Money

Am I Spending A Reasonable Amount Of Money On Food?

I can’t do a proper grocery shop. I think I’m incapable.

I know – trust me, I know—what I should do before I walk through the automatic sliding doors of my supermarket each week: plan my meals for the week, write a list, check my cupboard for things I already have, blah blah blah. But of course, I do none of them. Which is why I’m writing this article.

Every single time I try to do a reasonable shop, the items always scan up to something unseemly. It starts off good (“Oh, halfway there and we’re at $35, not so bad”) then the cleaning products and toiletries start rolling through. Before I know it, I’m handing over my card to be charged anywhere between $80-$100 for a week’s worth of food and living.

And of course – because life – the week progresses and I find myself going out one night and spending $20 on Thai food. I get home late another and make a cheese toastie instead of my preplanned bowl of chilli, I order $20 in takeaway because, I dunno, it’s Friday? And then I spent $20 on the necessary Sunday brunch (#culture).

Sure, this is a particularly busy week but it’s not an uncommon one either. Girl’s gotta socialise. But is it too much?

Am I normal?

Seriously, you guys. Is the money I spend on food obscene? I have to admit it doesn’t feel like it but the numbers aren’t lying.

According to this recent report, the average Australian household spends $163 per week on food. Which makes my $80-100 per week seem like budget time, right? Right. Until you remember that the average household is four people, two of them still growing and rabid. Whereas I am one people, similarly rabid, but stagnant in size.

Did I just write a haiku?

Anyway. There’s also this website that advises people who come from overseas to study in Australia budget around $80-280 per week on food, including groceries and eating out. This one said that the average person under 35 (Me! I’m an average person under 35!) is currently spending $104 per week on food. This one doesn’t know much, but it reckons whatever amount we spend, half of it goes to junk (true).

Basically, the results are inconclusive.

This reddit thread asked people from around Australia to share how much they spend on groceries and it also varied widely. One person said $150 a fortnight, another said $25 a week (“How?” “Mi goreng.”) and another said anywhere from $75 to $150. I want a straightforward answer that will tell me I’m either an angel or a failure. Is that so hard?

Give it to me straight 

So my painstaking search for normalcy didn’t come back fruitful. The cost of groceries seems like an intensely personal thing, and the number is entirely dependant on income, dietary preference and how organised you feel that week.

If not, Scott Hannah, president and CEO of the Credit Counselling Society in Canada, reckons that your groceries should take up no more than 15% of your annual income. This feels like a decent guideline. If I quickly crunch the numbers, including groceries and takeaway, my number comes to about 16% of my annual income.

Yep, just as I thought, it’s too much. I am all failure, no angel. But if I only include groceries, it comes down to 11%. The moral is that maybe I could cut down on my groceries a little, but I can probably cut down on my eating out a lot.

If you’re also concerned about how much you spend on food, the 15% rule seems like a pretty good guideline to me. I think I might even challenge myself to see how low I can get that percentage, too.

Just don’t throw a bunch of things in the trolley and hope for the best. It hasn’t done me any good.


Josephine is a writer from western Sydney who likes to blatantly lie on her bios. She played the youngest sister in 80s sitcom Family Ties and looks fantastic running with a backpack on.