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Foodie Finances: The Monthly Food Costs of Folks Who Love to Eat

foodie finances receipt

A foodie and her money is soon parted

If there is one thing on which I spend most of my waking hours thinking, planning, and dreaming about, it’s food. I don’t have a food blog, I don’t take pictures of food, and I’m not a food purist in the sense that a locavore or a vegan or a Michael Pollan devotee may be. I’m not even particularly adventurous when it comes to food (foie gras, yes, fried locusts, no). I have equal love for hole-in-the-wall places and chain restaurants – as long as I think the food is yummy, I will eat there. Basically, I love to eat and I don’t particularly like cooking after a long day at work. Ergo, money = consumed.

As a personal finance blogger, my ears also perk up around anything that ties money in with food. And so it is with great interest that I read New York Magazine article that featured food lover Diane Chang, a 27-year-old digital strategist who admits that she spends most of her available money on the procurement and enjoyment of food. Diane makes $70,000 a year and spends around $1,100 a month in rent in Park Slope (which is actually an extremely reasonable amount of rent for New York City). Aside from student loans, most of her money goes to food. The week that she kept a food budgeting journal for NY Mag, she spent $350 on food and related purchases, a number that she has mentioned is on the high side of what she typically spends.

In March 2012, my fiance and I spend $814.93 on food between the two of us.

After I read the article, I added up what CB and I spent on food last month. Food – groceries, take-out, restaurant meals, coffees and snacks – constitutes the majority of my monthly discretionary spending BY FAR, but I had thought we might be in the $500-$600 range. Once we ran the numbers, we looked at each other and mouthed HOLY… We have crossed into the $800+ territory. Granted, March was fairly atypical in terms of our spending – we had two very nice meals that cost $200 total, and those were both special occasion meals to celebrate our entrance into grad school. Still. $800. Quite a wake-up call.

Of the $814.93, 14%, or $117, went to a 5-course tasting menu at a pop-up restaurant. That was our most expensive meal. The cheapest prepared meal was $6.69 at Trader Joe’s, where I got a chocolate bar and a miso salmon salad. Sprinkled in between those two extremes are $30 bills at our favorite ramen noodle shop and twice-monthly Costco runs where we get a dozen individually-packaged Greek yogurts for $10 and cooked chicken breast strips for $5 per package. Our normal monthly food costs is around $600-$650, which is what March would have been had we not gone to those two nice restaurants.

A couple years ago, before we moved in together, I’ve had the romantic notion that we’d just spend just $300 a month for the two of us. Obviously that has not gone to plan! Our spending is not only high by personal finance blog standards, it’s just high. Period. A 2009 The Nest article says that a couple typically spends $531 a month on food. And according to the USDA, as of January 2012, a family of two who spends $481.30 is considered to have a “Low Cost Food Plan” and a couple who spends $597.40 is considered to have a “Moderate Cost Food Plan.” (Check out this site for more fascinating information on U.S. average food spending for different family sizes).

More Information About Food Spending Statistics

With this nifty interactive app, you can enter in your spending and see how it stacks up against other people in your demographic, your city, and among your income level. According to the app, a married couple without kids spend around $8,000 a year on food, or around $666.67 on month (see below).

How much do you spend on food in a month? And if you remember, I’d be interested to hear about your most expensive and least expensive meals in the past month.

  • Emily - Looks like my husband and I are on the low side with a huge skewing toward groceries. In the last year we've spent $4490 on groceries and our CSA/farmer's market and $814 on eating out. Our current monthly budget is $360 for groceries and $60 for eating out. Last month our most expensive meal was lunch at a pub for $34.17 for the two of us.

    Although we enjoy food, we'd rather travel, so that's where we spent more extravagantly (for our income level). ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - A lot of our money is spent on food also. After you add up bars, groceries, restaurants, etc, the amount makes me want to run away. ReplyCancel

  • Him - Before we had a kid, our food costs probably went in to the 4-digit range more than I'd like to admit. Most of it was due to eating out, which is very very easy to do in a food-forward city such as Chicago.

    Surprisingly, now that we're parents our food costs are more in line with the average. We hardly eat out anymore, and feeding a little one really just means that we take a quarter of a portion from our own meal to feed him. At home we manage to eat mostly organic, local food, and have kept the costs down by getting a CSA and buying organic meat in relative bulk whenever it's on sale.

    We've eaten dinner out once this year (!) and the bill came out to $117 after we applied a $50 Open Table gift certificate. So yeah, we splurged. ReplyCancel

  • Jordann - Last month my fiancée and I spent $432 on groceries. We spent $54.66 on eating out, of that our most expensive meal was around $37.00 at an Italian restaurant that we had a 2 for 1 coupon to. My least expensive meal was a $5 sandwich at Tim Horton's the day I forgot to bring my lunch to work.

    Our current monthly budget for food is $490, plus $200 for all forms of entertainment including restaurants and pubs. I used to be a local food fiend, and in the major city that I lived in, we spent $800/month on grass fed, local, free range, pesticide free EVERYTHING. We're still on that bandwagon, but are definitely much more conscious about food waste and good deals. I found that reducing our meat consumption has vastly reduced our food cost, while allowing us to continue to eat healthfully and locally. ReplyCancel

  • WorkSaveLive - My wife and I LOVE food as well but we do a good job limiting our spending in this area. While we also enjoy great food at restaurants we've become increasingly concerned about how bad it is for you (the amounts of sodium are insane).

    With that said, my wife and I spend about $1,000/year (at most) on eating out and $3600 on groceries. ReplyCancel

  • jeff sustainlifeblog - that is a butload of food money WH, but keep in mind that if it makes you happy then there's no better place to spend the cash. H and I's food costs vary depending on whether or not we leave town, but are usually in the 500/mo range. Most expensive meal in the last month was surely last thursday, at $85 for 2 people, including drinks. The cheapest was probably something made at home, costing 1.50 or so a serving.
    The 85 is very out of character, as it's the most expensive place in town (i'm pretty sure) ReplyCancel

  • SavvyFinancialLatina - We spend about $500 to $600 a month on food. And this is when we are frugal! ReplyCancel

  • YPFinances - Interesting numbers! I've been spending about $300-400 on eating out a month and that doesn't even include the meals my boyfriend buys. I spend about $100-200 on groceries every month for the two of us. I'm still trying to cut down on how much we eat out but it's still a work in progress. ReplyCancel

  • kim - $300/mo on groceries in the DC area – that's a pretty strict limit. Restaurant spending comes out of our monthly discretionary money which covers way more than restaurants – clothing, auto repair, gifts, entertainment, gardening, you name it!, so I have no idea. That's some of the point of my discretionary – to not track every penny but to cap how much is spent on Wants. So…definitely north of $300 but the total amount I don't know.

    $800 is high but not crazy. Maybe you should total your other months for a true comparison since you kind of blew it out of the water this month. ReplyCancel

  • Newlyweds ona Budget - wow this is such a great post! i'm always curious to know what other people spend in relation to food because we love food too but often skip out on going out to eat because of the cost. Our grocery budget is $300 for the month, sometimes we go over (around $325) some times we go under ($280). just depends. But it's typically within that range. For dining out, we usually allocate about $100-150, which means we can only go out to eat a couple of times. We haven't gone over $150 in a while though… ReplyCancel

  • Slweal - I spend around 40-60 dollars a week on groceries and between 20 and 50 eating out. But in general I keep it around 90 total per week as a single female. 350 per month ReplyCancel

  • seedebtrun - $600/mo for all food. We might go out to a cheaper restaurant once or twice a month–and we haven't at all in months, but the rest is groceries for a family of 5. And yea, I'm like SFL…that's a good month. I love food! And we have food allergies, so everything costs so much. Annoying! ReplyCancel

  • Kristin - As a single female, my numbers match the above chart very closely, to within about $20 on the annual cost. I usually spend ~$300 a month on food, where about half of that is groceries and the other half is split by restaurants, coffee shops, alcohol, and fast food. It looks like my most expensive meal last month that I paid for was an Ethopian dinner for ~$25 (mine was less expensive than that, but we all split evenly and my friends bought us beers later to make up for it). My boyfriend was visiting me for spring break last week and he spring for a ~$65 dinner for the two of us as a belated anniversary/Valentine's day occasion. ReplyCancel

  • elm - Timely and relevant … I live in Brooklyn, and my monthly average is about $550 – $600. I looked at the breakdowns of a few months, and on average about $500+ is on groceries, $70 on a couple dinners out per month, $12 – $15 on coffee + yep, the occasional almond croissant, and about one lunch out a week for $10.00. I probably have about 4 drinks a month, so very little spending on alcohol in this number. I live alone, but spend the weekends with my partner and usually buy groceries for 'us' as well, so its hard to delineate between my spending and 'our' spending. Cooking is my passion and I've made peace with the fact that this is where most of my money will be spent, i.e i cook nearly every day, however, it is stretching me each and every month and I am working on ways to be more thrifty (i.e starting a vegetable garden in the country..). But hey check this out!, Europeans spend 2x as much as we do on food . .http://civileats.com/2011/03/29/mapping-global-food-spending-infographic/…and also my food politics get in the way of common money sense at times, i.e $25 organic chickens at the farmer's market, farm fresh eggs @ $6 a dozen, and $8 for raw goat kefir. Cooking and eating nutritious foods for myself, my friends, and family is very important to me as is the supporting farmers that make that possible. ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - Oh man. When we started budgeting I sat down and tallied up our food costs. We were sometimes spending close to $100 a weekend on crap – takeaways, milkshakes etc. Now our eating budget is $160 a month – sometimes we go over but that usually keeps us more or less in line. (Groceries $130 a week – reasonable given the cost of food here.)

    Last big meal – a big yum cha breakfast at a place where they spoke hardly any English. Good fun! ReplyCancel

  • ShoppingtoSaving - Wow I actually feel better after you posted that website. We actually spend about $500ish each month including all food – groceries and eating out. So I guess we are in the moderate bracket? ReplyCancel

  • @moneyaftergrad - I spend a lot of food.

    I can't help it, I love food! I love to go out to eat, I love to make new dishes, I love beer & wine. I think food is a great way to spend your money.

    In the interest of my finances I should cut back but I just can't help myself, food is too delicious = ReplyCancel

  • MommaStar - That is a lot of food for 2 people. You guys must be well fed.

    I'm a foodie as well, so I completely understand going over every month on food. It's so hard to not when there's so much deliciousness out there. ReplyCancel

  • Monday Roundup: Looking At the Big Financial Picture | Credit Karma Blog - […] Foodie Finances: The Monthly Food Costs of Folks Who Love to Eat. “If there is one thing on which I spend most of my waking hours thinking, planning, and dreaming about, it’s food. I don’t have a food blog, I don’t take pictures of food, and I’m not a food purist in the sense that a locavore or a vegan or a Michael Pollan devotee may be.” Well-Heeled Blog […]ReplyCancel

  • SP - I just posted my quarterly spending and it was an average of:
    Grocery/CSA: $438
    Restaurant: $307

    So, pretty close to you, but more weighted towards grocery. But I'm hoping to bring that down a little – we did have one good month with <$200 in restaurants, but clearly another month made up for that! Grocery includes some other stuff (ie cleaning supplies and alcohol), but I basically buy whatever I want these days. I buy almost no meat, but I like to try new recipes, even if it means spending a bit on somewhat random ingredients. ReplyCancel

  • Meg - I spend nearly $10,000 on food and dining each year as a single female. Appx $1500 of that is on alcohol and bars; $1500 is on "fast food & coffee shops" which includes take out and grocery store pre-prepared meals. The rest is split fairly evenly between restaurants and groceries – with a slant toward restaurants lately as I've become more social and started a new job.

    I live in Dallas, eat well, and spend very little on entertainment. Instead of concerts, sporting events, etc my friends and I often go out to new restaurants or sit on a patio sharing margaritas. ReplyCancel

  • StackingCash - A fearsome post for myself, WH. I don't like to look at how much we spend on eating out. Although we don't make a great deal of money, our expenses are quite low. This allows us to spend quite a bit on food. We have eaten at some crazy expensive restaurants in Las Vegas, like Nobhill, Aqua (now Michael Mina at Bellagio), Nobu, Raku, Alize, and Emeril's New Orleans Fish House. We also eat at pricey restaurants like Texas de Brazil, Wicked Spoon, and Naked Fish. Even the cheaper eats add up. We just ate at Grimaldi's for dinner tonight. I better stop here because I'm getting ill just thinking about this subject. I love food way too much…I should change my name to Mr. Las Vegas Yelper… ReplyCancel

  • wmwo - I've been spending about $150 a month for groceries, and about $40 or so on eating out. That's kind of a misnomer though, because I'm frequently at my boyfriend's, and he insists on paying for everything when we're together. That number could easily double. I'm not sure what the most expensive meal I've had in the last month was, but the most expensive coffee hang out in recent memory was about $10. $7 for a giant macaron type dessert, and about $3 for tea, ReplyCancel

  • AmericanDebtProject - Are you a New York mag subscriber too?? I love the magazine and that article was very interesting. I am definitely not to Diane's level of obsessiveness about trying new places or cooking fancy recipes at home. I'll occasionally try a bon appetit recipe. Although I love to talk about food and share dishes and try new places, I've really got my food spending under control. Lately we have been going out a lot for work and I'm a little sick of rich restaurant food after 4 days on a business trip! I can't wait to get home and eat something simple and homemade. I don't mind splurging at Sprouts and farmers markets and I still need to hit that JJ place! ReplyCancel

  • AmericanDebtProject - Oh dang, I forgot to mention if you are a big fan of Greek yogurt, you need to get Byblos at the Middle Eastern markets. BEST yogurt ever. ReplyCancel

  • March Spending, April Goals | Frugal City Girl - […] Heeled Blog – Foodie Finances: The Monthly Food Costs of Folks Who Love to Eat. Oh, boy, does this sound […]ReplyCancel

  • Dave @ DebtBlackHole - Of course…leave it to the FAT GUY to blow everyone's food budget out of the water.

    In 2011 my family of four (two adults & two kids) spent an average of $897/month eating out. A quick tally of grocery spending shows we spent about $600/month. So our average is about $1500 PER MONTH!

    That's about 2.5 times the average! ReplyCancel

  • Brianne - We spend between $600 and $900 per month on groceries, restaurants, bars, and fast food for just two people. I'd like it to be lower but my husband eats lunch out every day and since we can afford it, I didn't really argue. ReplyCancel

  • Kari @SBBD - This month our groceries expenses were really low because we're trying to clear out all the food before our move. But our takeout expenses were probably a lot higher (bf pays for all takeout and dining out) so I don't know how much that costs. I'd say my cheapest meal was the $5 footlong and my most expensive was a $20 mexican entree with appetizers and drinks (probably about $35 per person) that the boyfriend paid for. ReplyCancel

  • Kandice - We are a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 kids). We spend about $170 each week on groceries (a good portion is from a local, organic farmer and will soon be starting a CSA and from Whole Foods). This covers the kids' lunches, although sometimes they eat hot lunch at school. Their hot lunch and our eating out as a family is about $200 per month. The adults eat out lunch each once per week, so about $100 per month. Starbucks is another $80 a month. Grand total of $1,060 per month or $12,720 per year. ReplyCancel

  • Putri - Between me, my hubby and my little brother we spend about $300 to $400 a month in groceries and another $300 in meals out.

    Most expensive month so far was last December, when I was sick for a while…so we did a lot of take out. Most expensive meal was probably Chinese New Year dinner, but it was so worth it. Cheap meals? Tons. I'm a big fan of bang for buck kind of places…shawarma anyone?? And…most home cooking would be considered 'cheap meals' I suppose, unless you're eating caviar or something at home. ReplyCancel

  • NoTrustFund - We are way over on the eating out! I am impressed you guys only spend $50/week on groceries! ReplyCancel

  • belowhermeans - Restaurants eat up 90% of my disposable income. I wish I was joking. ReplyCancel

  • Weekly Update 10 | Evolving Personal Finance - […] Heeled Blog detailed her food spending and compared it to several studies on average food spending in the US and asked her readers to […]ReplyCancel

  • Emma - It's kind of awesome to learn that other people spend lots on food too. My husband and I spend about $400 a month on groceries and probably around $75-150 a month eating out (we try to follow expensive months with cheaper ones because of things like friends' birthday celebrations that don't fall evenly throughout the year). That's a large proportion of our income, otherwise we'd go out more, we loooove good restaurants :) That also doesn't include alcohol, which we consider part of our "entertainment" budget. ReplyCancel

  • carefulcents - Pffttt….I'm a single female and I spent/budget $425 a month on groceries. I rarely eat out at restaurants and I steer clear of most fast food (only budget $30-40 per month on food not bought at the grocery store). Compared to the standard amount I'm way over normal. But I buy all my food from organic farmer's markets or Whole Foods/Health food stores. That's definitely an added cost that I feel is well worth the health benefits. ReplyCancel

  • donaleen - We spend 800 to 900 per month on food for the two of us with occasional guests. Very little is on eating out. That does not include wine though it does include paper towels and such. We eat well. We don't waste much. We cook from scratch. We shop at local markets like New Seasons and Zupans and we go to the farmers market. I would expect our spending to be about average or a little above. I don't know how the rest of you are doing it.ReplyCancel

  • Monday Roundup: Looking At the Big Financial Picture | Credit and Personal Finance Blog | Credit Karma Monday Roundup: Looking At the Big Financial Picture | A blog about the trends in credit and credit related industries - […] Foodie Finances: The Monthly Food Costs of Folks Who Love to Eat. “If there is one thing on which I spend most of my waking hours thinking, planning, and dreaming about, it’s food. I don’t have a food blog, I don’t take pictures of food, and I’m not a food purist in the sense that a locavore or a vegan or a Michael Pollan devotee may be.” Well-Heeled Blog […]ReplyCancel

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