How much should you spend on groceries? That’s one of the most popular questions asked on this blog and I’m going to break it all down for you today.
If you’re anything like our family your grocery budget is the next biggest monthly expense neighbouring a mortgage or rent payment.
What I find interesting is that more Canadians are taking their grocery budget seriously and want to know all of the ways they can save money to lower their food costs.
How much of your budget should you spend on groceries?
Let’s go find out how you can narrow it down to a number that fits your budget.
Determining your grocery budget
First and foremost, a budget is determined by income so if you’re searching for a cheap grocery list online it’s not going to help you.
Some people can afford to spend more on food than others so I’m going to explain what you need to do in order to find your ideal grocery budget number.
Ideally, you’ll want to stop comparing your eating habits to others and your monthly expenses because it will only drive you crazy.
Every person and family is different which means there’s more to creating a grocery budget than picking a number out of a hat.
Not only that but the cost of groceries per person per month will differ based on eating habits and health regime.
If I told you that $125 per person a month was the magic number that doesn’t mean you must use it.
That’s not how a budget works.
Then, how do I figure out my monthly food budget?
Keep reading and you’ll have it figured out by the end of this post.
Detailed Food Spending Across Canada
According to Stats Canada, Food expenditures have actually stayed pretty even across the board including eating out a restaurants.
For Ontario alone in 2017 the average expenditures per household on food came in at $8,713 with restaurant meals at a massive $2,586.
The average price per person spent on groceries each month ranges from $180 to $250 depending on where you live.
You’ll find the costs will go up if you live in the larger cities like Toronto but drop slightly in provinces across Canada such as Nova Scotia.
|Average expenditure per household|
|Food expenditures, summary-level categories||2015||2016||2017|
|Food expenditures 6||8,629||8,784||8,527|
|Food purchased from stores||6,126||6,176||5,934|
|Cereal grains and cereal products||341||347||321|
|Fruit, fruit preparations and nuts||755||781||731|
|Vegetables and vegetable preparations||710||718||702|
|Dairy products and eggs||903||888||839|
|Fish and seafood||213||203||219|
|Non-alcoholic beverages and other food products||1,437||1,499||1,451|
|Food purchased from restaurants||2,502||2,608||2,593|
|Restaurant snacks and beverages||281||305||321|
Food Prices And Your Grocery Budget
A grocery budget is also affected by food prices, which can vary depending upon your location and time of year as prices tend to fluctuate.
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 to fulfill their food budget.
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.
Ways To Lower Your Supermarket Bill
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.
Related: Meal Planning For The Budget
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.
Related: Food Shopping On A Budget
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 or able 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?
If the answer to the above questions are yes, you’ve probably budgeted enough money for food.
Have I Budgeted Too Much For Food?
Now, look at what goes into your garbage can and recycling bin as this will be a big indicator as to whether you need to evaluate your shopping habits.
- 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.
How 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.
Grocery Budget For 1
In most of Canada, a single adult with normal dietary requirements can eat well for about $50.00/week or $200 to $25o a month. (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%-15% 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 two challenges below first.
- Are you “shopping” your fridge, freezer and pantry first when planning your meals?
- 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.
The more efficiently you manage your grocery budget, the more money you’ll have to direct towards the other goals in your life.
My family budget is $410 for 2019 a month for 2 people and a 4 year old child.
We also have a $25 stockpile budget each month for those sales that are too good to pass up.
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 food 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 grocery budget and making changes to the way they think about spending money.
Popular Grocery Shopping Posts
Check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide with over 300 Grocery Blog posts for understanding how to grocery shop in Canada!!
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.
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