After housing and transportation, food expenses are the largest expense in our budget. Of course, I’m sure this is common for most families. However, as a family working towards financial independence, any expenses that we can possibly reduce on are the proverbial chopping block.
I regularly listen to a podcast called ChooseFI. It’s about making small-ish changes to one’s life in order to achieve financial independence and (possibly) retire early. One of the hosts (you can read about him here), regularly talks about how his family of four spends less than $2 per person per meal. I think we get close to this with a lot of our meals, but definitely not all of them.
Aside from the “peer” pressure provided by a podcast, I’m always concerned with the research. Every month, the USDA creates a report that shows the average costs of food at home for individuals and families across four levels – thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost, and liberal. In April 2018 (the most recently available), a family of two averages between $384 and $765 per month. This includes all meals – even eating out. Without giving an actual number because I’m a bit embarrassed, let’s just say that this is an area that Mr. Smith and I need to focus on reducing.
Since moving to Denver, we’ve actually stayed within our food budget. I’m pretty excited about this fact. Although, I may have forced the issue in June when I noticed that there was $1 left in the restaurant budget and asked Mr. Smith if we could do something other than eating out for our weekly date night. He also chipped into our June success by having us “shop” the pantry and freezer for last week of the month meals.
Now that I know we can stick to the budget, the next step is to see where we can make cuts to reduce costs. My goal for July was a 5 percent decrease. Keep reading to see if we made it…
|gratuitous Sisko picture to keep you in suspense|
July was an interesting month for us in terms of food costs because we spent ten days out of town and then had our three-year-old niece visit for two weeks. It definitely wasn’t a “normal” month for us, but, if I’m being honest, we have lots of stuff going on every month. We went over our food budget by 26 percent!
We started out strong as the first few days in July were what I like to call “Chopped Auditions.” We like to leave the refrigerator as empty as possible when we go on trips. This usually means that we have to get creative with what’s in the pantry.
As you can probably imagine, we used all of our restaurant budget during the trip. Most days we ate at least one meal out and sometimes two meals. We also ate out a couple of times before going to Amarillo to pick up our niece.
Our niece, like many kids, is an incredibly picky eater and we ended up buying a lot of things that we don’t normally buy such as juice, milk, and cheese. Basically, our processed food intake increased while our vegetables decreased. It was a bit frustrating because my brother (her dad) had lead me to believe that she would eat pretty much whatever we put in front of her. Instead, every meal was a tug-of-war until I finally threw up my hands and just let her eat whatever she wanted. My sanity was worth more than the fight with her.
We’ll try again in the month of August. At this point, we don’t have many outside-the-norm activities planned.