Five years ago, I posted the first-ever “Ask the Readers” question here at Get Rich Slowly. “How much do you spend on food?” I asked in a short post (the likes of which one never sees around here anymore). For five years, people have been posting their food budgets for others to see.

Shauna wrote earlier this week asking for an update:

Would you consider doing an update to the “How much does your household spend on food?” post from 2006? This is a constant point of contention in our household budget.

  • On the one hand, my husband and I are sort of “foodies”: We love to cook, experiment with new ingredients and recipes, share that food with others, etc.
  • On the other hand, it’s a significant part of our budget and I feel like the general theme of most of the food-related posts on GRS is on how to spend the absolute minimum on food.

Many of our friends have cut back in other areas of their life (cheaper housing, cars, etc) in order to be able to spend more on food. They budget for eating out at new restaurants once a month, shop at the farmers market because they enjoy the experience, etc. None of those things are possible for us, even though we are supposedly spending more on groceries than most of the other folks on GRS, if the comments from your 2006 posts are right.

Our “groceries” budget is $750 per month, but that includes food, household items like paper towels and laundry detergent, personal hygiene items, etc. Basically everything we would buy at a grocery store. We live in the inner downtown core of a medium-sized city. We both work, and we take our lunches with us every day. We cut coupons where we can. We maybe eat out once or twice a month at low-cost places (pizza, happy hour, etc). We do grow some of our own produce (lettuce, tomatoes, etc) but there’s really only a four-month window when we harvest significant amounts.

My question is: Are we really spending a lot more on food than most people? Or are we just using a budget that doesn’t tell the true story? I’d love to hear what number others come up with, and the factors that influence it (eating at home vs. eating out, living in a city vs. a rural area, both partners working vs. one staying at home, buying organic vs. regular, etc) so we can actually compare apples to apples.

If I weren’t vacationing in Alberta with Kris’ family, I’d share our food numbers too. Looking at the most recent summaries of my discretionary spending (2008 and 2009), I’d guess we spend about $500/month on groceries and $300/month on dining out. That’s for two “foodie” adults in Portland, Oregon. These numbers are both about $100/month more than what we were spending five years ago.

The restaurant dining is an ongoing issue, and one that I’ve tried unsuccessfully to address. On paper, we can afford to spend that much dining out, but I don’t like it. It feels wrong. I’d rather use that money for something else. On the other hand, I’m okay with our grocery budget. Like Shauna, that number includes various household goods. It also reflects an increased focus on healthy foods in the past eighteen months. I used to buy junk food from Safeway. Now I buy things like organic chicken sausage from the local health-food store.

So, five years farther on — and facing ongoing price pressure at the supermarket — let’s look at the same questions I asked in 2006.

What does your family spend on food in a month? How much of this is for groceries? How much for dining out? Do you make an effort to control food spending, or do you simply buy what you feel like? Do you use coupons? Do you grow your own food? Is eating organic important to you? What other considerations do you make when spending on food?

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