Author Topic: How much should one person spend on food per day on average?  (Read 19955 times)

Vitai Slade

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How much should one person spend on food per day on average?
« on: August 15, 2013, 11:23:09 PM »
Just as the title asks, how much should a frugal single person spend on food on an average daily basis? $5/day? $10? $15? $20?

Same question could be asked for a total monthly food budget or food allowance. How much? $150? $300? $450? $600?

James81

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Re: How much should one person spend on food per day on average?
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2013, 11:41:04 PM »
Right now my monthly budget for food is around $100 a month. That's for me mostly, but I also have kids who don't live with me who come stay with me a couple of weekends a month.

At my current budget, that's working out to be around $3.33 per day (or $1.11 per meal).

I've shared this with some people who think I'm nuts. Who look at my grocery list and think I'm not getting enough protein or any of that other stuff. But at the end of the day it works. I could probably get it cheaper than that if I had a place to store things in bulk and could grow my own vegetables.

I think the best approach (for me anyway) was to look at what my daily nutrition goals were, what my daily caloric intake goals were, and then find the most versatile foods (i.e. ones that can make several different dishes) that pack the most nutritious punch. Chicken is one of those foods. For $6 you can get a whole chicken and for the most part it can give you up to half (or more) of your protein needs a day while lasting for roughly a week (if you only eat it for one meal a day). The rest of the protein needs can be supplemented with beans and peanut butter (and/or nuts and legumes).
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Vitai Slade

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Re: How much should one person spend on food per day on average?
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2013, 01:11:24 AM »
Care to share your grocery list? I'm dying to know how you make it on only $3.33 per day.

James81

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Re: How much should one person spend on food per day on average?
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2013, 01:39:37 AM »
Care to share your grocery list? I'm dying to know how you make it on only $3.33 per day.

Yeah, I made a post about it here:

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/ask-a-mustachian/how-to-save-on-my-grocery-bill/msg124638/#msg124638
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Vitai Slade

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Re: How much should one person spend on food per day on average?
« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2013, 06:21:23 AM »
Took a look over the link and favorited the article you made. I really need to put more effort into cooking and less on optimization of the dollar menu's at Taco Bell, Arby's, McDonalds, etc. Lol.

Right now I am spending less than $10/day on food on average, but that's still $250-300/mo. for just me. I'd like opinions from others too though. How much should a single guy spend on food for himself for the month?

Kestra

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Re: How much should one person spend on food per day on average?
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2013, 06:24:41 AM »
This is so dependent on the area you live in. It's kind of pointless comparing people in areas with completely different food prices.

With that being said, I spend $10/day and I'm fine with that number as it includes lots of fresh food - organic and local - which is important to me.
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matchewed

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Re: How much should one person spend on food per day on average?
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2013, 06:31:23 AM »
I spend about 360 month on food total ($12 a day). That includes going out so much of my socializing with friends and other single person activities (dating). But for just cooking at home I'm closer to 250 a month ($8 a day). But this is not an area I choose to optimize. I really enjoy food and love trying new places to eat. So this is an area I choose to spend more and I don't beat myself up about it.

It will depend on your priorities.

GuitarStv

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Re: How much should one person spend on food per day on average?
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2013, 07:10:59 AM »
This will depend on:
- Where you live
- How active you are
- How big you are

A seven foot tall 220 lb man doing heavy physical labour and living in Alaska is going to have a wildly different bill than a 100 lb sedentary woman in North Carolina who keeps a large vegetable garden
Right now my monthly budget for food is around $100 a month. That's for me mostly, but I also have kids who don't live with me who come stay with me a couple of weekends a month.

At my current budget, that's working out to be around $3.33 per day (or $1.11 per meal).

I've shared this with some people who think I'm nuts. Who look at my grocery list and think I'm not getting enough protein or any of that other stuff. But at the end of the day it works. I could probably get it cheaper than that if I had a place to store things in bulk and could grow my own vegetables.

I think the best approach (for me anyway) was to look at what my daily nutrition goals were, what my daily caloric intake goals were, and then find the most versatile foods (i.e. ones that can make several different dishes) that pack the most nutritious punch. Chicken is one of those foods. For $6 you can get a whole chicken and for the most part it can give you up to half (or more) of your protein needs a day while lasting for roughly a week (if you only eat it for one meal a day). The rest of the protein needs can be supplemented with beans and peanut butter (and/or nuts and legumes).
.

A whole chicken contains about 162 g of protein ( http://caloriecount.about.com/calories-boston-market-whole-original-rotisserie-i118943 ).  Eating it for one meal a day, for a week you are getting roughly 23g of protein a day from that chicken.  That's at 85 cents a serving.  If you get whey protein online ( http://www.mysupplementstore.com/25lb-bulk-whey-protein-concentrate-powder.html ) you can get 24g of protein per scoop at a cost of about 45 cents per serving.

You might also want to be careful about using peanut butter as a protein source as well.  Protein is the lowest macro-nutrient in peanut butter . . . 72% of the calories come from fat, 16% from carbs, and only 12% from protein.  ( http://www.fatsecret.ca/calories-nutrition/kraft/smooth-peanut-butter/1-tbsp )

James81

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Re: How much should one person spend on food per day on average?
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2013, 06:24:21 PM »


A whole chicken contains about 162 g of protein ( http://caloriecount.about.com/calories-boston-market-whole-original-rotisserie-i118943 ).  Eating it for one meal a day, for a week you are getting roughly 23g of protein a day from that chicken.  That's at 85 cents a serving.  If you get whey protein online ( http://www.mysupplementstore.com/25lb-bulk-whey-protein-concentrate-powder.html ) you can get 24g of protein per scoop at a cost of about 45 cents per serving.

You might also want to be careful about using peanut butter as a protein source as well.  Protein is the lowest macro-nutrient in peanut butter . . . 72% of the calories come from fat, 16% from carbs, and only 12% from protein.  ( http://www.fatsecret.ca/calories-nutrition/kraft/smooth-peanut-butter/1-tbsp )

Yeah, but 23 g of protein a day IS about roughly half the protein you really should be consuming. Going by the typical recommendation for grams of protein you're supposed to take in about 0.8 x your weight in kilograms OR that works out to about 0.37 x your weight in pounds (or about roughly 1/3 of your weight).

So, for a person who weighs 180 lbs, their daily protein needs would be: 0.37 x 180 = 67 grams.

But here is the kicker about that. That assumes that your daily protein intake is around 25% of your diet, which according to other sources may be slightly high. The AMA (American Medical Association), for example, suggests protein intake at 12 to 20% at the very MOST. Granted, lots of people criticize places like the AMA because supposedly doctors don't get too much education on nutrition, but I think the sweet spot of all the sources I've read on the subject would be somewhere around 15 to 20% of your diet.

So, technically, for someone who is 180 lbs, around 50 to 60 grams of protein a day would be just fine.

So, having the chicken for a meal would take care of about half that. If you consume milk, eggs, peanut butter, nuts, and/or beans you could easily get to that with one of your other meals. A cup of milk, for example, would get you 8 grams of protein. An egg would be another 8 grams. A cup of black beans is like 12 grams. So, if you have milk (or cheese), an egg, and a cup of black beans somewhere else throughout the day, you will meet your protein needs just fine.

It's far cheaper to get your protein mostly from beans/milk/nuts than it is to get it from meat.

I'm not a huge fan of protein supplements, though. I feel that if you don't get your nutrition from a natural source of food of some kind, you're doing it wrong. Although if you are EXTREMELY active, it may be a good idea to supplement the protein from my particular diet with some protein supplements of some kind. Being super active (think body builder or extreme sports) means you're going to need somewhere closer to 200 grams of protein a day. In which case you bite the bullet and spend a little more on the food to get your there and/or you take protein supplements. Bear in mind, though, that many nutritional experts suggest that too much protein can be harmful to your kidneys and increase your risk for heart disease.
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DocCyane

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Re: How much should one person spend on food per day on average?
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2013, 04:00:23 PM »
115 pound female in Los Angeles.

I spend $5 a day on food including some meat, plenty of eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables, grains, legumes and beans, yogurt and almond milk. No cheese, soda, frozen dinners, pasta, bread or prepared anything in a box.

Breakfast is two eggs, half cup of beans, cup of real yogurt (with live cultures)
Snack is a banana
Lunch is leftovers, usually meat, veggies and rice
Snack is almonds and raisins plus an apple
Dinner is meat or beans, veggies and a grain

I cook up a if bunch of lentils and rice for quick meals when I'm feeling lazy. I love one-skillet-wonders with everything in a wok, add soy sauce, hot sauce and peanuts.
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Zikoris

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Re: How much should one person spend on food per day on average?
« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2013, 04:24:06 PM »
I spend about $3.70/day on food. Yesterday I ate:

Breakfast - oatmeal

Snack - walnuts

Lunch - sandwich and fruit

Snacks - blueberry lemon scones, fresh blueberries

Dinner - skillet casserole with spaghetti, lots of vegetables, veggie meat, spices, non-dairy cheese

Snack - end pieces of fresh bread with peanut butter, fresh fruit smoothie

I also drink soy milk once or twice a day.
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olivia

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Re: How much should one person spend on food per day on average?
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2013, 05:24:17 PM »
Well we were spending about $20/day per person due to a lot of eating out (please feel free to facepunch :P) but my current goal is $10/day per person.  We both do CrossFit so we eat a pretty protein-heavy diet.  A typical day is as follows:

Breakfast: 2 slices of bacon, 2 eggs
Lunch: arugula with tuna or chicken on top
Snack: baby carrots/apple with peanut butter/Kind bar/Clif bar
Dinner: burgers and asparagus
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Zamboni

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Re: How much should one person spend on food per day on average?
« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2013, 07:58:27 PM »
I've been spending $565 a month for three people which is just over $6 per person per day.  That includes mostly eating in with eating out for a meal ~once a week but nothing fancy.  Beer/wine for one social drinker is included in the figure. 

This is in NC and we are BIG people in stature (99th percentile in height.)  One of us is very active (although not in physical labor, so sedentary days) and the other two are only moderately active at best, and prone to being couch potatoes sometimes.

I make no special effort at this other than preparing most of our 3 square meals from scratch and being a versatile shopper so I can buy loss leaders and in season produce.  I don't go out of my way to scrimp on food, but I don't routinely buy steak and crab legs either.  The kids, who both eat more than I do, have a pass to constantly snack on whatever they want that they can find in the house, and I make a point of keeping bananas/apples/bagels/yogurt/cereal/cheese always in stock for easy snacking.

So, I would say anyone who spends more than $10/person/day in my area is not being frugal. 

At the extreme level, I had a roommate ~25 years ago who ate on $1 per day, and he was 6'8" and played basketball in college (this was after college, but he was still pretty active.)  He was kind of an opportunistic food moocher, though, and seemed to get most of his protein from "phree phood" events.  His most annoying attribute was being tall enough to see, and consequently consume, the food I was stashing on the top shelf (where our short roommate couldn't see it.)

Rural

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Re: How much should one person spend on food per day on average?
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2013, 08:02:06 PM »

At the extreme level, I had a roommate ~25 years ago who ate on $1 per day, and he was 6'8" and played basketball in college (this was after college, but he was still pretty active.)  He was kind of an opportunistic food moocher, though, and seemed to get most of his protein from "phree phood" events.  His most annoying attribute was being tall enough to see, and consequently consume, the food I was stashing on the top shelf (where our short roommate couldn't see it.)

Yeesh. Saving money on food by stealing from other people is probably easy, but it's pretty sorry.

Edited to correct iPad correction.

Zamboni

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Re: How much should one person spend on food per day on average?
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2013, 08:57:02 PM »
^Yeah, he was also kind of an obnoxious "plate hoverer" too.  Of the "are you going to finish that chicken?" variety that really is only acceptable coming from one's own dad, and even then it's annoying.  He was quite likable other than this one aspect of his lifestyle.  Actually now that I think about it I had another roommate a few years later who was also a "plate hoverer" who often wouldn't even order food when he went out to eat with a group, he'd just attempt to dine only on the leftovers of others.  Seriously, dude, at least order a basket of fries or something because we can all see that you are hungry.

Despite my thriftiness, I try not to develop bad habits even remotely resembling this behavior.

cats

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Re: How much should one person spend on food per day on average?
« Reply #15 on: August 17, 2013, 10:34:03 PM »
We are 2 people, very active, early 30s, live in California.  Our average cost per meal, per person, is around $1.50 (our actual spending per day probably would look low b/c the boy gets a lot of meals for free at work).

In my opinion, we eat very very well for what we spend, but in terms of what in our budget is not hardcore mustachian, the grocery bill might be it.  For meat & eggs, we eat organic/free range/grass-fed almost exclusively (though we eat very little meat).  We also eat a lot of fresh produce, and while I do pay attention to the cost of it and buy the cheaper items (cabbage, carrots, whatever is in season--generally keep it all under $1/lb), it's certainly a bit pricier than some other things might be.  Finally, we get some fancy extras like almond milk, dark chocolate, olive oil, etc.  And I enjoy cooking as a bit of a hobby so we occasionally buy some more specialized ingredients if I'm trying out a new recipe.

In the past, I have been more hardcore and limited spending to about $30/week (for just myself).  It is okay if you like a fair amount of repetition (I could deal with it at the time).  For us right now, I'm okay with the fact that we spend a bit more because: 1) we hardly ever go out to eat (if I were serving up lentil soup every night the boyfriend would almost definitely revolt and demand more frequent dinners out), 2) we almost never throw food out, and 3) we are still able to save 70% or more of our income, because of the more frugal decisions we have made in other areas of life.  We live in a small apartment to keep rent low, share a single old and paid-off car, don't have cable or even netflix, opted for an ultra cheap $15/month internet plan, etc. 

To me, good food and a reasonable variety of it is worth spending some money on, if you have things under control otherwise (also, usually when I see people spending more than we do on food, there are other areas of their finances that are more obvious fruit to pick first.  I guess I think the attention paid to food costs often outweighs their importance in the overall budget picture).