$500 is a realistic food budget for a family of four

Recently, I read a post on the Yahoo Food about what it is like to feed a family for less than $20 a day. The woman in the story had three kids and fed them using $500 in food stamps each month.

Now while I know that there are many families who struggle to put food on the table, and that kids and adults are going to bed hungry each night, I am at a loss on how this woman says it is such a struggle on $500 a month. (Of course, I have no clue what food prices are where she lives.)

On average, my family of four spends about $550 a month with about $40-$50 of that being soda. (Yes, my husband is sorely addicted to soda, and if it was up to me, we would spend way less on this. The kids and I only have one soda per day.)


My pantry

Now on our $500 food budget, none of us are going hungry. The pantry is always stocked. And I am making breakfast, lunch and dinner for the kids and I daily. My husband eats out his lunches but pays with that from his business account. Just think of how much he could save if I made his lunch for him.

But the woman in the story’s three kids ate both breakfast and lunch at school though they didn’t seem to like the food the school provided. If she is receiving food stamps, I am sure her kids qualify for free (or reduced) meals at the school.

My own kids rarely eat from the school cafeteria. Jase might eat there 3-4 times a month with the cost of $2.05 each time. I am lucky if Lexie eats there once a month. I typically send her to school with a packed lunch, but since she doesn’t eat bread, there are no sandwiches. Her lunch consists usually fruit which in the winter is quite expensive. I bought five mangos for the week, costing $3.40. That with some pretzels, cookies, yogurt and blackberries (on sale for $1.87) will make up her lunch each day.


My fridge and freezer

Now I know if I shopped better – looked for sales, comparison priced or used more coupons – I could save even more money and survive on a lower budget. But I don’t choose to spend my time doing that and don’t expect the single mom in the story had that time either. I do know that we could eat healthier if we tried as we do buy quite a bit of chips and ice cream. It is those purchases that I know we could cut out if we had to. But as it is we have those treats and are not going hungry.

The woman and kids in the story obviously never eat out while I admit we end up spending money to eat out when we could be eating at home. But even if we ate at home for those meals, I think we could do it with only spending $500 on food per month. And I am not the only one. Many of those commenting on the post claimed the same thing. They too thought she should be able to eat well on $500 a month.




3 thoughts on “$500 is a realistic food budget for a family of four

  1. Skye Hegyes says:

    When I was trying to save money, I was using about $50 a week (equating to about $200 a month) on groceries. Most of the money went to re-stocking meat. There’s no food allergies in my house and my girls are still in the wonderful stage where peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a gourmet lunch if paired with fruit and a glass of milk. We do a lot of canned fruits and veggies versus fresh, but again, that’s because of our budget. We’ve increased our budget a little bit, but not that much, and we still do more eating out than we should. I don’t tend to use coupons (though I probably should) because I buy a lot of store brand foods (which most coupons don’t work on). That said, I don’t know why a woman with three kids couldn’t make $500 work unless she’s feeding them lobster every day…

  2. Marianne says:

    I have a family of three and we eat healthy food, but also have our share of (more expensive) junk. I buy about 50% organics and my husband is a meat, meat, meat, MEAT guy — and I don’t spend $500 a month on food. I also live in the Northeast where food is typically more expensive (esp fruit), so I don’t know what she’s doing to make it a struggle…

  3. I have a family of three, and I spend a LOT less on our food budget every month. Switching to Aldi helped, and so that offsets fish at Whole Foods or the few things I can’t resist at Trader Joe’s. AND instead of beef, I buy bison online. The bison prices aren’t bad, but the shipping? Wow. Can throw you for a loop. Still, with careful planning, even that can be overcome.

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