So you moved and want to know how much to spend on food?

September 8, 2008 at 8:21 pm (budgeting) (, , , , , , , )

I can usually tell what people are trying to find out based on search tags I’m shown for my blog. I take the most commonly sought queries and find out as much as possible, then post. Frequently, people either want to know lists of things they should have for an apartment or how much they should expect to spend. This is very difficult for me to approach because chances are high that I don’t live in the same area you do. I am going to ATTEMPT to give you a generic price list along with a formula for figuring out what you should be spending. Also I am going to be playing mom (you’ll see what I mean in a bit). So put your seat belts on because this is going to be one helluva ride.

I read an article once that said people are eating far more unhealthy these days and spending far less on ‘good’ food than they should. Hypothetically, 20% of your monthly income (give or take) should be going towards food supplies. This really does depend on your budget, consumption, earnings, family size, etc. But I calculated my own and I hit just about that mark. If you’re bad at math, this is how it goes:

(Amount you spend/plan on spending in groceries in a month) divided by (amount you earn a month) = percentage you’ll be spending on groceries.

Allow me to use my own personal situation as an example. I plan on spending 60 dollars a week on groceries. So I would multiply that by 4 weeks to get 240 dollars a month. So…

240 divided by 1,300 (my monthly income) = .184

Moving the decimal two places over, that means I spend about 18% of my income a month on purchasing groceries.

Sixty dollars may SOUND like a lot to spend on food, but a little doesn’t always go a long ways. If you are a heavy meat eater, you are going to have a very rough time. Depending on the meat you purchase, it can get extremely expensive. For example, a pound of chicken could cost anywhere from 3-8 dollars a pound. OUCH. If you’re living the single life, I salute you. Food will be much easier to purchase because you can live on less. I tend to gather the ads that come in the Sunday paper from Walmart, Meijer, and Kroger, then compare every item I would want and go to all three places to purchase what I need at the lowest price. For example, Kroger tends to have fish marked down severely a few days before it will go bad. Meijer simply puts it away at night so you don’t even have access to it. Walmart sells my favorite gallon jug of tea for 2.58 while Meijer sells it for a whopping 3.69! Though Meijer trumps both Walmart and Kroger in the sale of meat.

The unfortunate thing about all of this is that the stores don’t list their perishable food product prices online along with the rest of their merchandise. So to give you food prices? Not so much. But know that when you first move, you’re starting from scratch. That means even simple things you won’t have, like salad dressing, salt and pepper, sugar, etc. Most things can be bought in bits at a time. Every grocery store visit, plan to add a few items to your list. Generically, I made a list of things that will be handy to have in your kitchen:

1.   Olive oil
2.   Salt and pepper
3.   Mayo/ Miracle Whip
4.   Mustard
5.   Bbq sauce
6.   Vinegar
7.   Salad dressing
8.   Horse radish (the Polish in me can’t say no to it on the list)
9.   Spices (Thyme, basil, parsley, oregano, old bay, cinnamon, nutmeg, poultry seasoning, etc)
10. Sugar
11. Bread
12. Sandwich meat
13. Cheese (whether it be for grilled cheese sandwiches, nachos, salad, or whatever your wee heart desires)
14. Milk
15. Juice
16. Nuts
17. Pop (Yeah I know, bad for you. Get over it)
18. Salad
19. Carrots
20. Cucumbers
21. Tomatoes
22. Potatoes
23. Frozen corn, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower
24. Your choice of meat
25. Tuna fish

The list could literally go on forever. I don’t buy the same things every week because that’s boring as hell! If pierogis in the frozen section are on sale this week, I’ll buy those over a bag of chips. If yogurt is 2 for a dollar, I’m going to snatch some up and have it for lunch with a sandwich. Honestly this is truly all on you. You need to figure out your budget and learn to work within it. Obviously if you don’t have much to work with, you better stick to things like hot dogs, beans, apples, and frozen vegetables. These things are on the cheaper end of the spectrum. For you kings and queens, perhaps some fresh pinapple with a nice steak is in order. Everyone (except vegans and those with allergies) need some butter to cook with. Maybe you hate salad and want a big, juicy, grilled portabella mushroom instead (great when grilled with olive oil and vinegar by the way). Truly anything I could type would be bare bones. Find some recipes to survive on for the week and buy the items listed on the recipes. Buy some generic cereal for breakfast. You get the drill. Now hop to it!


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How much is food for an apartment?

August 20, 2008 at 9:49 pm (budgeting) (, , , , , , , )

Well, again, it depends on where you live. General food supplies like milk are usually far more expensive in, say, New York than they are in, say, Michigan.

I have a system when I shop. I don’t like buying things if they aren’t on sale. Sales usually go in rotation and apartment complexes provide sale ads. If not, perhaps invest in a subscription to your local newspaper. They tend to offer discounts to those in apartments and in the Sunday paper you can get sale ads and coupons. Places like Kroger usually double coupons as long as the coupon value is or below 50 cents off.

You should write a list of things you know you’re going to consume when you grocery shop. And never grocery shop hungry! (Because, duh, you’ll buy things you can’t afford and don’t need because everything looks good to eat.) You’ll need breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I can sum up a list of things that I purchase as a staple for food:

1. Milk (dairy)
2. Juice (fruit)
3. Cereal (wheat, grain, fruit)
4. Potatoes (starch)
6. Fruit (whatever is on sale, usually apples, strawberries, blueberries, etc) (duh)
7. Frozen Vegetables (duh)
8. Pasta Noodles (wheat/ grain)
9. Crackers (wheat/grain)
10. Meat/ Mushrooms/ Peanuts (protein)

I use frozen vegetables because I live alone. It’s very hard to consume the quantities provided. Things can go bad pretty fast! I like to keep frozen corn, broccoli, cauliflower, and other things if they are on sale. (Notice how I keep saying sale? Try to buy sale items if possible. That way you can buy more in the long run and save yourself a lot of money.) Be forewarned. Many foods that are bad for you will usually be on sale. You’ll slip into buying more of them and probably gain a lot of weight! Make sure you eat healthy things first and dessert last. You won’t have as much room for it but still satiate your sweet cravings. If I’m stocked on those things, then I spend extra on other things like onions, a dessert, eggs, olive oil, vinegar, condiments, chips, cheese, etc.

Your personal budget will depend on how you eat. I allocated 70 dollars maximum a week towards groceries. A pair of friends of mine spend significantly less a week (probably around 30 dollars for the 2 of them and their baby). I usually wait for things like chicken to go on sale because it can become VERY, VERY expensive to buy on it’s own. Red meat costs less but is also worse for you. Also when milk goes on sale, I buy two gallons. That way, I can use one for now and stick the other in the freezer. The milk stays good, it’s harmless, and then you can use it later rather than running out and paying 50 cents to a dollar more when you really need it. If my fruit is about to go bad, I wash it, cut it up, and stick it in baggies and pop those in the freezer as well.

Also remember. You don’t have to eat the way you grew up eating. Just because your mom bought and made fancy dinners, doesn’t mean you have to. As long as you’re getting proper nutrition and can afford what you do, don’t worry. If you don’t want to make bacon, eggs, and toast for breakfast, invest in poptarts. If you don’t have much of an apetite at dinner, eat an apple. Just do whatever works for you.

Shop around as well. You can write a list of everything you need for the week and go to a couple of different stores to get the best prices. It will save you gas so you don’t have to keep going out for trips during the week and you’ll be nicely stocked since you spent less by buying things cheaper. (Notice how I keep emphasizing buying things on sale? PLEASE DO! It’s imperative if you plan on living in a budget. True story.)

You can figure your food budget by simple determining what you eat and gathering prices at the store to figure out how much you spend on average. USUALLY 50 dollars per person works just fine if you want to live with a little bit of extra food lying around. And just because your budget is 50, that doesnt mean you have to spend it. I figured “fun time” into that 70 if a friend wants to go out for dinner. So just watch your spending and have fun buying for yourself! You’ll get the hang of it.

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