and last but not least… 4. I buy a small amount of US cash each month and these funds held in our US funds account until such time as we need them. When we cross the line, I like to have no less than $100 US cash in my wallet hiding spot. :-)

    I think I need to re-design my GGC posts to reflect this regular south of the border habit of ours. :-)

    • I think your mother was smart and so are you how you handle your money. We are similar to you that we use our credit card for points but the money is already there to be spent. Shopping in the USA has helped you cut down on some of the high GF costs which works out great. I think if you need to re-design your already amazing GGC go for it because it’s your chart and you are tracking it, we are just following your wonderful journey!!

  15. Some very helpful hints thanks # CBB

  16. Great Jollyhoombah (@Hoombah) says:

    This is the shiz, CBB and it made my day. Tammy and I worked so hard on our grocery budget but were never sure it was tip top. We got is down to $260/month for 2 peeps. So when I saw $235 + $20 for washables and the like, I was completely stoked off! Now where can we cut another $5? Or is it just an American/Canadian thing? Whatever the case, CBB, have a great and tasty Thursday!!!

  17. Seriously???? My wife and I and our two year old budget is $200 per week and usually go over. That includes all household items, cleaning supplies, and toiletries. We almost never go out to restaurants. Total bill is about 15% of our monthly income. I know being in northern ontario the cost of groceries is higher but WOW

    • Hi Ben,
      Yes it really depends on where you live and many other factors when considering how much a grocery budget should be. Thanks for droppig by mate.

    • Ben, I’m in total agreement with you. We are also 3 (two tiny females who don’t eat alot) and 1 hungry Swiss man :-) – and i spent 300 dollars on the weekend and i’ll have to go back for bread and milk tomorrow.

  18. hi there! great to find this information. i’ve been hunting down how much money people spend on food in canada for a fwe years now because i cannot imagine what people on small incomes eat, given the price of food. i am a grown woman who has been working in a high income bracket for many years, so personally, i know that i have more income than many. i also am fully aware of the methods people use to save on food. however i have also come to the conclusion that most people just aren’t as ‘info’ food as i am (i hate the word foodie but you know what i mean). however. in spite of all of that, i still don’t believe that you can feed a family WELL of 4 in Canada for less than 200 dollars a month. great topic though thanks.

  19. I’m a single guy so, if I really needed to, I could cut my grocery bill down to something like $30/wk. This would mean a LOT of ramen noodles and probably a lot of weight gain by eating such garbage food.

    Since I don’t want to do that to myself, or my waistline, I cap myself out at average $100/wk and allow myself to buy a lot of fruits and veggies. I figure the cost now will even out versus heart surgery in 20 years. lol

  20. EstherRise says:

    It’s 2015 and I’m a single female with a cat. It’s just this year I am gaining confidence to cook and eat healthier. I do not like doing grocery shopping for a number of reasons. I live in Toronto and I find that the cost of grocery shopping has increased since I moved out of my parents house. I was never good at cooking and wasted a lot of money on eating out. My parents used to spend $400 per week to feed them and five kids and a cat. I do my grocery shopping online because I used to take a taxi to get home (which costed me the same amount to do online) or I would end up hauling a cart, backpack and four other bags between each arm. It’s costing me over $200 which I have to do a lot of cuts and I have to make it last for a month because I’m unemployed. When I am employed it’s less than $250 and I’m still cutting back. Having a cat does cut into my bill but not by much since I buy to last for a minimum of 2 months. I estimated it cost me $50 for food and litter which is not that much unless I’m unemployed…like now. I am now getting confidence in cooking (yay) and trying to eat healthier. I refuse to eat only pastas and hot dogs. With my new adventures in cooking, my grocery bill, even with healthier items, hasn’t increased that much. I still think it’s costly because it does not include personal and cleaning items.

  21. What you deny yourself now, you will be paying for in medical bills later. One cannot place a price on their health and there is a direct correlation between what we fuel our bodies with and our health. As a Canadian citizen, who has lived long periods of time in other countries, I understand the difference in food prices firsthand. I consider myself a smart food shopper as I have had a long educational career and been a “struggling student” for much of my life. I’d rather get a second job or cut back in other areas than to deprive myself of valuable nutrients and taste. Anyone who clings to a budget so severely strikes me as a controlling person, rigid and inflexible. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up! For me, life is far too short for such deprivation and nonsense. I understand not having money, and I understand living on a budget for the sake of other goals in mind, but to be cheap just for the sake of being cheap strikes an ill chord with me!

    • I guess it depends on what you choose to eat. We eat VERY healthy and also have the liberty of enjoying fresh organic produce in the summer from our relatives. A budget is not meant to dictate what you can and cannot buy it dictates how much one can afford. If they simply can’t afford to spend more there is no where to get the money from. Having a budget is such an integral part of our financial success and in no way, shape or form did we not eat well or continue to. It’s up to the shopper what they purchase and what goes into their bodies at the end of the day. The budget is just a number.

  22. As a ph.d student, I have to cut back. Getting a job is not realistic for me right now, as I have countless hours of reading and research to do. I am Canadian but have lived a huge portion of my life in Japan, and that was a huge eye-opener for me as their food prices are astronomical! (It gave me a whole new appreciation for Canada!) I have also lived in the US and wonder why food & drink are so much cheaper in the States!? I eat mostly fruits and vegetables. I use meat sparingly, as a condiment, as it is used in many Asian countries/ dishes. I have learned to embrace tofu but there is a world of difference between Japanese tofu and what is sold in the markets in North America! ;( I am also learning how to make legumes in a variety of ways! I have read that when we think we are hungry, we are actually just thirsty in many instances, so I hydrate myself with good, life-replenishing water and lots of herbal infusions. (Luckily, I got a massive basket as a gift so I’m set for the next several months!) I get through by telling myself that this is only for a “season” – when I’m finished with my studies and working full time, I plan to eat like a queen…in a healthy way, of course! I can do this for a limited period of time. I would not want to do it for a lifetime!

    • Good for you Olivia! Getting an education is pricey for everyone but I love your optimistic and positive ways. Too many people look at things negatively instead of finding something that works for the situation that is not long-term in nature.

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