If youâre a gardener, chances are you know how rewarding growing your own food can be. Whether you run an at-home farm, tend to a small patch of blueberry bushes, or have an apartment window herb garden, you know how satisfying that harvest of something youâve grown is. Gardening has been linked to some serious health benefits, tooâeven significantly lowering levels of cortisol and feelings of stress.
Turns out, growing your own food at home offers much more than a chance to get outside and get your hands dirty. Growing your food can be an incredibly cost-effective hobby, with a 600 square-foot garden producing about 300 pounds of fresh produce worth around $600 annually. When packs of seeds cost around $3 each, the opportunity to grow your investment, literally and figuratively, is clear.Â Â
Just by planting and tending to tomatoes, lettuce, or potatoes, you could save some serious money as a result. The average American spends close to $6,800 a year on food, which equals 12.6 percent of their total spending. Of that, $760 is spent on fruits and vegetables. By spending under $100 to build up your own plot of fruits and veggies, you could save around $800 a yearâmoney that you could then save or invest in more seeds to save even more at the grocery store!
You donât need a green thumb to see how that math adds up. If youâre worried about a black thumb ruining your chances of saving some serious green yearly, learn more about gardening tips that will turn even the smallest of garden plots into a bountiful harvest. Plus, read up on the many benefits of gardening on your health and overall happinessâyouâll be grabbing gardening gloves and mulch before you know it!
Sources: Country Living | An Oregon Cottage | Balcony Garden Web | The Penny Hoarder | Earth Easy | PSECU | Good Housekeeping | AARP | MoneyÂ
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Use the grocery calculator below to estimate your monthly and weekly food budget based on guidelines from the USDAâs monthly food plan. Input your family size and details below to calculate how much a nutritious grocery budget should cost you. Of course, every family is different. Some love coupons and leftovers, while others prefer fresh fish and aged cheese. Once youâve established your budget, use the slider to adjust your estimate to your spending habits.Â
Getting your food budget on point takes practice. With this grocery calculator and the right spending habits, youâll have enough for your living expenses and exciting financial goals like paying off loans or buying a house.
Grocery Budget Calculator
A moderate grocery budget will run you:
Weekly Grocery Cost Food costs per individual are based on USDA research regarding Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and follow MyPyramid nutrition guidelines.
Monthly Grocery Cost Food costs per individual are based on USDA research regarding Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and follow MyPyramid nutrition guidelines.
What kind of spender are you?
Does your estimate look right? If your spending habits don’t add up, explore these other budget options and choose what’s best for your lifestyle.
Thrifty This is the USDAâs estimated food budget for families that receive food assistance like WIC or SNAP.
Cost-Conscious This is an ideal budget for nutritious meals if youâre looking to save a little extra cash with leftovers and coupons.
Moderate This is the standard for affordable, nutritious, and balanced portions for most families.
Generous This budget gives you some spending wiggle room for finer foods or extra portions.
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Monthly Grocery Budget
Ever wonder how much you should spend on groceries?Â The average cost of food per month for one person ranges from $150 to $300, depending on age. However, these national averages vary based on where you live and the quality of your food purchases.
Hereâs a monthly grocery budget for the average family. This is based on the national average and likely varies by location and shop. For instance, New York City grocers are going to be far more expensive than Kansas City shops. Additionally, organic grocery stores like Whole Foods are pricier than places like Walmart or Aldi.
Youâll also want to consider dietary choices, like gluten-free or vegan diets. These can significantly affect your budget, so consider planning your grocery list online to compare prices and find your preferred alternatives.
Finding a reasonable monthly grocery budget ensures you and your family have what you need, while not overspending. Look back at previous months using a budgeting app or credit card statements to see what youâve spent at the grocery store. Decide if you want to maintain your current budget or cut back.
Purchasing Groceries vs. Dining Out
Donât forget what you spend at restaurants when you consider your food budget. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans spend 11 percent of their take-home income on food. It doesnât all go towards groceries, though. Approximately six percent is spent on groceries, while five percent is spent dining out â including dates, lunches with coworkers, and Sunday brunch.
With this framework in mind, you can calculate your total food budget based on your take-home income. For example, Rita makes $3,500 per month after taxes. She would budget six percent for groceries ($210) and five percent for restaurants ($175). So sheâll need a total of $385 for food each month. With a little practice, sheâll better learn her habits and be able to accurately adjust her budget.
Tips for Reducing Your Budget
There are several ways to cut back on what you spend without sacrificing the quality and taste of your food. Trimming your food budget can help you stow away more for your financial goals, such as building an emergency fund or saving for a dream vacation.
Coupons are easy to find in the mail, in store, in your inbox, and even in a Google search. Many popular grocery stores are rolling out apps that track your coupons and savings. Be sure to download and register your email for new updates and sales. These usually work in person or online, so you can shop when and how you like.Â
While a single coupon might not give you a large discount, you can save a lot with multiple coupons. Itâs also important you make sure you actually need the item youâre purchasing instead of buying it for the sale. This can quickly get out of hand and push you over budget.Â
Freeze Your Food
Freezing your fresh food before it goes bad helps your wallet and the environment. You can plan ahead and freeze prepared produce to save time on weekday cooking, or chop and freeze last weekâs produce before shopping for more. Frozen vegetables are great in soups and stews, and you can use frozen fruits for healthy breakfast smoothies.Â
Plan a Weekly Menu Ahead of Time
Plan your meals ahead of time to determine the food items and quantities you need before you head to the grocery store. This way youâre more likely to buy the exact items you need and can plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try to plan for recipes that use the same ingredients so thereâs less to purchase. You can also make larger meals and plan leftovers for lunch so you have less to plan and purchase.
Bring Lunches to WorkÂ
A $13 lunch out might not seem like much, but it can blow your food budget fast if it becomes a habit. Push your monthly food budget further with delicious lunches from home. Salads, sandwiches, and leftovers are all easy, inexpensive, and nutritious.Â
Buy Store BrandsÂ
Many packaged products have a huge price disparity between brand name and generic items, and store brand items tend to be cheaper without sacrificing much quality. You can easily save 10 cents to a dollar per item, which adds up quickly over many trips.Â
Shop at a More Affordable Store
Your local farmers market, chain grocery, and organic store will all offer different specialties and sales. Check out the different shops in your area to find the best combination of quality and price. Some stores might even offer bulk items â great for your favorite products and those with a long shelf-life. Choosing cheaper staple items like milk and yogurt can also make a huge difference over time.Â
An accurate food budget that works for you helps you feel more confident and in control of your finances. Build a budget, learn your spending habits, and keep a grocery list to keep you on track and responsible so you can reach bigger goals, like a new vehicle or a down payment on a house.Â
Sources:Â USA Today |Â EurekAlert | Persistent Economic Burden of the Gluten-Free Diet
The post How Much Your Monthly Food Budget Should Be + Grocery Calculator appeared first on MintLife Blog.