Save. Spend. Splurge.

Money Help: How to budget for food and how we do it

A reader asked how we budget for food, and my initial answer was:

We don’t budget for it at all… It’s kind of open-ended.

We buy whatever we want.

… then I thought more about it and kind of got scared. I almost didn’t want to do this post and face reality, but here it is.

We don’t budget at all for food, and it is obvious I stuff my face outside a lot more than I should.

My justification for all of that, is once winter hits & it is freezing cold, I won’t be going out to eat at markets any more with Baby Bun, so the MOST I’ll spend is maybe $15 for just myself once a week, or $120 a month, plus treats, so $150 instead of these ridiculous numbers I am about to show you.

But first, numbers!

With my handy budgeting tool, I can see that up to this year, our grocery budget has looked like this:


I knew it would be ugly.

On average, I stuff my piehole with almost $1000 a month.



Only $600 of that can be called “family food”, that includes all the expensive goat milk Baby Bun is drinking, which makes up about $130 of that $600 total.

The rest of that budget, which is $470, is mostly vegetables, grains, bottled water, stocking up on pastas, etc, and our special dinners that happen only twice a week.

This is what is in my minimalist fridge, and this is how I achieve it.

Our only saving grace is our budget would be at least $200 more per month if we ate meat everyday, which we don’t. I’m also considering asking my partner to cut out chicken from the budget every week unless he makes it that day and we eat it then and there.

It doesn’t taste as good unless it’s fresh.

Our special dinners are usually expensive French cheese, baguettes, and whatever we can find that happens to be interesting that week.

It DOES get pricey when you think about it being at least $10 per person, or $30 a meal, about 3 times a week or $90, which is about $360 a month or half of our budget.

…which makes sense. We eat mostly vegan / vegetarian during the week so the rest is vegetables.

Baby Bun eats like a moderate adult, so don’t discount his tiny toddler size….

Baby Bun looks small, but he eats big.

Where I really feel utterly guilty is in the personal eating department.


I spend on average $320 a month just eating out.

I would like to note that Baby Bun DOES eat half of my food.

So technically, since we are together 24/7, I am eating out with him, and he eats about $160 of that per month on average. :\

That’s why I think the budget has been so high as well, I am feeding him as well as myself when we go out (otherwise he gets really grumpy when he sees me eating without him).

So each time we eat out, it’s at least $40, because each meal is about $15 plus taxes, and I need to buy 2.

(I don’t go to McDonald’s…)

We used to go to open markets to eat at food trucks / stalls, sometimes I’ll pick up some homemade French fare when I am craving something like boeuf bourguignon at the local caterer…  and then the rest it’s treats like croissants, pain au chocolats, and just.. SNACKS.


I also ate a lot of sushi with Baby Bun, and those bills run at least $60 a meal with our eating habits.


You know, I’m starting to wonder about that myself.

That said, I do track what we eat and what we spend, and since I do that, I KNOW what we spend and overspend.

It’s obvious I’ve been in denial about my spending on food thinking it’s an essential, which it is, but not stuff like cakes like this every week:


Photograph-Cheesecake-Dessert-Caramel-Food Photograph_Food_Pie-Lemon-Cheesecake-Dessert

I need to start making these cakes at home so that the work involved, deters me.


So now that I am finally facing the music (I should do this more often, like quarterly), I am going to have to scale back.

My new budget for going out is $150 a month for personal eats, and for family eats, we will leave it as-is because it ain’t broke.


So, starting in October (I don’t have our final September numbers yet from my partner), it’ll be this:

Family Food: $600

Personal Eats: $150

$750 total. Not as good as $500, but still better than $1000.



  • The Wahine

    I budget $200 a month for myself for groceries and eating out. Unfortunately I do tend to go over this but not by much only enough to think hmm I eat too much junk food. And it’s all on junk of course. Nothing quite as tasty as those morsels you have pictured. But I set myself a challenge this month and so far it’s going well. I never carry cash also which helps not to spend money at Cafes for coffee and cake because most cafes require a minimum spend or have no eftpos facilities.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Cash kills it. It has started to be so easy for me to spend it going out, you’re right. I ought to stop it and I will think twice at places that only take cash..

  • Mustard Seed Money

    I usually don’t get mad when people spend money on food. We get one life and we need to decide what makes our bodies happy when we eat. Sounds like you eat some incredibly healthy things and then some fun things as well. Enjoy food if you value it!!!

    • save. spend. splurge.

      We do spend a lot on food and eating well. Very little junk, mostly because I’m realizing I’ve lost the taste for crappy cakes and I only want real butter not oil in my cakes.

  • Marie-Josée

    We don’t budget for food, eat mostly organic and/or pasture fed beef/pork. We spend almost $2000 per month on food, wine and restaurants. Our adult children come for lunch every week and I bake them expensive almond flour muffins every week. I cook a lot! I wish this amount wasn’t so high, but I can’t bring myself to buy non-organic fruit and veggies or meat from animals that were not ethicaly treated. We’ve completely renovated our condo this past year and have eaten out more than usual and have treated our friends and employees helping us with the work to restaurant meals as well. Dear God!

    • save. spend. splurge.

      This is how we eat and how we pretty much feel about food.. Hence why it is so high. The $600 is only because we don’t eat that much meat or bake a lot, etc .. But if we did it would easily hit $1000, as in the past.

  • Sense

    I budget $150 on eating out per month and $430 for groceries (including household items and toiletries) for a single, 125 lb woman. 🙂 I don’t eat a lot at all–ONLY when I am feeling hungry. My meal portions are tiny, but sufficient for my needs. This adds up to about 1200-1300 calories a day (at least it does when I bother to check the calorie counter websites), but I do try to eat somewhat healthy and mindfully, and NZ grocery prices for healthy food are INSANE, so it adds up. I can’t think about US prices or I am liable to collapse in the aisle!

    So I don’t look at prices anymore, though of course I choose the brand that is on sale when I can. I let myself eat/prepare whatever I’m craving, as long as it is good for me. For example, I spent $30 JUST on strawberries this week–I’m obsessed. They go on my breakfast, in my salads, and serve as a treat a few times a week (with a dark chocolate accompaniment). Yum!

    Groceries/food is the one area of my budget I’ve tried and tried to cut back on, but cannot seem to conquer. Especially now that I’ve started cooking mostly healthily instead of going for the pre-made meals, processed, or fast food! As long as I can afford it, and as long as I am eating the good stuff, I refuse to feel guilty for spending so much on food–because my new main goal in life is to be healthy.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      I feel for anyone not with North American food prices. We complain but we are privileged to be sure to be so close to the food grown. We splurged last week on grapes. $5 for a small bunch but so worth it

  • Lani

    Hi Sherry. In January 2016, I started tracking everything I buy, and my personal splurge items are always food. Average groceries a month (including the fiance) is 378, but eating out is about $250 a month (I either end up getting the bill for a friend, or we go to whole food, local markets, or really nice places, too!) The eating out category includes snacks and coffee too, though. That’s a lot of money for 2 people’s groceries, and 1 person eating out! Dog food runs me about $60 every 10-12 weeks.

  • Kathy

    The whole idea of personal finance is that it is personal so of course you can call yourself a personal finance blogger. Being interested in personal finance doesn’t mean you can’t spend money on something that you want whether it be clothes, food or housing. You don’t have to scrimp and be miserly or even frugal. It means you manage your money in a way that works for you. So if you think you are spending too much on food, by all means look for ways to cut back. But don’t think you can’t spend as much as you want as long as you can afford it.

  • raluca

    We also don’t budget for food. I just try to cook a lot – this usually reduces the budget a lot, and we also try to only eat meat grown locally. This not only works out cheaper but healthier.

    I believe that home cooked food is not exactly the best place to cut corners, if you are not in debt, because you just end up paying more in health costs later in life.

    Food outside the home though, that can be a target, because often times, it’s not even better quality than food you can cook yourself, you’re just paying for the convenience of ready made food and the restaurant’s overhead.

    I worked in a relatively fancy restaurant with Work and Travel for a summer and to be honest, the amount of food that came already prepared was staggering. Sure we made our own pies, but the pie crust was frozen ready made. Sure, we made Cesar salad in house, but the salad was prewashed and pre-cut, the cheese was already shaved (which means that already a lot of flavour had been lost), and the sauce itself was a jar of mayo si some more jars of anchovies and cappers and whatnot, Burgers – already shapped patties, frozen in boxes of 100 pieces, with sauces comming from the same 1 gallon jar of mayo. Chowder soup – sure, fresh fish and tiny mussels but the chowder came in a jar, we just added the extras and heated the result. Restaurants don’t do this to cut money necessarily, they do it to cut the time needed in prep and to cut down on food going bad, but in the end you are paying lots of money for stuff that came in jars or frozen. I think I have personally “cooked” and served about 100 gallons of mayo during a 3 months period. This is what I remember from the US: the beauty of lake Michigan and gallons upon gallons of mayo.

    I think there are some things that are better in a restaurant, like sushi and fish and probably some deserts comming from a good restaurant that makes them in house. But in my opinion, a good cook can make food better than 70% of the restaurants out there.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      So you’re right! And to clarify, as a result it is why I only eat out for pho (6 hours for a broth? No thanks!) , or food I know is homemade ( I see them in the stall cutting and cooking the food for ethnic meals ) or sushi. Otherwise, I eat at home. Very rarely will I eat for convenience because I can’t stomach PAYING for crap food.

  • NZ Muse

    Probably the same for monhly – that includes household non edible products and dog food for two. Eating out really varies – could be like $100 or $200…

    We don’t budget for food. Have rough guidelines but don’t stress if we go over, food is a priority for us. Eating well – healthy and varied and tasty – isn’t cheap. I would never put stuff back at the checkout or anything.

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