Do you have a realistic food budget?

Back in the days when my husband and I were a double income childless family we budgeted a whopping $35 a week for food. That amount made sense 13 years ago. I cooked from scratch, shopped all the area stores for bargains, religiously used coupons, and viewed grocery shopping as a game.

Today we are a single income family with FIVE children. I could easily spend $35 a week just on milk, bread, and eggs! So when my husband and I determine our food budget I could tell him $35, but that wouldn’t be a realistic budget for our food needs. An unrealistic budget leads to frustration and, ultimately, giving up on frugal shopping altogether.

 Create a realistic budget. 31 Days Feed My Family on a Frugal Budget series @

So, step one in feeding my family on a budget is to create a realistic budget amount. To do this I need to consider:

  • Special Dietary Needs. Food allergies and sensitivities will limit what you can purchase and may increase your budget.
  • Organic, Free Range, Pasture Fed, or Local Harvest. Are these issues important to you? If so, you must be willing to pay for them.
  • Food Only. Will you only include groceries or will you also include restaurant/take out food, toiletries, or cleaning supplies in this budget?

If you are new to budgeting then you may want to just track your food spending for a couple of months to get a feel for how much you spend. Once you have that amount then look for ways to reduce spending.

For the purposes of comparing apples to apples during the remainder of this series you should know that my budget is based on:

  • only food prepared at home. No toiletries or cleaning products and no restaurant/take out food. We budget those items separately.
  • I do not purchase organic, free range, etc. UNLESS it is cheaper than mainstream food. My current priority is to spend the least amount of money possible on food.
  • We do not have any allergies or food sensitivities in my family.

Are you wondering how much I budget for food for my family of 7? My current budget is $500 a month or $100 a week. I’ll be honest, it requires discipline and intentional choices but seeing our savings account grow makes it worth the effort!

Come back tomorrow and I’ll share how I use menu plans to make intentional food shopping choices.

What are your food shopping priorities?


31 Days of Feeding My Family on a Budget: Day One


  1. If anyone is reading this & you find yourself saying this is impossible! Think again! I am eager to see what Stephanie has to say tomorrow but as a SAHM with 6 boys I will encourage you it is possible!

  2. Alissa Neub says:

    Tell me how this is done! I am intrigued.

  3. We struggle, too… especially because if we are over budget, we miss somewhere else (and have no savings). We get the “dirty dozen” and all dairy organic for Addie… whatever is left is for us. Sometimes we just have soup and PB&J, but for our daughter to eat healthfully, it is worth it 100%!

    • Stephanie Kay
      Twitter: stephmommybrain

      It’s all about choices and priorities, isn’t it? A friend of mine once said “a yes to one thing is a no to something else.” That’s definitely true when you live on a budget!

  4. The majority of my budget goes to meat and produce. I have dietary restrictions so I try to make as much as I can.

  5. I watch my 4 adult children and their spouses balance groceries, budgets, entertainment, etc. for their families and I’m amazed at how they handle all the balls in the air. I’m very curious to see your “intentional” shopping plan. Thanks for sharing…

  6. Jackie
    Twitter: jackiehennesse1

    Food was always a tight budget item in our early marriage days. And when our children were young, it was really, really tight. Nowadays, we don’t mind going over budget some weeks because when it comes to nutrition, it’s worth it to splurge.

  7. Stephanie, I’m so glad you wrote this post. I know all about food budgeting, saving money on food, I even wrote a book about it! But sometimes I still get discouraged thinking I should be doing better. But the reality is, food is going up in price. I also have been including toiletries in my budget, which is giving me a skewed picture of what we’re spending on food. I’m going to separate that out so we can see what we’re really spending.
    Thanks for the great reminders!

    • Stephanie Kay
      Twitter: stephmommybrain

      Beth, glad I could help! I’m constantly reminding myself that food in going up in price and my children are eating more as they get older. Both issues require me to constantly reevaluate our food budget. With 4 sons I’m likely to need my own farm in a couple of years! :)