The Cost of Feeding Your Family Goes Up

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on May 8, 2013 · 0 comments

According to the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) the cost of feeding an average family of 4 is up more than 30% in the last 10 years. The USDA estimates it costs $239 a week for a moderate food plan and $191 for a low-cost meal plan. A liberal food plan comes close to $300 a week. Ten years ago a low-cost meal plan averaged $139, a moderate cost plan was $173, and a liberal food plan was just over $200 a week

In actuality the amount spent on food weekly by a family of 2 adults with 2 school-aged children is higher than the USDA estimates. The USDA figures assume that all meals and snack will be eating at home. That isn’t realistic since we know that half of every food dollar is spent on food eaten away from home. These estimates also eliminate desserts and sweets, like candy, cake, soda because they are only calculating healthy meals for the family.

It isn’t easy to feed a family well on a limited budget. Here are some tips to spread your food dollar:

  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season.
  • Buy store brands they have improved in quality and variety and cost less than brands names.
  • Check store flyers and plan meals around weekly sales.
  • Make planned-overs. Cook for one meal and plan to use the leftovers for a second meal. Leftover chicken can provide the base for a casserole or soup. Leftover baked potatoes can become potato salad for lunch.
  • Eat less meat and have a few nonmeat meals a week. Macaroni and cheese, rice and beans, a veggie omelet, or even a peanut butter sandwich with a fresh fruit salad is all cheaper alternatives to meat, poultry or fish.
  • Sweetened drinks and soda offer little return on your food dollar. Stick with milk, 100% juice and water.
  • Make a grocery list and stick to it.
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