What Is a Food Budget for a Family of Four?

Food is a major expense for most families.
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A family budget is a predetermined amount of money set aside and spent for certain categories of living expenses. The budget for utilities includes electricity, water and gas, for example. It varies by month depending on the heating and cooling needs but can be accurately forecast month by month. A family food budget is a little trickier.

Members of the Family

Who will be chowing down at the dinner table determines how much food is required. Two teenage boys eat more than two 6-year-old girls -- a lot more. Males have a higher metabolism rate than females because they have a higher muscle to fat ratio. Muscles burn more calories on a 5-to-1 ratio. Your family structure determines how much you'll spend on food.

Eat Out or In

If like most families you eat 60 percent of your meals outside the home, your food budget is going to cost more than a family that eats 75 percent of the meals at home or prepared at home. With the possible exception of school cafeteria food, most food-serving entities have to show a profit to stay in business. That means you pay for the cost of the food, preparation, cooks, managers, food servers, cost of the building and a profit margin. A breakfast of bacon, eggs, hash browns, coffee and juice that costs $2.00 at home, could cost more than $8.00 at a restaurant.

Are Toiletries a Food Group?

Think about it; who buys only food at the grocery store -- nobody. The grocery stores know you'll run in for a quart of milk and then remember you need deodorant. So to keep you from shopping at a discount drugstore for the deodorant, the grocery stores offers it tantalizingly placed in the front of the store. It's a matter of convenience and smart marketing.

The whole layout of the grocery store is developed so you buy more than what you came for. The dairy counter is placed on the opposite side of the store from the produce section, which is away from the bakery, and nowhere close to the meat counter. You are forced to go through the aisles to get from one area to the other. That exposes you to products you may not have thought of buying when you came in.

The Answer to Budget Question is …

The USDA has four categories of spending: thrifty, low-cost, moderate and liberal for the cost of food at home. Their statistics on what actual families have spent of the household enable you to see how your spending measures up. For example, a family of four with a child between the ages of 6 to 8, a teenage boy and two parents on average has a budget ranging from $136 for the thrifty level to $273 per week for the liberal level.

The Department of Agriculture says that nearly 10 percent of the total monthly household budget is spent for food both eaten at home and at restaurants, while the Bureau of Labor states that nearly 13 percent is spent for food at home and at restaurants.

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