Food prices fluctuate all the time. How can the average American (sorry Canada and Europe, I don’t have a frame of reference for you) estimate what they will be spending on food from month to month? The USDA publishes a monthly food price index based on four spending levels: Thrifty, Low-Cost, Moderate, and Liberal. While there will always be some regional variations, this is a handy reference for analyzing your household’s food budget.
What I really like about this tool is it doesn’t just have adults and children, because we all know that children’s appetites vary widely based on age. Yes, I know that they can vary within these bounds as well, but this seems to have reasonable expectations.
For example in our household, when my stepdaughter is here, we should expect to spend about $169 a week on the thrifty plan. Our actual weekly grocery budget is closer to $140. There are directions for calculating a family’s food budget and a couple of quick suggestions such as 2 adults with 2 children 5 and under and 2 adults with two school age children.
There are also separate tables for Alaska and Hawaii which would otherwise skew the averages.
Have you ever used this tool?
Do you feel it is an accurate reflection of what families in your area spend on food?
Knowing our family’s food budget falls below the thrifty level, while we maintain a healthful diet is encouraging.
Did you also know that there are free meal planning tools available, too?
Just for transparency’s sake, I wasn’t paid to mention either of these resources, I just thought they might come in handy for some families. I know the food pyramid is far from a perfect nutritional guideline, but it is a drastic improvement for many Americans. Remember, here at Home Ec 101 we’re all about meeting people wherever they are on their nutritional journey. Any step in the right direction is progress.