Give Me Back My Five Bucks

How much do you spend on groceries?

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m fairly frugal when it comes to groceries. Since moving to Vancouver in 2008 my monthly grocery budget has ranged from $100 to $200 each month (maybe even upwards of $250 if I go to Costco). For me, this is a normal amount. I don’t eat a lot, and while I’m fairly adventurous when it comes to food, I don’t mind eating simple meals when at home.

Related: Can you feed yourself for $100/month?

But that being said, I received this comment on my June 2014 Goals Recap a couple of days ago on the blog:

groceriesNow, I do know that I likely spend less than most people on groceries each month. However, when it comes to people who are already frugal, as well as personal finance bloggers, I think I’m about average. I don’t know anybody that spends $500-700 as a single person on groceries each month, unless you are counting restaurants as well. But even then, that’s probably pretty high. Groceries and dining out combined, I probably spend around $225-250/month.

SoI went to Twitter and asked people what their average grocery budgets were each month:

groceries-twitter

Here are just a couple of small ways I save money on food:

  • Eat vegetarian. Even when I was eating meat, I ate vegetarian for most meals. By not centering my meal around meat, I significantly cut down my grocery expenses. Instead, I supplement with chickpeas (and hummus), tofu, lentils, quinoa, etc.
  • Shop at farm markets. I’m always shocked at how cheap it is to buy produce at farm markets and small Asian grocery stores. I buy a huge bag full of veggies and fruit for about $15 a couple times a week, and buy staple items like quinoa in bulk at Costco.
  • Eat simple meals. Not every meal needs to be Pinterest-worthy. :) I splurge on ingredients when I’m cooking a nice meal for BF or for friends, but everyday eating is pretty simple in my house. A typical meal for me would be some roasted (or steamed) veggies, Wasa bread (or Lavish crackers) with hummus, and grilled mushrooms on the BBQ.
  • Rarely buy junk food. If you come over, I won’t have ice cream, chips, cookies, or chocolate at my house. :) I do enjoy them, but can’t justify spending money on unhealthy foods on a regular basis. BF doesn’t have them at his house either, so the only time we might indulge is if we go out with friends or if we make a point to walk somewhere to pick up ice cream or macarons.

Related: Inside my grocery bag

It should be noted that I do spend time each week at BF’s house. Sometimes he buys groceries, and I buy dinner. Or vice versa. We loosely split costs 50/50, and I think my expenses all even out over the course of a month.

How much do you spend on groceries each week?
What’s your best tip for saving money on food?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


Comments

  1. Kirsten says:

    Right now I’m working on decreasing my grocery bill. For a family of 4 in an expensive area, we are spending an average of $520 a month. It would be crazy for someone to expect you to spend that much for ONE person!

    • Mark says:

      I am a single guy. I have 2 pets and I average around 100.00 to 150.00 a week on groceries each week. I don’t know how anyone can live on 200.00 a month on food. I do not go out to eat at all. I have 3 meals a day and pack my own lunch every day for work. I do cook for my dogs each day, I don’t give them dog food, but when I look at the cost of a decent dog food vs the chicken livers or something like that I make them cooking for them is actually cheaper. I rotate between stores like Publix and save a lot. I can defiantly get away with spending less at save a lot but there are items that I can not get there. but even at save a lot I average 100.00 a week. I don’t think I over indulge in my meals. breakfast is always a bowl of special k. lunch is either left overs for the prior nights dinner or a salad or can of soup. for dinner I tend to make a full meal such as chicken or fish and a vegetable. I don’t buy chips or any real type of snacks other than maybe a granola bar or fruit. the only way I could see spending less than I do is if I bought a lot of frozen banquet meal in which case I would probably be very over weight from eating that kind of stuff

  2. T says:

    That was a rude comment from g – and who in the right mind would spend $700 a month on groceries? – unless you buy prepared food for breakfast, lunch and dinner – in which case juts go out and eat at the restaurant. My husband and I spend about $350 a month (give or take) at the grocery store (sometimes it includes items like deodorant, shampoo, cat food, freezer bags, etc. or other items if on sale and with coupon). I cook 5 days a week and some weekends. We visit our family for BBQs on weekends and usually get leftovers to eat all weekend. I shop at farmers markets, ALDI and local grocery stores. I buy sale, sale and more sale. I plan my meals around what’s on sale. We do splurge on few items like $6 half a gallon of farmer’s milk – it tastes like haven and I will not drink anything else. We do not buy junk food and soda except ice cream on occasion as dessert.

  3. Kara says:

    I just checked my Quicken and so far this year I’ve spent on average $603 a month to feed 2.5 people – that’s myself, my housemate, and my boyfriend who I cook for a couple of days a week. It obviously doesn’t include any money spent eating out or any food that my housemate buys for himself.

    I think for most people that’s high, but there are a couple of caveats: I do eat meat and seafood and I do try to buy local, organic fruits and veggies, ethically sourced (e.g. free range, grass fed, ethically fished) meat/seafood, local eggs from pastured hens, etc.. I consider myself fortunate to be able to do so, but it does ramp up the grocery budget significantly. I also give food as gifts a lot and I tend to roll that into my grocery budget. For example, I make limoncello for holiday gifts, and so the $40 worth of organic, wax free lemons that I bought fall into that category, although I probably should re-categorize that stuff as gifts.

    As to your rude commenter, I read back through a couple of posts and comment threads. Looks like Cordy/Lisa/Deals is back. The tone is familiar. :)

    • Amy says:

      Who is this crazy person (Cordy/Lisa/Deals)? Is there a story? :-o I just looked back a few posts out of curiosity, and oh my…

      • Kara says:

        Amy – It’s a looooong story. She used to blog at dealswithmoney.blogspot.com, then got angry at all her commenters, insulted them and called them names, closed that blog and opened another one in which she called herself Cordelia (Cordy for short). Same scenario – posted about her bad choices, insulted her readers, got angry and flounced off, locking that blog. She was gone for a while, then reappeared again under Lisa’s Money Matters, but the story and tone was the same (bad choices, bankruptcy, student loans, sponging off her grandmother, excuses for why she couldn’t work, etc.), insulted her readers and closed that blog. (There were a couple of other blogs in the middle there, but I honestly couldn’t keep track.)

        She HATES people who are financially successful and is incapable of holding back her bitterness and anger at people who have disposable income.

        As far as I know she hasn’t opened another blog, but historically if she’s not blogging, she’s leaving nasty, insulting comments on other PF blogs. I think she’s commented as “Deals”, as “C the Writer”, as “Cordy/Cordelia”, as “Lisa Parsons”, and a few other names.

        The tone of her comments is always the same though – hugely insulting and belittling and/or jealous. She’s a trainwreck in motion.

  4. Leigh says:

    My boyfriend and I spend about $400/month on groceries for the two of us. I’ve lived by myself for years though and I regularly spent about $150-200/month on groceries just for myself. We’re eating a lot more meat than I did on my own, which is why I haven’t been saving that much money.

  5. makingsenseofcents says:

    We probably spend around $400 a month on groceries but that is kind of skewed and it varies because sometimes we are bad with our budget and eat out at restaurants more than we realize.

  6. Dan C says:

    I also live in an expensive area, and spend 200 (or less) on food a month. While I am a vegetarian; I don’t follow any of the above mentioned tips. It’s totally do-able! Ignore the inflammatory comment.

  7. Liquid says:

    I spend about $100 a month on groceries. I just go to those small Asian stores like you mentioned. Usually the price is 50% cheaper than large chain grocers :) Then I spend about $50 to $100 a month on eating out at restaurants, etc.

  8. Debt Sux says:

    For a family of 3, we spend between $500 and $600 on groceries, which includes some little splurges like juices and treats. If I truly, truly cut back on luxury items, I could probably spend less than this amount. We used to spend more on groceries until I reviewed our eating habits. It’s true that if we eat less meat, the food expenses drop significantly. We do eat meat, but I don’t make it the focus of our meals. We’ve explored other cultures’ meals, which typically center on veges and legumes, and have started a veg patch this summer. Every bit helps. I certainly understand where the commentor is coming from because I used to spend mindlessly at the grocery store.

  9. Wow that is a horrible comment. I can’t believe someone would write that. I completely believe that you spend $150-$200 per month. That’s what I spend per person, and I only eat free-range, organic, local food. It’s not hard, just stop buying food you aren’t going to eat and shop at farmer’s markets.

    Ignore the meanie, you are doing great. :)

  10. Jen says:

    We spent about $475-$525 for a family of three. We cut out a lot of meat, but what we do buy is generally organic. I also do a Costco shop of about $200 every six weeks or so. My grocery budget also includes things like cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc. Like one commenter above, it also includes food given as gifts (I make granola and lots of jam, for example). I am pretty comfortable with what we do spend, but focus on trying to find no-name stuff on sale, buy case lots where I can, and shop at the small markets you mention. Not much couponing. I could probably reduce our budget by $150 a month if I tried harder and shopped at multiple places.

  11. At our house we spend 460/month for 2 adults, vegetarian, make meals from scratch, but buy some luxury groceries like pesto, avocados and cherry tomatoes. And spend another $120/month on dining out and cafe treats. That is still under $300/month per person. I think your costs are in line.

  12. Meghan says:

    I apparently spend more than most of you. $100 a week for one is a good month, historically. I do live in an expensive area and eat some healthy prepared foods and buy organic most of the time. I’ve gotten better about cooking on Sundays for the week and rarely throw anything away. The bill used to be more like $500 a month. And I don’t eat a lot. I think it is a rude comment but in DC, I definitely would have a hard time spending what you do. Food is so expensive! :)

  13. alexislives says:

    I budget myself at $120 a month, just me. I buy organic things, but I’m a vegetarian so that cuts cost too as well as making all my meals from scratch. I do buy some special things like a yogurt on occasion and I do enjoy baking, buy I still stay within budget…most months.

  14. Laura says:

    Wow what a horrible comment! The BF and I are probably on the high end for our groceries, about $500 maybe more some months, but he eats a lot so I’m thinking that’s why. When I was single I spent about $250 and I eat meat with most meals.

  15. Sarah says:

    We spend $360/month on groceries alone (no toiletries) for two people. We are vegetarian and make most of our meals from scratch. I used to spend $100/month when I lived alone, but I used to reconstitute beans from dry (instead of using cans) and make hummus from scratch. We also buy a bottle of inexpensive wine a week.

  16. Lemei says:

    i know a girl who used to live on $20 a week, with meat/seafood/veggies/fruits on her diet. It helped she lived 5 minutes away from chinatown, so a lot of her produces are dirt cheap. It is definitely doable. Proper meal planning and smart shopping should do the trick

  17. Anonymous says:

    I spend $200-$225 per month for groceries for one person, including any cleaning supplies like paper towel and laundry soap. I live in the BC Interior, so some foods are a little more expensive than in a big city, though not by a lot.

    I’m frugal, and I read my flyers, but I’m also a little lazy sometimes — I know I could get it down to $175 if I tried harder.

    I feel like I should keep track one month of how much of my grocery budget goes to dairy. I feel like I’m always buying milk, yogurt, eggs and cheese — that stuff is expensive in Canada! (But yummy.)

  18. Cassie says:

    I don’t think your grocery prices are out to lunch, especially considering the fact that you watch prices, comparison shop, cook at home and don’t buy prepackaged foods. Some people just get angry for the sake of getting angry. Or have no self control at the store.

    Maybe you could prove you’re actually only spending this much? I believe you, but it could make a decent, albeit long post. You could post receipts showing what you bought and how much everything was, and show what you make with it and eat? It would be a lot of work for one snarly person, but maybe it would be helpful for people who want to reduce their grocery expenses and don’t know where to start?

  19. BJ says:

    We spend $600 per month on groceries and eating out. We eat out maybe once or twice a week. We eat meat and do not deprive ourselves of good food. I try to buy organic on the “dirty dozen” list, I love to cook and I often try new recipes on weekends. No junk food except for the occasional chips and ice cream. Based on your explanation of your eating habits, I think your grocery budget seems reasonable.

  20. g says:

    It’s BS that you don’t buy cookies, chips, etc. You’ve blogged lots of times about your love of chips. You aren’t frugal – you lie to make yourself look better on the blog. You present this entirely false lifestyle because you like to be seen as superior to others.

    YOU AREN’T FRUGAL. YOU’RE JUST CHEAP.

  21. tracder says:

    I spend about $120 a week for myself, my husband and our three-year-old that eats as much as a full-grown man somedays. I also live in Northern Alberta – where everything except gas is more expensive than just about anywhere else in the province.
    We’ve just started eating way healthier, so that costs a lot more. Our growing season got off to a late start, so I’m still buying tomatoes instead of eating the ones from my gardens, and the farmer’s market has been slow to take off this year for the same reason.
    Tonight I spent $137 on groceries – which got me enough lettuce to make salads for lunch and dinner for three days, a clamshell of cocktail tomatoes, mini cucumbers, bag of baby sweet peppers, carrots, green onions, bananas, 1.5 lbs of baby potatoes, grapes, cereal, milk, mineral water, orange juice, steak, sausage, (my big splurge) rosette lyon salami, cheese sticks, hotdogs, buns, three lbs of butter (used a raincheck from last week), bag o salad, and ice cream (also splurge) and some snacks for the kidlette. It’s pretty steady. I should add I have to go back halfway through the week and stock up on more veggies for salad (usually $20).

  22. mfb says:

    I live on one of the gulf islands where food is somewhat notoriously expensive as we only really have Thrifty’s and the health food store to choose from (quite an expensive one). I spent about 400$ last month on groceries and that includes lots of fancy snacks for a small child who likes Annie’s cheddar bunnies, blueberries, and so on. I definitely see that you could spend that little!! Although after reading this I am realizing I need to crack down on my food bill. Although I have gotten better at you know, not regularly eating soft goat cheese and gluten free tortillas which helps my grocery bill ;) but I love to spend on food and do purchase virgin coconut oil, chia seeds, dates and frozen berries which add up but I don’t want to go without. I definitely spent a concerning amount eating out last month (common for me once summer rolls around), a lot of which I can justify as being social occasions or travelling but it was very expensive still.. and that is something that needs to change as it’s not usually good for health either (no matter how enjoyable it is).

  23. My wife and I spend about $400 per month on groceries (food). We eat meat and do not deprive ourselves of good, quality food. We buy organic often and we also go to farmer’s markets.

    We spend another $100+ per month on household supplies, cleaning supplies, miscellaneous items for the house, cat food, etc.

    We pay ourselves first, then we spend what we want. I don’t like nickel-and-diming everything.

    Your grocery budget seems very fair.

    Hope you’re having a great summer Krystal!
    Mark

  24. Kristyn says:

    I live in Downtown Vancouver and I spend between $200-250/month for 1 person on groceries. This doesnt count eating out, but even then I would be hard pressed to hit $500-700/month! That comment was crazy, I dont know anyone who spends that much for 1 person.

  25. Alicia says:

    I totally think your budget is reasonable, and it is very similar to what we spend for two people (as my tweet says). Ugh to that comment, and then another one from them here.

  26. What says:

    120 a month. 3% body fat. Bench press = 315. Whoever “g” is he or she is likely a lazy fatass.

  27. M0len'z says:

    g sounds very bitter… not sure about what…
    we live in West End and spend $300 for 2 until recently, $350 for 2 cuz there are more summer food to buy. That’s already plenty. Maybe if I’m prepping for zombie apocalypse I’ll spend $700 a month for groceries.

  28. We spend $235 a month for two people living in Ontario, Canada. We post our grocery shop every single Tuesday on the blog in our almost 3 year Grocery Game Challenge. There are other fans from around the world that have been posting and saving along with us. It’s amazing how tracking your shops helps keep them in check. We don’t buy lots of junk food but we do enjoy baking homemade treats. Lots of our cooking is based around the main food groups and we also garden in the summer although this summer we had to cut back on tomatoes and peppers. Our family has more than enough garden to share though. :) I’ve learned so much about grocery shopping since moving to Canada and as a guy who doesn’t mind grocery shopping I’ve realized that if you want to eat good you can on a budget you just need to plan your shops and the meals you want to eat. Great post.
    MR.CBB

  29. Clare says:

    Lady. Don’t ever dedicate a whole blog post to a troll ever again!

  30. Thomas @ Best Credit Cards Canada says:

    We’ve been spending $100/month per person for a while now. It’s totally doable. We eat vegetarian at least 3-4 times a week. We shop sales. We also prepare large meals and freeze them whenever produce is in season and on sale. At $500 a month that commenter just isn’t trying.

  31. Maurice Dobb says:

    Yes, $100 or even $200 seems a bit too low. However, I’m not sure whether you are single or not. Even for a single person $100 seems too low. On an average I’ve found that $300 to $350 is the need for average household. In my case, with my wife and little baby $400 is the average. Though sometimes it shots up to 600 or even 700 bucks in a month. That’s my scenario at house.

  32. rbejusca2014 says:

    What a rude comment! If you don’t eat “enough” or if someone is helping you pay for it- it’s none of their business!

    I recently moved out so I now do my own grocery shopping and for one person (rarely two, when BF comes over for dinner) and I only spend roughly $33 each week for groceries. So let’s say $150-200 a month. I am vegetarian and I eat mostly organic.

    So I don’t know where this person shops that they spend $500-700 on groceries per month! That’s just crazy!! And what are you eating for the amount of money?

    Anyways, I think as a girl especially, and mostly vegetarian the amount you have is about average.

  33. Pira says:

    Initially we were spending about $350 for two people, now attempting to decrease to $250. Finding discount grocery stores to shop at has been our saving grace, as has price matching!

  34. Dan says:

    40-60 dollars a month. 40 on light weeks, and more on weeks where I need personal care items (shampoo, soap, etc.) – yes, I include these in the grocery section of my budget.

  35. Ive noticed that since we switched to vegetarian our grocery costs have gone down, even though the cost of food has gone up in the past couple years

  36. danielle says:

    I guess I’m a bit confused by this post. What’s so great about spending less on groceries if you’re spending money on restaurants instead? I think things need to be a bit more big picture in terms of total food cost. I’m not judging how anyone spends their money (restaurants vs. grocery shopping – it’s your money, spend it how you want) but it’s misleading to examine your monthly bill for one and not the other. Otherwise someone might say “I spend $20.00 per month on groceries!” having only purchased a bunch of bananas once a week and supplementing the rest of their meals dining out.

  37. Stephanie says:

    Late to reading this but I had to comment anyway. (Just found you on bloglovin, stalking your old posts like a creep.)
    What a rude comment! Also, if my grocery bill is over $50 a month, I balk. It’s usually closer to $30, and I live in downtown Chicago. (I think your area is pricier, but still, it’s a big city!) In addition to what I spend eating out, my total budget comes in at $100 to $150 and that would be a huge eating-out month. $500?! On groceries for 1 person?! G is crazy.

  38. JACK says:

    I LIVE ON 280 DOLLARS A MONTH IN TOTAL SO I LIVE ON 50 DOLLARS A WEEK AND ANYONE THAT THINKS THE GOVERMENT GIVES A DAM IS A IDIOT

  39. SheWhoWaits says:

    I just averaged mine. I average $170 per month. I hit a low of $80 one month. That does include feeding my cat “people food” because my vet said to. For that, I eat free range eggs, meat, butter, and poultry, whole grain pastas, and bakery made bread. I tend to eat meat only once or twice a week, though. The bulk of my groceries come from my farm share. $500 per year gets me more vegetables than I can eat. I give away a lot and freeze a lot, and end up composting some because they go bad before I can use them.

  40. Robin says:

    I spend about $400 for one on groceries, working on cutting down below $300. Gotta eat more lentils, rice, that kind of food.

  41. Xcurior says:

    It really depends how much you’re comfortable with spending, and where you live; lets not forget that the time it takes to ‘save’ that money is valuable in itself, and transportation isn’t free either. For those of us without a vehicle, we’re happy spending a few extra dollars for a closer grocer while it might not be the cheapest, because it saves time and effort. I don’t live near any large supermarket, so I’ll easily spend an extra dollar on milk from 7/11 for instance. Proximity and convenience are bigger factors than budget for me; I could argue that my expenses are actually less for not using a vehicle to bring back groceries — and if we get technical about it, gas is definitely an expense of buying groceries.

    I spend about 100 a month on grocery shopping, but that doesn’t include the 120 or so on take out/dining out, including fast food and coffee. If I had a vehicle I’d be happy spending more on groceries and less on outside food — but when you’ve got a solid limit, like whatever you’re happy with carrying in a bag for up to a kilometre or more, you tend to spend less on groceries and eat out a bit more.

  42. D Grant says:

    We pay £200-300 for two people. £180 ish for the home deliveries and the rest on weekly buying and work food etc. $500 for one person is too much

  43. Anonymous says:

    700 a month and I cook at home. The thing is I buy quality food. I read the ingredients on things when I buy them.
    An example is ranch dressing.
    Look at what the cheap kinds have in them. I buy coconut oil to cook with. I only buy free range brown eggs. Only buy juice not from concentrate. Only buy organic soups or make them myself.

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