A Guest Post -
Need to figure out how you should budget food for a family of four? Striking a balance between financial stability and nutritional responsibility can be tough for many parents. Start by understanding your budget and shopping wisely.
The USDA has recommendations about budgeting food for a family of four. They separate their suggestions into four groups: thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost, and liberal. By providing different spending plans, the USDA allows parents of every income level to predict how much they’ll spend. They give specific numbers for families with children in different age groups, 2 – 5 and 6 – 11. Here’s what the USDA recommends a family of four should spend on food, based on their spending group:
Use these federal guidelines to anticipate your monthly food budget. If you spend around $771 a month on food, but need to use a credit card to cover other expenses, then a lower spending plan could work better for you. Adjust how much you spend on food to free up money in other parts of your budget.
How to Budget for Food
The hardest part of cutting back on food spending is making sure that you don’t compromise on your family’s nutrition. It can be tough to afford the fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins that the experts recommend. The bottom 20% of wage earners spend 12% of their annual income on food; middle income earners spend 9% of their income on food. By budgeting carefully, you can reduce the amount of money you spend at the grocery store. These tips can help adjust your spending to a level that works for your bank account and your family’s health:
1. Make weekly menus
Plan out a weekly menu. From your menu, decide what ingredients you need and make a detailed list. When you go to the grocery store, only buy items on your list.
2. Eat out less
Dining out can be expensive. A ten dollar sandwich at a restaurant costs much more than if you were to make it at home. In 2009, the average family spent around 40% of their food budget dining out. If you limit the number of times your family eats at restaurants, then you’ll have more cash to use in different parts of your budget. Whether it allows you to spend more on groceries, clothing, or other necessities, it’s a good idea to dine out less frequently.
3. Spend less on protein
When families cut back their food budget, protein is often the first thing to go since meat can be so expensive. It might be easier on your finances to forgo protein, but it will make it harder to meet your family’s nutritional minimums. Consider building your menu around less expensive sources of protein, like chuck eye steak, pork shoulder, brisket, chicken, and tuna fish. You could opt for even lower cost alternate sources of protein, like beans, tofu, nuts, and lentils.
4. Use coupons
Coupon clipping can go a long way towards trimming your spending. Check your local grocery store’s coupon book or website for monthly deals. A quick Google search can help you find coupons for specific brands or types of food online.
5. Buy the store brand
If you can’t find coupons for a particular brand, then consider buying the store’s unbranded version. It’s often much less expensive and just as healthy.
Budgeting food for a family of four isn’t the easiest task in the world, but hard work, research, and careful planning can make the process easier. Set aside some time to address your grocery budget, and come up with a money–saving strategy that will work for your family and your finances.
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 USDA. “Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels.” Official USDA Food Plans. 02 08: n. page. Web. 10 Feb. 2012..
 Moore, Rebecca. “The Grocery Budget Needs for a Family of Four.” eHow Money. 24 03 2011: n. page. Web. 10 Feb. 2012. < http://www.ehow.com/info_8106440_grocery-budget-needs-family-four.html>.
 “Where Does the Money Go?” Visual Economics. 2009: n. page. Web. 10 Feb. 2012..
 Rella, Jack. “The Average Food Budget for a Family of Four.” eHow Money. n.d. n. page. Web. 10 Feb. 2012. < http://www.ehow.com/about_5408273_average-food-budget-family-four.html>.
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