I’ve been scouring the internet for the last couple of days in search of an elusive answer: what does the average Millennial spend on food (groceries plus eating out) per month? It turns out that the answer depends on who you ask. It’s a bit like asking an NFL rookie fresh off his signing bonus and an entry-level accountant how much they should be spending on rent. In short, answers vary.
Here at Average Dude Food, we’re all about giving you easy recipes that save time and money. Even if you’ve already made millions selling your Pokemon collection you found in your closet last year, you can benefit from cooking at home.
To help contribute some data to this question, we decided to track our food spending per month. Costs shown are split in half from the total of what my roommate and I spend, as we do most of our prep together. If you’d like a second reference point, the best source of data I’ve come across so far is the USDA’s Cost of Food chart.
This is OUR spending, not yours
Our spending is just that… OUR spending. Whether you are higher or lower, you can use this as a reference point for what you are spending now. We live in a fairly low-cost region of the United States, so costs for the same goods may vary depending on where you currently call home.
Since starting this blog, we’ve been loosely tracking our expenses. I’ve personally noticed that my costs have come down simply because I’ve been checking my grocery bills lately, even though I haven’t been subscribing to any specific budget. Others have found that the same thing has happened to them. This article, quoting Peter Drucker, sums it up best: “What gets measured gets managed”. Just seeing the your numbers at the end of each month may help you cut your food bill by a substantial margin.
So, without further ado, our monthly spending per person on all food for March 2017:
Keeping your costs down doesn’t mean eating cheap
We will be posting our monthly spending, detailing how and why it changes (or stays the same) over time. We are not extreme couponers, nor do we advocate wasting your time pinching pennies when you could be doing something else productive.
What we do advocate is taking easy steps to feed yourself good food without wasting copious amounts of time and money. We couldn’t care less whether you saved an extra $3 this month because chicken was on sale and you stocked up. We do care that you develop a consistent habit of making most of your own food, as this can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the years. To be honest, most of our reduction in cost came from simply cutting down on a few of our big food expenses (eating out multiple times during the weekend, buying lunch at work, etc.).
Start thinking about value AND ease
After reading several people’s food budgets I found on various sites online (hell of a Friday night, huh?), I noticed that people with the lowest budgets had a few common habits: they go heavy on foods that give you a lot of bang for your buck. Things like brown rice, eggs, and sweet potatoes are a few that I consistently saw. All three of these also happen to be foods that are quite easy to prepare.
The recipes we select for This Week’s Lunch tend to include lots of ingredients that are high on the value and ease scale. We do tend to include meat often, but we go through a ton of rice, beans, and simple vegetables like broccoli. When using one of our recipes, you can count on it including foods that provide high value for what you’re paying.
Minimize eating out
There are numerous stories online about people cutting their food bill by several hundreds of dollars per month. By far, one change had by far the biggest effect: eating out less. Consider this: my average cost per meal last month was around $2. Can you find anything worth putting in your body for even 3 times that much at any restaurant?
Even if you buy premium ingredients at the grocery store, you’ll be able to make some major improvements on your spending habits by simply cutting down on the takeout and restaurant visits. By no means do we recommend saying no to a first date because you’re worried about your food budget. That would make you a cheap idiot. You can take your date to a fancy place and try to impress, but there’s no reason to spend $20 four times a week doing it just because there’s nothing in the fridge at home.
Do this only as fast as you can
Unless you are about to be kicked out of your apartment or are going to get charged interest on hundreds or thousands of dollars in credit card debt next week, make these changes gradually. Going cold turkey isn’t going to be sustainable. If you buy lunch every day at work, start by making your own at home for just the first few days of the week. If you can’t give up expensive take-out every Friday night yet, find another place to start. Don’t deprive yourself; just be aware of how much you’re spending and trim the fat where you’re able.
Start tracking your spending, slowly trim your costs, and cook with ingredients that give you lots of bang for your buck. If you’re experience is anything like mine, you’ll find that minimal effort can save you a significant chunk of change.