16 April 2007

How much does it cost to feed a family of four?

Since going on parental leave, every dollar is counted and accounted for. The transition from a two-income, no kids household to a one-income, two kids has changed our relationship to money.

Gone are the days of buying things on a whim. Where I never used to worry about having enough to pay for expenses and extras, the mere act of having to make sure there’s always enough has pushed my money-related stress level through the roof.

While our net income shift has by no means left us not well off, we haven’t been so successful in adjusting how we spend what we have to make it through a month without racking up more debt. No more consumer debt is my month-end goal – every month.

We have a budget that allocates our income. For the most part, we’re right on or under with all line items. That is, with the exception of food.

We don’t eat out. We don’t buy tons of processed or packaged foods. I plan ahead for our weekly dinner menu and kids lunches. I shop from a list for the most part. I’ve moved to from shopping at Loblaws to Food Basics. We serve more kid friendly meals and rarely anything remotely gourmet, which has led to a slight gastronomical death of this foodie!

All of this, and I cannot stick to a $500 monthly budget.

The Walrus included a photo essay entitled Our Weekly Bread in its December/January issue depicting families around the world with the contents and final costs of their weekly grocery shopping displayed in their homes. It explored a fact uncovered by photographer Peter Menzel and writer Faith D’Aluisio that the same number of people in the world are overfed as underfed. From $30 a week in Mali to $329 in the USA, this photo essay takes its readers around the globe to peer into human food consumption.

Using one family as a barometer, and doing the math on my overfed counterparts in similar countries, who on earth can afford these monthly grocery bills!

Of the two Canadian families in the mix, one is from across the bridge in Gatineau and they spend $158 a week for a family of four. Now, I can more relate to this at this specific point in time, but before our two kids I scoffed in amazement as our grocery bill for two far exceeded that. I don’t, however, see any meat in this photo.

The other Canadian family is from Iqaluit and they spend $392 a week on groceries and that is accompanied by the fact that the father is an avid hunter and often provides the family with fresh meat. That grocery bill totally floors me and I have no idea how it’s financially possible to spend nearly $1200 a month on food!

Comparably, perhaps we’re not doing that badly in our house, albeit, we’re probably more on the overfed side of the equation. We never go hungry. You can always find something to eat. We’re not necessarily able with any regularity to invite extra mouths to our table. Sometimes our meals are lacking in taste and balance (i.e., Kraft dinner once a week).

All of this goes to say, I still don’t feel I have enough money to easily feed all the mouths in our house. How much should it cost to feed a family of four?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Groceries (and every other expense ranging from gasoline to hydro) cost way more for Canadians who live up north, such as the example family who spends 1200/mth and hunt for their meat

Communities that are remote, fly-in, or have winter access roads can cost $30 for a 4litre of milk
depending on the food sought and what the supply is available

The amount that the family has to spend on groceries has nothing to do with not being financially responsible (or "wasteful"), simply based on their geographic location

In fact, I believe that the family is being very practical by supplementing their diet with meat hunted instead of purchased