Feed a Family of Two on $10,000 a Year

Tonight’s the big night - this evening my partner and I will sit down and go through our 2007 expenses and create our first budget ever.  I’m looking forward to having a plan for 2008. 

I am excited and anxious about our first joint financial planning session.  We’ve talked a lot about money, income, and spending, so I’m not worried about those kind of details - we put it all out there years ago.  The part I’m nervous about is giving up some of my financial power and control - but based on the results of my 2007 spending look-back analysis - the additional accountability will be immensely beneficial for me.

I have never had a budget or “spending plan” before - that’s evident by looking at my 2007 numbers.  I track all of my spending with my debit card and a feature my bank offers that allows me to categorize all of my income and expenses as they flow through the account.  I’ve also recorded all of my cash flow information in an Excel spreadsheet for years, but this is the first year I’ve actually done something with that data.

Most of my expenses are pretty set: mortgage, utilities, car payment, student loans - there were no surprises there.  The part that really shocked me was how much my fiancé and I spent on feeding our faces last year.  I spent $8,761 on food in 2007.  This includes coffee ($484), meals out ($3815) and groceries ($3412), plus ATM cash withdrawals that I made specifically for farmers’ market spending ($1050).  Assuming my partner only spent $100 a month buying occasional gallons of milk and taking me out on dinner dates - the two of us spent nearly $10,000 on food last year - that’s about $200 a week - for two people!  Ridiculous!

As my honey and I sit down and try to figure out how we’re going to fund our Infrequent Bills Account and attempt come up with the cash we need to save for our wedding, we need to take a long, hard look at our food budget.  I can think of many things that we can cut back on or just eliminate: specialty groceries, milk, and good beer (we are beer snobs) might be a good place to start. 

I know that there are people out there that have proven that you can eat well on $20 a week or less - and I say, “Good for them!”  We won’t be going to that extreme - we’re trying to eat healthfully and buy locally whenever we can, and sometimes that means paying a bit of a premium (especially when it comes to choosing restaurants that support local producers).  Even so, I know that through more careful meal planning and eating out less frequently, we should easily be able to cut our food budget in half, and that’s $5k we can bank to our wedding fund (which is at $2509.07 as of today, thanks to some advice from my readers and a Holiday Windfall).

Stumble it!

8 Responses to “Feed a Family of Two on $10,000 a Year”

  1. RacerX Says:

    I am so happy for you. This is a big step for you and as a couple.

    Three tips:
    Be honest - If you can’t do something or think a number is high, say so now, don’t let it fester into resentment.

    Build a livable budget - Don’t try to do it in a month! If you make it impossible to live through,you will end up giving up!

    Be prepared to make changes - If something is not working, change it. That doesn’t mean it should be wily-nily but a bad plan followed isn’t gonna help.

    You can do it!

  2. This 20 Something Lady Says:

    I am so proud of you! This is going to make such a positive difference this year. I agree with the tips above 100%. Livable is a must…You don’t want to end up regretting the budget and feeling like you don’t get to do anything. And, on the changes, you should check every couple of months to make sure that everything is working out with the budget. If you have money left over in areas, move them somewhere else.

    Good luck, can’t wait to see how it works out!

  3. Mrs. Micah Says:

    I think that if you cut down on eating out, it will make a huge difference. Maybe even if you only eat out a third as often. That’s another $2000 less.

    An idea for doing that would be to focus on eating out as a special time for the two of you, so that you don’t feel deprived by not doing it as much.

    And cooking up big dishes of food on weekends can help on those nights when you don’t have time to cook (and thus want to ear out). I do it and it works so well.

  4. Valerie Says:

    Great job sitting down to make a budget! My food budget is always a place that I struggle to maintain. Here is a great website that can help with low cost recipes
    I also like using a crockpot to make cooking easier. Keep us posted!

  5. deepali Says:

    Excellent! I do most of my grocery shopping at Whole Foods and farmers’ markets, so I feel you on this one. I cut the coffee out (started brewing at home), and that helped. Eating out less DEFINITELY helps. I think I now spend about $150 on groceries, $80 or so on lunch, and $100 on eating out, but that last is really restrictive (and doesn’t take into account what my boyfriend spends when we go out for dinner). So it’s definitely doable… but hard. :)

  6. frugalmom Says:

    One trick that I started using was to do a quick meal plan for the week. On the bottom of my grocery list I quickly make a 7 day matrix (days on top/meals underneath) and write underneath what we might have each night, or write–n/a, if we have plans. For example,

    sloppy joes
    tater tots

    I then make my grocery list from the meal list.

    Then I am not so rigid that I have to stick to what’s planned for that night when the night comes, but at least I know I have meals for at least five nights of the week.

    This tends to help cut down on going to the store during the week and eating out b/c you don’t know what to have.

    One other comment, my husband and I started drinking less when we go out, whoever is not driving has a few beers at home before we go, then just have one drink with dinner. When things are really tight during the month and my husband whines he wants to go to dinner, this is the rule.

  7. Heidi Says:

    @ Frugal Mom - great ideas! We started drinking less with meals last year (because I’m trying to lose weight for the wedding). It’s amazing the difference in the check when you cut back on the alcohol.

    I’ve just started with weekly meal planning. I have a good friend who is good at it. I like the matrix idea.

    In response to other comments - dining out is one place where we can clearly cut back.

  8. H Lee D Says:

    We also plan our meals over the weekend, make a grocery list, and go shopping.

    When there are items we use a lot that are on sale for a good price, we stock up on them. That also helps us to have ingredients around for “emergency” times that we want to stay home but have nothing on the calendar.

    We also decide who’s cooking each night when we plan things out, so we both know ahead of time which nights are ours and which we don’t have to worry about it.

    We don’t eat out more than once or twice per week (on the weekends) and we often will share a meal (maybe with an extra side or salad) when we go out — it costs less and promotes reasonable portion sizes (most restaurtants give two meals’ worth of food in each meal anyway).

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