Author Topic: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting  (Read 13613 times)

knince

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USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« on: August 09, 2013, 07:53:04 AM »
And they wonder why people in the United States are becoming obese... I don't think I could eat $181.80 worth of food in one month unless I converted to an all organic high protein diet. Even then... I'm not sure. I would be really full. And I consider myself to be a fairly hungry person.

http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2013/CostofFoodApr2013.pdf

"Thrifty"? Really?

Zikoris

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2013, 08:05:34 AM »
Dear god, $378.50 for a couple? We were spending that much once... when we had fully organic, locally grown groceries hand delivered weekly into our apartment kitchen!

NumberCruncher

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2013, 08:18:23 AM »
Dear god, $378.50 for a couple? We were spending that much once... when we had fully organic, locally grown groceries hand delivered weekly into our apartment kitchen!

Not only that, but it's more expensive than eating separately?  181.80+162.30 < 378.50 ... maybe they figure you eat out more when you're single?

I've been amazed at how our grocery expenses have gone down the more we focus on fresh veggies and preparing everything ourselves.  Guessing we could get by on about $200/mo fairly easily, but it's usually more like  $300 since we spoil ourselves.

nofool

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2013, 01:18:27 PM »
Maybe I need a face punch or something, but $162.30/mo seems like a thrifty amount for me (single female). My grocery budget is normally around $200/mo, but I think if I cut out extras it could be $150/mo. Maybe COL has something to do with it? I do live in San Francisco.

oldtoyota

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2013, 01:49:43 PM »
I struggle to keep it at $425 for mostly food. I buy very few house cleaning products, makeup, napkins, etc and still find it hard to get lower than $425.

NumberJohnny5

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2013, 03:26:04 PM »
Family of four here, and we're spending $80/wk, or $347/mo. We are in Australia currently, so the prices won't line up exactly, but it's close enough (many say that groceries are much more expensive here, but I haven't found that to be the case).

This figure does include non-food items too (shampoo, toilet paper, laundry detergent...almost anything bought at a grocery store).

DougStache

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2013, 05:00:37 PM »
Damn, we already qualify as thrifty and I haven't even tried to cut down our grocery bill at all.  We eat meat for almost every meal.  I feel like I'd have to eat steak several times a week to even qualify as "moderate". 

What is liberal? Refusing to cook a single meal for yourselves?

Zikoris

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2013, 08:22:59 PM »
Quote
I struggle to keep it at $425 for mostly food. I buy very few house cleaning products, makeup, napkins, etc and still find it hard to get lower than $425.

For a family of 4+, I hope? Not bad for a family, I guess.

kimmarg

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2013, 06:10:50 AM »
Maybe I need a face punch or something, but $162.30/mo seems like a thrifty amount for me (single female). My grocery budget is normally around $200/mo, but I think if I cut out extras it could be $150/mo. Maybe COL has something to do with it? I do live in San Francisco.

I think it depends a ton where you live. In my former location buying food at costco and a food coop I easily undercut this without much thought. I have since moved to a location where food is about 25-30% higher (no costco either). I can still make the thrifty number, but it takes much more work.    I use this number as my food budget.  I find it makes for a nice balance between being conscientious and getting a few splurges. I love to cook, so a few added dollars on my food budget over rock-bottom for a new ingredient to try add a lot of pleasure to my life.

Nudelkopf

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2013, 04:45:15 PM »
Maybe I need a face punch or something, but $162.30/mo seems like a thrifty amount for me (single female). My grocery budget is normally around $200/mo, but I think if I cut out extras it could be $150/mo. Maybe COL has something to do with it? I do live in San Francisco.
Yeah, I'm in rural Australia and spend about $60/week (single, 22yo) which would put me somewhere between Moderate Cost & Liberal. That's fairly low (but not thrifty) here, I reckon. 

kkbmustang

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2013, 11:30:58 PM »
I'm feeling pretty good now. After beating myself up over our $600/mo grocery bill (including paper products, cleaning supplies and dog food) we are apparently kicking ass.  And buying grass fed beef and organic meats and gluten free out the wazoo.

$632.20 is the thrifty plan for 2 adults and 2 kids between 8 and 10.

$826.60 for the low cost plan, $1033.70 for moderate and $1252 for liberal.

Um, just wow.

cats

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2013, 12:04:50 AM »
I guess I wonder what they think a "thrifty" person/couple/family is buying. 

I can't really do an exact comparison on our spending b/c my partner gets about half his meals at work. We average about $200/month, I suspect if he were to eat entirely at home we would be over $300.

We eat a lot of fresh produce, and although we don't eat much meat, we only buy organic/grass fed/most sustainable source possible.  And we eat plenty of nuts, olive oil, chocolate, almond milk, random specialty ingredients, etc.  I also include booze in our grocery spending, though we do separate out household supplies like soap, paper towels, TP, etc.

In the past I have fed myself on $35/week (about the level of a single female "thrifty" plan) and did not have access to either costco or the crazy cheap produce market we have here, just regular run of the mill grocery stores.  I was eating a reasonably healthy diet, but it was not especially luxurious or varied.  So I could see that these estimates are "thrifty" for people who may not have access to anything other than, say, safeway.  Paradoxically, you kind of have to have some money/resources to be able to save money on food: you need to be able to get to or live near good options, and you often need to have a lump sum of money available to spend on buying higher price items in bulk. i.e., even though our spending averages $200, some months it is more like $350 because we stock up on a lot of items in a big trip to Costco.  For us, that's no big deal, because we have the money and we know that it will balance out over time and save us money in the long run.  But if we were living paycheck to paycheck there's no way we'd be able to afford that kind of stock up, so we'd be stuck buying food in smaller but more expensive quantities.

ThatsMyOtter

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2013, 11:10:11 AM »
We average $50/ week (usd) for two adults and a cat. We eat mostly vegetarian. When I was only feeding myself (before we got married) I averaged $21.

dorothyc

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2013, 12:24:30 PM »
I guess I wonder what they think a "thrifty" person/couple/family is buying. 

I can't really do an exact comparison on our spending b/c my partner gets about half his meals at work. We average about $200/month, I suspect if he were to eat entirely at home we would be over $300.


The basis for the food purchases is here:
http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/MiscPubs/FoodPlans2007AdminReport.pdf

I think the moderate cost food plan is reasonable, given that it covers the cost of ALL food consumed by the family in a week - this is a food cost outline, not the breakdown of what is spent on at home food only. I mean restaurant and food eaten on the go would not be on top of these expenditures.

We are a family of four adults, and I also buy food for entertaining, and we don't eat factory meat, eggs or fluid milk - mostly vegan diet with a little cheese, yoghurt or fish and I spend around $900 a month. This is in Southern California where food prices are around 25% higher. We also eat organic where possible and don't buy foods containing high fructose corn syrup or trans fats.

Peanut Butter

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2013, 03:00:26 PM »
Paradoxically, you kind of have to have some money/resources to be able to save money on food: you need to be able to get to or live near good options, and you often need to have a lump sum of money available to spend on buying higher price items in bulk

You also have to have space. There's no way I could manage to fit Costco quantities of my staples and dry goods in my apartment. I'm lucky that my mom has a membership and she's willing to split some of that stuff with me.

Zikoris

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #15 on: August 11, 2013, 03:26:07 PM »
Quote
You also have to have space. There's no way I could manage to fit Costco quantities of my staples and dry goods in my apartment. I'm lucky that my mom has a membership and she's willing to split some of that stuff with me.

How big is your apartment? My last apartment was a 250-300sqf bachelor suite shared with my boyfriend, and while we didn't do Costco a the time(none close by), we bought a lot of bulk items. Now we're in a 591sqf place and use Costco quite a bit for cases of soy milk, 20lb sacks of flour/rice/sugar, etc.

Peanut Butter

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #16 on: August 11, 2013, 04:27:04 PM »
It's about 400sf, there's only 3 cupboards. The closet is one of the largest I've ever had, but the opening to get into it is only about 10" wide. The complex was built in the 60s, I think the designers were doing way too many Quaaludes. I mean, I could get ride of my futon and sleep on sacks of flour, but I'm not that Mustachian yet.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2013, 04:30:00 PM by Peanut Butter »

D-T

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #17 on: August 11, 2013, 07:54:42 PM »
I guess I don't find $180pp excessive, my husband and I spend about that much and we don't eat organic. We're in line with the thrifty plan. I couldn't imagine spending in line the liberal plan for two adults at $750.

mpbaker22

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #18 on: August 12, 2013, 11:22:32 AM »
I wonder how they came up with the pounds/week for each age group.  Granted I'm more active than most, but 1 pound of pasta lasts me a day or two, not a week.  And how does one consume 13 pounds of skim milk and yogurt in a week?  2 pounds per day?

Peanut Butter

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #19 on: August 12, 2013, 12:59:43 PM »
how does one consume 13 pounds of skim milk (...) in a week?  2 pounds per day?

@2:43
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBc9wZkto1I&list=UUduKuJToxWPizJ7I2E6n1kA

(nsfw language)
« Last Edit: August 12, 2013, 01:10:57 PM by Peanut Butter »

Dr.Vibrissae

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #20 on: August 13, 2013, 10:18:56 AM »
And how does one consume 13 pounds of skim milk and yogurt in a week?  2 pounds per day?

I think I could do it if I weren't cheap.  But I like to drink milk straight up and could easily polish off a gallon (8.4lbs) in a week if I let myself.  Add a daily cup of Greek yogurt (270g or .59lb per cup) and you're there.

ace1224

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #21 on: August 13, 2013, 10:30:41 AM »
And how does one consume 13 pounds of skim milk and yogurt in a week?  2 pounds per day?

I think I could do it if I weren't cheap.  But I like to drink milk straight up and could easily polish off a gallon (8.4lbs) in a week if I let myself.  Add a daily cup of Greek yogurt (270g or .59lb per cup) and you're there.
my son drinks a gallon a week himself. and that is with me refusing him milk often.  he loves that stuff.

The_Captain

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #22 on: August 13, 2013, 10:51:43 AM »
I dunno, me and my girlfriend manage to spend about $400 a month on groceries. We definitely do eat a lot of meat, and I drink milk like it's water. Which in Canada can be kind of expensive because of silly protectionist supply management stuff around dairy. I try and cut costs out lots of places, but giving up Milk + meat is a no-go for me. It's an expensive trade-off I'm willing to make.

mpbaker22

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #23 on: August 13, 2013, 12:03:34 PM »
And how does one consume 13 pounds of skim milk and yogurt in a week?  2 pounds per day?

I think I could do it if I weren't cheap.  But I like to drink milk straight up and could easily polish off a gallon (8.4lbs) in a week if I let myself.  Add a daily cup of Greek yogurt (270g or .59lb per cup) and you're there.
my son drinks a gallon a week himself. and that is with me refusing him milk often.  he loves that stuff.

Hmm ... I didn't realize a gallon weighed so much.
I probably drink 1/2 a gallon a week, but I used to drink a lot more.  I guess I could see the 13 pound estimate being reasonable now.

Albert

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #24 on: August 13, 2013, 01:53:42 PM »
Compared to most of the other stuff posted here or elsewhere this one doesn't seem particularly bad.

psu256

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #25 on: August 13, 2013, 01:57:06 PM »
And if you read the reports, the foods listed therein have to meet 100% of the USDA dietary guidelines for all nutrients. I'm sure they are including some more expensive items in order to do so. And the cynic in me says that those aren't always chosen to help the general public, sometimes they are chosen to help farmers.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2013, 01:58:49 PM by psu256 »

mpbaker22

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #26 on: August 13, 2013, 05:29:15 PM »
Compared to most of the other stuff posted here or elsewhere this one doesn't seem particularly bad.

psu256 may have a point, but remember these are the numbers used for government benefits for food stamps (SNAP) and maybe other programs.  Missouri's benefit calculator shows that SNAP will give recipients up to $200.  I think that's the real point to be made.  Seems like an extreme benefit for a program that is supposed to provide for survival.

AJ

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #27 on: August 13, 2013, 06:52:10 PM »
I mean restaurant and food eaten on the go would not be on top of these expenditures.

I'm not sure that's accurate. The first paragraph in the report says "In line with previous food plans, an assumption used to develop these plans was that all purchased food is consumed at home."

And if you read the reports, the foods listed therein have to meet 100% of the USDA dietary guidelines for all nutrients.

Interestingly, that isn't totally true. From the report (emphasis mine):

"For each age-gender group, the market baskets of the three food plans meet all dietary
standards with the exception of vitamin E, potassium, and sodium. However, for all three
food plans, the market baskets for all age-gender groups contain more vitamin E and
potassium than generally is consumed. It was not possible for any of the market baskets
to meet the sodium guideline, so sodium was limited to no more than median consumption
for each age-gender group in the sample. To meet the recommendations for vitamin E,
potassium, and sodium would have resulted in market baskets that are very different from
typical consumption
(in the case of vitamin E and potassium) or would require changes in
food-manufacturing practices (in the case of sodium)."

Basically, the average American eats so unhealthy that making the plans reflect a 100% dietary guidelines would have made the food plans so drastically different than what people really eat so as to be useless. Sad but interesting...

smalllife

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #28 on: August 13, 2013, 06:54:55 PM »
I feel like I have some fat to cut in the grocery department after looking at those numbers again, although part of me wonders how much has been stocking up the pantry (moved out <1 yr ago and only using those numbers to find my average) and lazy budgeting with the grocery store receipts.  I am at the "thrifty" level in grocery spending, but go up to "moderate" if I include social food/drinks.  If I had to I could definitely do well under $162/month but I am enjoying expanding my cooking skills and consider that money well spent. 

psu256

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #29 on: August 13, 2013, 07:40:40 PM »
I mean restaurant and food eaten on the go would not be on top of these expenditures.

I'm not sure that's accurate. The first paragraph in the report says "In line with previous food plans, an assumption used to develop these plans was that all purchased food is consumed at home."

And if you read the reports, the foods listed therein have to meet 100% of the USDA dietary guidelines for all nutrients.

Interestingly, that isn't totally true. From the report (emphasis mine):

"For each age-gender group, the market baskets of the three food plans meet all dietary
standards with the exception of vitamin E, potassium, and sodium. However, for all three
food plans, the market baskets for all age-gender groups contain more vitamin E and
potassium than generally is consumed. It was not possible for any of the market baskets
to meet the sodium guideline, so sodium was limited to no more than median consumption
for each age-gender group in the sample. To meet the recommendations for vitamin E,
potassium, and sodium would have resulted in market baskets that are very different from
typical consumption
(in the case of vitamin E and potassium) or would require changes in
food-manufacturing practices (in the case of sodium)."

Basically, the average American eats so unhealthy that making the plans reflect a 100% dietary guidelines would have made the food plans so drastically different than what people really eat so as to be useless. Sad but interesting...

I admit I didn't read all the front matter very closely :-)

Quote
It was not possible for most market baskets to meet the RDA for vitamin E nor the AI for
potassium; a solution could not be obtained. Hence, these dietary constraints were relaxed
in the models. For vitamin E, the individual market baskets met 63 percent or more of the
recommendation and for potassium, 70 percent or more of the recommendation; however,
the market baskets are higher than current consumption for both nutrients.

I also have to say, I am lactose intolerant and so never buy milk. I do however have some yogurt, since the yogurt culture eats a lot of the lactose and I seem to be able to handle that. So, using this handy converter - http://www.traditionaloven.com/conversions_of_measures/yogurt_converter.html - it says that 11.31 lbs of yogurt is about 21 cups. So, I'd have to eat 3 cups of yogurt every day. Yeah, right. :)

dragoncar

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #30 on: August 14, 2013, 01:08:58 AM »
I struggle to keep it at $425 for mostly food. I buy very few house cleaning products, makeup, napkins, etc and still find it hard to get lower than $425.

But you could eat out twice a day for that much.

dorothyc

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #31 on: August 15, 2013, 01:51:36 PM »
I mean restaurant and food eaten on the go would not be on top of these expenditures.

I'm not sure that's accurate. The first paragraph in the report says "In line with previous food plans, an assumption used to develop these plans was that all purchased food is consumed at home."

I didn't express myself clearly - I was trying to say that it is the cost of all food for the week - previous replies in the thread didn't seem to be taking that into account

bo_knows

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #32 on: August 15, 2013, 05:55:34 PM »
I think that there is a decent regional difference in food prices.

I don't think that I need a face punch, because I value the types of foods that I specifically buy, but my wife and I (plus a 1yr old) spend roughly $800/mo on groceries.  Granted, we eat mostly organic meats, often buy alcohol at the grocery store, and I'm a major carnivore (weightlifter, never cared for protein powder, no matter how cheap it is).  I don't think we're extravagant, but we don't hardly eat any cheap grains (pasta, rice, bread).

Again, I also think there is a pretty big regional difference in prices. But, who knows.

sol

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #33 on: August 20, 2013, 10:57:14 AM »
For perspective, keep in mind that the USDA both regulates and promotes US agricultural interests, so their numbers skew high.

They're a producer's organization.  In addition to ensuring food safety and continuity of supply, their mission explicitly states that they try to promote US agricultural business interests by helping market specific foods.  So when they say you "should" spend $600/month on groceries or "should" eat 10 ounces of beef per day, it's kind of like DeBeers saying you "should" spend two months salary on an engagement ring.

mpbaker22

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #34 on: August 20, 2013, 11:30:03 AM »
For perspective, keep in mind that the USDA both regulates and promotes US agricultural interests, so their numbers skew high.

They're a producer's organization.  In addition to ensuring food safety and continuity of supply, their mission explicitly states that they try to promote US agricultural business interests by helping market specific foods.  So when they say you "should" spend $600/month on groceries or "should" eat 10 ounces of beef per day, it's kind of like DeBeers saying you "should" spend two months salary on an engagement ring.

And we use the USDAs documents to determine food stamp payouts.  That actually explains quite a bit.

sol

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Re: USDA "Thrifty plan" for Food Budgeting
« Reply #35 on: August 20, 2013, 11:49:43 AM »
And we use the USDAs documents to determine food stamp payouts.  That actually explains quite a bit.

Yes.  Every once in a while, the world is actually less complicated than it seems.