I've budgeted $580 a month for groceries--not food, groceries. Where did I get that figure? Out of the air--I had no idea what I was or should be spending on food, or what other people spent, or what that would mean on a daily basis. It just seemed like an "good" number. This past month (according to the wonderful mint.com) I spent $616 on groceries, or $36 over budget.
Now, not all of it went to groceries. I frequently get cash from my checking account ("cash back") when shopping, and have only now started splitting those amounts apart from my total (yes, mint.com lets you do that). I also buy non-food items (e.g., cleaning supplies) at the grocery store, too. So let's say that $100.00 of that $616 was for cash and dish soap. I still spent $516 on groceries last month, or $16 a day.
That is incredible to me: how do I spend $16 daily on food?!? I do eat only organic foods and dairy products, and lots of non-factory farmed beef and fish. But $16 a day?!? Goodness. As I think about the food I eat on a daily basis, this level of spending just doesn't seem possible.
It is a lot of money, too, when compared to the cost of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's four food plans (as of December 2011). The monthly cost of the "liberal" (read: most expensive) of the four for one woman in my age group is $291.00. Granted, those plans have grains galore in them, and my food has none.
I'm not sure how to think about this. I need and want to reduce my monthly expenses, and obviously food is a big one. I'll be collecting my receipts this month to see where my grocery dollars go. Stay tuned.