Our giant family grocery bill

But he was waiting to hear from friends who were planning to get together. 

Even when I added the extra temptation of getting burgers on the way (usually a slam dunk to get our kids to hang out with us), he still said no. Like many teens, he suffers from FOMO — fear of missing out. 

That left me alone with my FOGO — fear of grocery outings. 

It’s not just the bumper-car action in the Costco parking lot I’m afraid of (or the bumper-cart action in the Costco aisles). It’s the bumper crop of cash being harvested from my bank account.

Ever feel like you’re spending your kids’ future college tuitions just to keep them fed? 

Many a time I’ve walked out of Costco with bulging boxes and wondered how it can possibly cost this much to feed a family of four. 

Whether you stock up at a bulk food warehouse or make weekly trips to the grocery store or hit your neighborhood market nearly every day, grocery receipts add up quickly — more so than I ever would’ve guessed before I had kids.

Who else spends this much?

I started to wonder: Is it just our family? Are we spending way more than everyone else on food? 

So I did some quick research, and I found that, according to the latest report on consumer spending by the U.S. Department of Labor, families spent an average of $4,000 at the grocery store in 2014 (roughly $333 per month). 

However, because that average is for all “families” — including singles, roommates and people with 11 kids — as well as all incomes, it didn’t really tell me a whole lot about whether my family is spending way more or (or way less) than average.

It turns out there’s another food cost report (from the U.S. Department of Agriculture) that breaks it down a little more, showing the weekly and monthly costs for individuals and families. 

You can even see the difference in cost between a family of four with one 2- or 3-year-old and one 4- or 5-year-old and a family with one child age 6–8 and another age 9–11. Now that’s more helpful. 

And they break it down into price points — thrifty, low-cost, moderate or liberal. 

See the graphic on the next page to figure out where you fit in.

The cost of food at home

As helpful as the table is, it doesn’t acknowledge the elephant in the kitchen — well, actually you’ll find this particular elephant not in your kitchen, but at your family’s favorite restaurant or fast-food spot. 

That’s right: It’s the food we don’t buy at the grocery store that most often tanks our food budgets. 

So, if you’re looking at the numbers and realize that you have particularly low grocery bills, you might want to look at your eating-out receipts before patting yourself on the back. 

The cost of eating out

With a little more poking around online, I uncovered another interesting piece of data: Typically, it costs between $12 and $25 per person to eat dinner at low- to mid-range restaurant. 

Even if you score half-priced kids’ meals, that can be about 50 bucks for a non-extravagant meal out. 

Do that a couple times a week, and you can spend as much eating out as you do on groceries.  

It doesn’t take a math whiz to know that cutting out just a couple meals a month can have a big impact on a food budget. In the face of these numbers, my FOGO may be fading. 

I realize there’s a pretty good payoff to braving the grocery store and cooking at home — even before I factor in the bonus of scoring face time with the kids over a more nutritious meal than the burger joint offers.