Mar 29

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[1]:

 ages 2-5 6-11
Thrifty: $495.60 $570.00
Low-cost: $628.50 $736.60
Moderate-cost: $771.10 $916.30
Liberal: $954.60 $1,113.80


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.[2] 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.[3] 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]

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.[4]

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.

About the Author:

Check ‘n Go has been a leader in online payday loans and check cashing services for over 15 years, helping to build legitimacy to the consumer lending industry through their work with the Consumer Financial Services Association. Check ‘n Go sets high standards for responsible and ethical lending in a rapidly expanding cash advance and payday loan business. Check ‘n Go works tirelessly to provide consumers with auto title loans, check cashing, installment loans, and other financial needs.


[1] USDA. “Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels.” Official USDA Food Plans. 02 08: n. page. Web. 10 Feb. 2012..

[2] Moore, Rebecca. “The Grocery Budget Needs for a Family of Four.” eHow Money. 24 03 2011: n. page. Web. 10 Feb. 2012. <>.

[3] “Where Does the Money Go?” Visual Economics. 2009: n. page. Web. 10 Feb. 2012..

[4] Rella, Jack. “The Average Food Budget for a Family of Four.” eHow Money. n.d. n. page. Web. 10 Feb. 2012. <>.

FTC disclaimer – I have not received any compensation for hosting this guest post. The ads on the site do generate a bit of revenue.

written by Joe \\ tags: , , , ,

May 16

Is that what they are calling whatever happened?
This week we start with a Guest post at Out of Your Rut, A better way to budget. I like the idea of first tracking your spending to have a baseline from which to progress. Read the rest if you can use an idea on how to get started. The Author Paul Williams blogs at Provident Planning.

Miranda Marquit asks Using Your Coupons: Is it Really a Good Deal? It might not always be, but when then are used right, there’s some savings to be had. A nice post to shed some light on this topic.

Kristin Harad, posting at fat wallet, asks, Are You Saving Too Much for Your Children’s Education? She helps you to understand why your own finances, emergency fund, and retirement savings should take priority.

Neal Frankle over at The Wealth Pilgrim (and a fellow Money Maven Network member) shares his thoughts on How To Select The Right Roth Beneficiary. This issue is too important to be overlooked, the wrong choices can cost your family quite a bit of money over time. Read Neal’s post, and choose wisely.

Shawn Watson at Watson Inc asks Do The Rich Pay Their Fair Share Of Taxes? This is really a question with no answer in sight. With the bottom 47% or so of taxpayers paying no Federal tax at all, it would seem that the middle and upper class are all paying more than their fair share. I’d bet that you can get twelve honest people in a room and they will never reach a consensus on what a fair tax structure is. I sure don’t know.

And last this week, Jason at Redeeming Riches, tell us The #1 Thing You Should Do With Your Money (And Probably Don’t). I don’t want to ruin the punchline, you’ll just have to visit to find out.

written by Joe \\ tags: , , ,

Feb 05

For many, when you think of savings the first thing that comes to mind is “cutting coupons.” That’s one way, but there are many more. Today, I’d like to share my favorite on line sites to find a bargain. is a great source of coupons you can print from your printer. Yes, I suppose they have to be cut, but it’s worth a look to see what coupons are available for thing you buy anyway.

For electronics, I found Ben’s Bargains to be a money saver. Woot also offers electronics but in a strange “one day one deal” method. Odd business model but a fun site to visit.

FatWallet is a forum and site to help find great deals. Friendly bunch over there.

RetailMeNot is a site providing online discount codes. I recently was looking for a computer related eBook, and RMN gave me a 40% off code to use for the download, not bad for a minute’s work.

Last today, I’ll present I heart CVS, I heart Rite Aid, and I heart Wags (Walgreens). These sites help you strategize for the best deals at these three stores.

What sites are your favorites?


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Jan 29

This year, I said that I’d use the last Friday of each month to track savings from coupons or great deals. A bit of a slow month, as I didn’t make as many stock-up purchases as I might in a normal month. The biggest deal was the CVS Pepsi brand deal. Buy $20 worth of Pepsico items, including their soda, Starbucks drinks and Tostidos chips or salsa and get $10 in ExtraCare Bucks (ECBs) back.

From the I Heart CVS site I had gotten printable $5 off $20 coupons before my visit. So, $40 in total purchases over two trips, using two $5 coupons, and getting $20 back, and I’d be out of pocket $10 plus bottle deposits. Turns out the computer missed my ECB printing on the first visit, so the cashier forced a print. But on the second visit I got 2 $10 ECBs. In the end, I scored $40 worth of stuff for free. The soda all went to a school function where soda was our assigned item, the chips, salsa, and Starbucks drinks are in the pantry.

The other score – Jane 2.0’s school was having a food drive. Store had a buy $20 in Progresso soup (among other stuff I didn’t need) and get $10 toward next purchase. Soup was on sale for $1 (usually about $2.49). I also had 6 coupons for $1.10 off 3 cans. So even though it was for charity, I sent in soup shelf tagged for nearly $50 for $3,40 out of pocket.That was it for this month.

Last call for free book!

Two weeks back I read Your Money Ratios, an excellent book, and offered to give away a copy to one lucky reader. To enter, just subscribe to my emailed RSS feed before this Sunday when I will choose a winner. Good luck.


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Jan 08

I’ve spoken here about shopping for sales and the use of coupons to stretch your shopping budget. I thought it would be an interesting experiment to track my own savings here reporting on the last Friday of each month. I’ll count sales that I use to stock up on items as well as coupons/rebates. I won’t count things bought with a coupon that weren’t really needed in the first place (like the extra hard drive I just bought with a $25 coupon to Staples.) Let’s see how much these efforts actually return over a year’s time.

Cool Coffee Coupon!

photo credit: HA! Designs – Artbyheather

Please leave a comment and let me know what you’re doing to save on your every day expenses.


written by Joe \\ tags: , , ,