Some thoughts on setting a food budget

No recipe today, I’m afraid – I wanted to share some thoughts I’ve been having on setting a budget instead.

The very personal nature of budgets makes it difficult to compare with someone else, so  I think the most important thing to say is please don’t look at a blog or talk to a friend and come away thinking “oh, I do so terribly”.

Every family varies in their appetites, how many they’re feeding and the allergies/food issues they’re contending with.  Everyone has their own quirks and personal tastes too – some people don’t eat meat, others prefer organic food, some have a family member who wants meat with every meal (so would not go down well with me!).

I sometimes wonder if the fact that my budget is £175 is really meaningful to others. To some it will seem low, to others an excessive amount of money. To us, it’s just right – much less than we were spending before, but with enough leeway to buy free range meat, fresh fruit and veg and the odd treat.

Plus there’s the fact that some people keep track of everything they buy in the supermarket – which could include alcohol, toiletries and even clothes – and others take a strict food-only approach.  Our budget includes food, basic toiletries, food and litter for the cat and cleaning supplies for the house.  I don’t include take-aways, meals out or booze – but others might, and if I did, my budget would have to be a good bit higher (we don’t eat out too much but we do buy quite a lot of drink).

But in spite of all this, I still think its worthwhile sharing my spends and budget with you all.  For a start, it keeps me honest.  The thought of having to ‘fess up on here has persuaded me to put many a stupid buy back on the shelf.

More importantly, I think it helps put my recipes and things into context.  Out of my £175 budget (used to be £185 but reduced this month), I probably spend around £40 or so on toiletries, cat food and other household stuff.  So maybe £135 on food for the two of us – about £2.40 each, each day.  So if I buy a sirloin steak for Dave as a treat at £4, I need to have a a couple of low cost meals that week to balance it out.

So when setting your budget, look at what you can afford, what you spend at the moment (always best to reduce gradually rather than all at once) and look at how many people you’re feeding and what food issues/preferences they have that will mean you need to raise/lower the budget.  The goal isn’t to get it lower than someone else – but to get it to a point that you’re comfortable with, where you’re not wasting money and you still get some treats in there.

What do you take account of in your food budget?  Do you try hard to keep costs down, or are you more relaxed?  Any major difficulties you face in trying to reduce your spends?


2 thoughts on “Some thoughts on setting a food budget

  1. Emma Walton

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. This is so relevant to me right now. Food budgets really are a personal thing. At uni my housemates judged the huge amount I spent on food. Especially as I had the lowest income but I didnt have anywhere near the expenditure on clothes, toiletries, make up or alcohol.

    Planning to move in with Mr KG has made me think about it all over again. Foods v important to us. We buy fresh, local, organoc where pos so food can be expensive. We also treat purselves quite frequently.But the important thong is living within your means. We can afford large food bills as we have low transport costs for example.

    I think its too hard to directly compare budgets. Only you know what is right for you!

    1. Jess Post author

      You’re right – they’re so personal. And though I write about budget recipes, there are still areas that are too important to me to cut back on – free range meat and eggs, eating lots of fresh fruit & veg for example. As you say, you have to live within your means and cut back on certain areas so you can afford other things – if you want to spend money on food rather than alcohol, who are they to judge?


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