How much does it cost to feed your family?

cost to feed your family

I came across an interesting blog yesterday. In it Hayley asks if everyone else is spending a fortune feeding their families, and she described her monthly shopping. It sounded almost exactly like my shopping, and I’ve been wondering the same thing – Dean and I live a comfortable life, but I keep finding that our money is getting tighter and tighter and the majority of our spending seems to go towards food. I’ve been paying closer attention because of an article I’m going to write as part of Harassed Mom‘s series called “What we ate this week” (I promise I will answer your questions soon, Laura!). We really spend a lot just to eat these days.

Part of it is, yes, takeaways or going out to eat. But surprisingly, that’s not as big a thing as I imagined. We might go without cooking once or twice in the week, but for the most part we cook our food. Plus, I like to think that I’m pretty smart with how we shop. I tend to buy our meat once, or maybe twice in the month online from a fantastic butcher who delivers. Their prices are really reasonable and the quality of the meat is great. Plus, I order all the things in 500 gram or 1kg portions, so it’s already nicely divided – just throw it in my deep freezer and pull out what I need, as and when I need it; just the right amount for dinner at night and my breakfast and lunch of leftovers. The rest of our food usually comes from the two local stores – PicknPay and Woolies.

I shop the outside of the store at Woolies, picking up all our fresh produce, milk and lunch meats. At PicknPay, I buy pantry goods, bakery stuff and drinks. I tend to follow a relatively European way of shopping, hitting the store a couple of times a week to pick up odds and ends. I take advantage of specials, and particularly love Woolworth’s “eat in for four under R150” deals, although I wonder who they are building their portion sizes on – that four person lasagne is not going satisfy four people! Then again, if a family lived solely on those “good value” meals every night they’d still end up spending R4.5k per month just on dinners…

I remember when Dean and I first moved into this place, we didn’t have much money. We had to be careful with how much we spent on food, cleaning supplies, etc. In those days, I budgeted R2-3k for all groceries, including products to clean ourselves and our home. Now, we spend twice that.

While I realize that the Rand has depreciated, that times have changed, that I’m also buying nicer quality food, it’s absolutely mind boggling for me. Is our food bill so high because every dinner includes meat and veg, without fail? Did we eat more pasta previously, or less fruit? Is healthy eating to blame, or am I shopping in the wrong places? I try to shop around, to buy certain things in certain stores because of the prices and quality, but it seems that no matter how much I try to save money, I end up coming out at the same amount each month.

It’s actually a hell of a lot of money just to spend on groceries. No wonder once we add in going out to eat, meeting up with people for drinks and going to braais or parties we end up spending even more on things that we consume. Is this normal?! Is this just what it costs to feed a family now? And I struggle to even call this feeding a family – Harley might be starting solids, but that usually amounts to a bite of my meat and veg each night – it’s not like she’s costing anything to feed.

Please tell me, how do you save money when you do your grocery shopping? Or does it simply cost thousands of Rands to feed even a family of two (and a bit)?

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  • I am finding it harder and harder to properly feed the family what I want to = healthy good meals.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      for sure! I’m sure I could go back to my old budget if all we did was live on cheap carbs, but it’s important to me to give my family plenty of veggies, protein and variety… getting harder and harder without breaking the bank.

  • Zoe Hawkins

    Yeah, it’s scary! Most people I’ve talked to say that their food bills have at least doubled in the past couple years. Highest I’ve heard for a family of 4 was R9k per month, but average seems to be around R5-7k per month. Good luck on planning your return! 🙂

    • Ps – our bill for a family of 4 (plus a full time maid and once a week gardener) is over 11k per month!!!! INSANE!!!!

      • Zoe Hawkins

        O_O That is madness!!

        • Right???? The lowest I’ve got it is 9800.

      • miaau

        Um, we were there and the maid and gardener come off a different part of the budget…..

    • miaau

      Average R5-7k? HOW? Perhaps my wife and I are just too spoilt or set in our ways.

      To be honest, we do eat very well. That said, we have been working very hard on this and last year September were easily spending R11k a month in grocery shops alone (Spar, checkers, that sort only). Working hard has brought that down to, most months, R7k.

      Meal planning is key, we found. Also, finding ways to cut down on plain old wastage, food going off, prepared food not being reheated, going off, that sort of thing.

  • Oh my gosh please don’t get me started on how much money we spend on groceries! Our monthly food bill for a family of 4 (and feeding two employees) is MANIC! I just can’t make ends meet anymore and also need to know how to eat healthy meals within a reasonable budget so if you find the answers please send them my way!!

    • Zoe Hawkins

      I think this deserves some research, because it’s simply ridiculous! Everyone is saying their monthly bills have skyrocketed in the last couple years, but there has to be a way to eat healthy food without breaking the bank.

  • Since posting yesterday, I’ve realised many people share our sentiments Zoe. It’s actually challenging me to shop “smarter” from now on and to also find new ways to save:)

    • Zoe Hawkins

      Please share any cool ideas you find – seems some research into this is necessary

  • Yikes, this is a battle we have all the time. Throw 3 growing kids into the mix and there is trouble. We really keep it to the bare minimum. I can’t even shop at woolies anymore, even just the outside section. I grow a lot of my own veg and visit a farmers market for fresh veg once a week. We only eat meat 2 days a week and I plan my weekly meals down to the last ingredient. I buy bulk of dry staples like Rice, Lentils, Pasta (Or I make my own pasta) I make bulk home made Pizza Bases and freeze the dough and we make our own amazing pizza every Friday. It beats the shop bought hands down. We simply don’t go out. We do however do ice-cream take aways with the kids and that is more than enough to keep them happy. Once every few months we will go out for breakfast at the Spur and quite honestly, even that has become overrated. Thank you for sharing this article, it is a topic that I think everybody struggles with but nobody is really willing to talk about.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      I can’t believe how many people are experiencing the same thing. You have some awesome ideas to keep costs down!! I must start making pizza bases on a regular basis, and maybe also do more regular meal ideas – friday as pizza day sounds like fun, especially as the little one gets older.

      • I use the Jamie Oliver Pizza dough recipe and it is a absolutely amazing. Happy to send it to you.

        • Zoe Hawkins

          yes please! would love to give it a whirl

      • Oh and yes my kids love to decorate their own pizza.

  • Werner Ackermann

    I lump all the groceries together, including diapers together so couldn’t say what is food alone.
    Still, that ‘basket’ is averaging around R7k for a family of 2,5. I really cannot comprehend how you’d feed two teenage sons for less than R10k without reducing the diet to mainly staples. ‘All you can eat’ carries a lot better value at that age 😉

    Buying beef in bulk with the extended family every few months helps keep that part down at least.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      That’s just it! I suppose I could feed the family for less if we just ate mainly staples of pulses and starches, but it’s important to me for us to have meat and veggies. And I also combine my shopping to include hygiene products and cleaning supplies, but the basic “basket” of goods that we need each month is becoming obscenely expensive.

  • miaau

    On one of my wifes Facebook groups last year they started a challenge. One of the member was feeding a family, of, more than 4, on R100 a day. Healthy food. Needs must and they coped. I admire them for that AND some of the tips they shared helped us cut down on our food.

    One of the issues we and I am sure some other people have, is that even though we try not to spend a lot on Groceries, the simple fact is we can (mostly……..) and are not forced by circumstances or other to be more careful. That has led to wastage (which we are working on) and just a plain excess of pure luxury items.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      yeah, i’m definitely guilty of buying luxury items that i could do without. But still, it’s not like i’m living on caviar! Surely I should be able to buy a nicer cut of steak or some fancy cheese without my grocery bill getting out of control.

      • miaau

        I agree. We must be allowed to have some luxury items. There is also a quality of life issue.

        Ultimately, we all need to decide on our own comfort levels and stick there. Be content with what you have, sort of thing.