Poll: What is Your Monthly Spending on Healthy Foods?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  96 comments   :  16,115 Views

I’m a pretty cost-conscious person. I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes, shoes, or other disposable income items. I balance my checkbook to the penny and make sure our credit cards are paid off at the end of each month. But one area where I tend to (or really, always) splurge is on food. I buy organic produce, try to buy products that have the smallest number of ingredients possible, and always end up with a grocery bill that shocks me a little in the checkout line.

A recent report from the Hartman Group called Reimagining Health and Wellness 2010, shows that consumers are continuing to spend more money on health and wellness products. According to an online poll of over 2,700 U.S. consumers, "the average household spends $148.48 a month– or 19 percent of all monthly spending – on categories that have a ‘wellness halo’. Those products could include foods with a short ingredients list, fortified foods, supplements, or those that are lower in cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fat, and salt."

I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I spend a lot more than average on these kinds of products. I’ll spend $6.99 on a 3-serving box of chicken nuggets at Whole Foods because my kids like them and they are as close to natural as a chicken nugget can get (without making them myself). I often wonder how much money I could save if I was a little more careful with my spending at the grocery store, and I’d bet it’s a lot. I think in my mind, I justify my spending because I’m so frugal in other areas of my life.

It is possible to eat healthy on a budget, and even to buy organic food on a budget. Sometimes it just takes time to find quality foods that won’t empty your wallet.

Are you careful with your spending at the grocery store? Do you spend more on health-related foods these days than you used to? Do you spend more or less than the average than the participants in this survey?

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  • 46
    I work at Whole Foods so I shop there nearly exclusively. Luckily, I did the health screen for a higher discount and ended up just barely missing platinum (30% discount.) I'm gold level and the new, bigger 27% discount certainly helps my grocery bill! Our store brand organics are super reasonably priced and I buy a lot of bulk items/spices, fresh and frozen produce and canned goods. Not a lot of processed stuff but I do get a package of Gardein vegan meats or veggie burgers/patties about once week. With the discount it averages to about a $1 a pattie, not bad. ;) - 9/14/2010   12:29:58 PM
  • 45
    I don't understand the vegans who said that it costs more to be vegan. Beans are so much cheaper than meat! Vegan "burgers", vegan "cheese", vegan "milks", etc. are expensive (and tasty), but certainly not essential. They can also be made at home for a fraction of the price.

    I eat vegan, and I cook vegetarian for DH and DD. We eat tons of fruits and veggies and it's almost entirely organic or local. We spend about 1/4 to 1/3 of everyone else I know in the area. I get whatever veggies are on sale, and keep an eye out for the stuff that's super healthy *and* super cheap, like kale. - 9/14/2010   12:20:22 PM
  • 44
    I haven't totally bought into the "organic" food craze, however, I try to buy as few ready made foods as possible. If I want fruit, I avoid juices and eat a piece of fruit in season.

    Junk food is out, extra salt is out, refined anything is out, white bread is out, pasta is out, white and red potatoes are out, all soft drinks are out. Brown rice is in, rye bread is in, fresh fruit and veggies in season are in, sweet potatoes with no dressing is in, water is in.

    As for the cost - I don't keep track to the penny. It costs what is costs, and I deal with it. - 9/14/2010   12:10:17 PM
    I do spend more on healthy foods now, buying more fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, chicken, etc. But I cook more including my lunch. I think the savings in lunch dollars compensates for the additional dollars I spend on healthy foods. Anyway, you can't put a price on being healthy:-) - 9/14/2010   11:42:25 AM
  • 42
    I spend about $300 a month on groceries for my husband and I but those groceries are also used to feed guests a couple evenings a week. Somethings I buy are organic, somethings are not but I consider most of what I buy to be healthy choices. I don't feel like I scrimp . . . I buy a lot of things that I could probably find a cheaper alternative for but for health and taste sake, I'll select a more expensive product. I agree with the poster who said that eating healthy on a budget is very possible if you buy 'ingredients' as opposed to finished products. - 9/14/2010   11:32:45 AM
  • 41
    One thing I've started to do is put the grocery receipt on the refrigerator - whenever something has to be thrown away, I mark that on the receipt and use that information to adjust my buying habits in order to save money in the future by not buying too much, or taking the time to cut my vegetables up as soon as I do the shopping and put them into portion sized baggies. - 9/14/2010   11:30:58 AM
  • 40
    I spend a LOT more on food now that I'm leading a healthy lifestyle. But it's totally worth it! - 9/14/2010   11:29:46 AM
  • 39
    I spend more at the store as well. I try to cut coupons, but they don't put out a lot of coupons for healthy foods. It's tough but I guess I see it as worth it if it means I'll eat healthier than spending less. But any hints on how to trim down the grocery bill would be great! - 9/14/2010   11:27:18 AM
  • 38
    For two adults, we budget $100/week. This covers food for breakfasts & packed lunches all week, and 4-5 home-cooked dinners each week. The other nights we either eat out or eat leftovers. We do all of our shopping at Whole Foods, the local food co-op, and farmers markets. During the summer we subscribe to a CSA for about $30/box of fresh produce each week. We used to budget $75/week but when we decided to commit to eating more at home and eating more organic/sustainable/whole foods, we decided to raise our budget and most weeks we stick with it. Even though the grocery bill is higher, the bills for eating out have reduced significantly, along with our waistlines! - 9/14/2010   11:20:32 AM
  • 37
    For 2 adults and a baby who has just started solid food I spend about $80 a week. I try to keep it under $75 but this rarely happens. I can easily spend $30 on fresh produce. And WE NEVER eat boxed/processed foods. I cook everything the "hard" old fashion way except oatmeal I like the instant but in the morning with a young baby sometimes I dont have time for cooking. This $80 budget also includes things like diapers and dish soap. So I guess Im doing good. I thought it was terribly high unti I read some of the other responses. - 9/14/2010   11:09:29 AM
  • 36
    PS: I also have a lot of issues freezing things. I also always end up with freezer burn and things that taste like the freezer. Is there an article or web sight i can go to to get advise on how to freeze better? I have even tried wrapping in saran wrap then foil and it still doesnt taste "fresh". Please send info to my sparkpage if you have any thanks :) - 9/14/2010   11:09:00 AM
  • 35
    Food is a huge item in the monthly budget. For just my husband and I, we budget $800 a month (booze is included in that total). I can feel good about almost everything that we buy. We go to the local farmer's market each week to stock up on veggies and eggs and get most of the rest at Whole Foods. I know we could save a lot of money by shopping for conventional instead of organic items, but I feel strongly about our money supporting humane treatment of animals and ecologically responsible farming practices. - 9/14/2010   11:08:22 AM
  • 34
    I do spend more on food than I use to. But I am going to try something different. I am using my crock pot more often to make soups, chili's and stews so I can make more and freeze the rest for another time. I think that will save me some money. But I don't mind spending a little more as I am healthier for it. - 9/14/2010   11:05:13 AM
  • 33
    For me and my husband, we spend around $100 per week on groceries. We get all our groceries from Whole Foods and buy about 90% organic. It is expensive, and lately I've been trying to come up with ways to cut this down a little bit. Although I still think that buying groceries should be an investement in our health. If I had to cut back on something, I would look to other expenses first. - 9/14/2010   10:55:32 AM
  • 32
    I rarely spend my grocery bill all in one place- and it tends to be spread across the week. At Safeway, I pick and choose between organic and not (for some things, organic is a lot safer, for others, it matters very little). I grow my own herbs on a windowsill in my kitchen (and the BEST cherry tomatoes I've ever had!), so that cuts down on some of the extras. I mainly buy fruit, veggies, and yogurt at the store. I keep a big tub full of individually bagged out brown rice, black beans, kidney beans, etc which only gets replenished every other month or so. I still eat out once or twice a week- but even then, my bill is less since that order now lasts me 4x as long. An order of aloo ghobi and palek paneer used to last me two days, now it lasts 4.. and I sometimes need to ask for help from the roommate. My biggest expense at the store is fresh fish and chicken.. which has become more rare since it makes me so long to eat what I buy. On the plus side, not having all the processed foods in the house means it's easier to avoid overdosing on sodium. Eating mindfully is catching on with me :) - 9/14/2010   10:18:32 AM
  • 31
    I spend on average $350/month for groceries for two adults, which includes breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks for 6 days a week and it's all organic, too. I don't think that's too bad. I see it as investing in my health and voting with my fork. - 9/14/2010   10:05:09 AM
  • 30
    I try to be very frugal with our budget. I buy in bulk, freeze and can a lot myself. I try to balance budget and health very carefully. I won't buy something that touts itself to be "healthy" but is extremely over priced. Instead, I will pick it up carry it over to it's generic competition and see how they stack up. I will then make a choice of the two, or decide if it is something I really need or can pass up for now. I am trying to feed our family of 3 on $70 or less a week and be as healthy and unprocessed as possible. - 9/14/2010   9:59:31 AM
  • 29
    I've found that since I started SparkPeople I've actually saved money by eating healthy vs eating out. You can get so much more bang for your buck by shopping for meals at the store instead of a drive thru. I think the key is finding the best place in your area to purchase fresh produce, water, other items. Sometimes it may be more than one store, but once you find that combo it will become routine. - 9/14/2010   9:48:01 AM
  • 28
    My grocery bills can be atrocious. My husband has a coronary every time I shop for my food. I am vegan, which ultimately can cost more when you start buying the non-meat and specialty items, but then when you fill the cart with really healthy foods, it really tips the scale. For the two of us we probably spend a minimum of $120 a week & that is only on necessities. Take me to Wegmans and I will come out with nothing under $200. I wish you could truly eat really healthy for less. - 9/14/2010   9:46:40 AM
  • 27
    Most of what we buy now is all basic foods. Flour, Flaxseed, Eggs, Milk, veggies, fruits. Our monthly bill is usually about 400 or so. Sometimes more if we're running out of meat in our big chest freezer. It's so much cheaper to eat clean as you buy a whole lot less of the useless stuff! - 9/14/2010   9:42:24 AM
  • 26
    I have cut down tremendously on my food bill by only buying what's on my list. I sometimes make an exception when things are on sale and I know they will last or get eaten. I do tend to buy healthier food. On the flip side, my husband probably spends twice as much as I do because he buys mainly organic. I often wonder if it makes that much of a difference. - 9/14/2010   9:27:18 AM
  • 25
    Like you I prefer to eat organic foods and make healthy choices when choosing foods. I know the cost is higher and I am not sure why. I don't actually count the difference because I want the organic foods, no matter what and like you, will cut in other areas to make sure we can eat healthy. - 9/14/2010   9:22:41 AM
    Overall, I'm saving money buying organic and healthy foods. With the big long list of what my doctors think I should avoid, I'm finding very little processed and resturant foods that I can eat. That means, I'm making things from scratch. $5.00 of baking goods makes a dozen $1.50 muffins. - 9/14/2010   9:18:39 AM
  • 23
    We spend about $135 per week on food for 3. We shop at Central Market and I'm finding more and more organic veggies and fruits that I can afford. The meat is fresher here so I believe it is worth the money. - 9/14/2010   9:07:14 AM
  • 22
    Hmm, I've never kept track of how much I spend on healthy food but I do look for bargains when shopping and I go to market farms for fresh produce. When we want a sweet, it is cheaper to bake my own rather than to buy. Lots of ways to cut down that leaves more money to purchase all our healthy food. - 9/14/2010   9:06:47 AM
  • DIANE2110
    Yes, we buy more healthy food these days mostly because we can now afford it since we have passed the early poverty stages of our lives and the kids left home to start their own lives. But we still shop weekly special and stock up on deals we just can't pass. - 9/14/2010   8:56:30 AM
  • 20
    I'm usually a very careful shopper. When possible, I try to buy what's on sale as well as use coupons. I hate paying full price. So, I try to stretch my dollar whenever I can.

    Now, I will pay extra for better quality food. Example, I do tend to spend quite a bit of money when I shop for veggies at the farmer's market. I've paid $3-$4 a pound for heirloom tomatoes. And I'll buy 2 pounds at a time. that's just tomatoes. figure in organic lettuce, cukes, etc... and I can easily drop $15 just in veggies.

    While trips to the farmer's market can add up. I consider it worthwhile because I'm buying high quality veggies. I find the veggies at my local supermarket to be seriously lacking in quality. They're asking insane prices for poor quality food. If I'm going to pay extra, then I'm going to support my local farmers instead. At least I know where the food comes from.

    As far as my overall costs, I'm lower than the average.

    - 9/14/2010   8:42:55 AM
  • 19
    We spend 600 or more on food per month and try to buy very healthy, without getting organic. I did try one month but we just CAN'T afford it. I have one adult and 2 teen boys in my family. - 9/14/2010   8:39:53 AM
  • 18
    Every year my husband establishes a budget for major expenses, including (car) gas, housing, utilities, services, and groceries. So we always try to stay within our grocery budget. That being said, we spend about the quoted average, and that's a lot of money for us. The visit to farmers market alone is usually $60-$80 depending on whether or not we buy two servings of fish. After that, we usually hit up a few more stores for spices, lean meat (usually chicken breast), and other foods (e.g. milk, yogurt, cereal). I've cut corners where I can: browsing the weekly grocery ads for deals, looking for coupons, baking our own breads, cooking more and buying less prepared foods, etc. But food expenses still cause anxiety. And that's not even covering other expenses like shampoo or laundry detergent! - 9/14/2010   8:38:27 AM
    I've never really broken my grocery shopping down like this - I try to buy all healthy food and spend about $ 400 a month for my family of 2.5 (my daughter buys some of her own food). I must admit I'm not very organized with money. I put some into savings from each pay cheque but other than that I spend it; just trying not to go overboard on things. - 9/14/2010   8:29:43 AM
    I think a lot of you are misinterpreting what the article says:

    "the average household spends $148.48 a month– or 19 percent of all monthly spending – on categories that have a ‘wellness halo’.

    It's not saying that ALL the family spends on foods is 148.48 per month. It's saying this is what they spend on healthy food. As it is an AVERAGE it's also taking into account people who DON'T spend much on health foods. So there could be 300 dorm room collage goers who spend their money on nothing but pizza and beer and then those families who spend $500 on organic or unprocessed foods. It's an AVERAGE of WELLNESS HALO foods...not alllllll their groceries. And when I say wellness halo I mean organic vegetables, supplements...etc.

    My family spends about $300 on so called WELLNESS HALO foods. The other $400 is probably not under this umbrella. Canned soup, ready made pizza, juices, most ready made lunch snacks, beef and pork, cream salad dressings are not on my healthy food list, however my daughter and husband LOVE these foods.
    A lot of us should probably take a look at what we are buying and try to put it in a WELLNESS HALO category or not. Pretty much if it isn't made from scratch it does not fit in this category. - 9/14/2010   8:24:29 AM
  • 15
    I agree with the 148.48 not being reasonable, but DID do 19% of our monthly income and THAT does come to about what we spend on groceries per month. About $600 or so per month. We are a family of 5 with 2 adults and 3 young children. - 9/14/2010   8:22:21 AM
  • 14
    I spend more on health food then $148.88 and still do not buy organic - 9/14/2010   8:03:05 AM
    "the average household spends $148.48 a month– or 19 percent of all monthly spending – on categories that have a ‘wellness halo’." Get real! For just my husband and myself we still spend that amount and more every 2 weeks! Guess I am off to read the "eat healthy on a Budget" article!

    - 9/14/2010   7:50:01 AM
  • 12
    We do not spend much on items that would fit under the wellness halo (weird term). As vegans our food bill is already crazy high (unsubsidized veggies cost more than subsidized animal products) making a lot of the organic products luxury items that we purchase only at special times. - 9/14/2010   7:46:28 AM
  • 11
    I try to be fairly frugal, but I know I spend a lot more to buy healthy, lower calorie, fresh fruits and vegetables, and more natural foods. I also buy pre-packaged snack and nutrition bars because I like them and they help me stay on track calorie-wise. I feel that buying, and eating, better foods is a great investment in our health and well-being, so it is truly worth the extra money. I know we will save on health care costs in the future, as well as GAIN a lot of value in our feeling of well-being, the ability to be active, and ultimately when we get old (!) being better able to care for ourselves and remain independent.

    While it is harder to calculate the future value of a healthier life as compared to the grocery bill in your hand, I try to look at the VALUE of what we buy, not just the cost. - 9/14/2010   7:42:16 AM
  • 10
    Add me to the folks who don't understand how a family can feeed itself on $148 a month!! The two of us spend about $75-100 a week at the grocery store. Most of it is food, but I'm usually buying toothpaste, soap, body wash, etc. there too. I use coupons, buy store brands, and buy things on sale, but even with buying whole foods and not much prepackaged stuff, I spend quite a bit. I pack my breakfast and lunch, and we try to cook dinner almost every night.

    I'd love to hear what the average family buys for $148 a month!!! - 9/14/2010   7:36:39 AM
    I find shopping online is the best way to budget what you spend, you can see how much it costs and then you get the opportunity to check if you actually need everything you put in your basket - 9 times out of 10 I don't! It not only helps the budget but the waistline because the cakes, biscuits and chips are usually the first to go when it's more than I want to spend. - 9/14/2010   7:26:47 AM
  • 8
    My answer to this dilemma is to grow my own organic vegetables. I think just about everyone could find a place to plant a garden if I can do it in the middle of the District of Columbia. I have a plot in a Victory Garden that only costs 25$ per year. It is a real gift for me... I get my exercise, my dose of the outdoors and organic vegetables all at the same time. I'm single but it seems that a garden would be a great family project. Start by choosing a small sunny location you could use for a garden. This winter research what and when you can plant in your area, buy your seeds online, and start planting your tomatoes indoors in March. Give it a try - you might get hooked on organic gardening like me. - 9/14/2010   7:18:29 AM
    I am a single mom to one child who has an insane appetite (no really, I understand the term "eats me out of the house" now, ha ha!) I will admit, a lot of the reason that I don't grocery shop as healthy as I should, is because of the cost. I made a grocery list for 1 week for the foods in my diet plan, and healthy snacks and all that stuff for my 6 yr. old. My bill was outrageous. I am going to go read the "eat healthy on a budget" section now :) - 9/14/2010   6:57:00 AM
  • 6
    I can't imagine what version of "healthy eating" a family can do on $148 a month. We are 3 adults eating some organic as we are able, mostly fresh, almost no packaged foods, and spend more than that in a week. - 9/14/2010   6:44:19 AM
  • 5
    This is something my husband and I argue about. He says eatting healthy cost too much. We used to be able to spend $50 a week buying food now it cost me around $120 to get eat healthy proper meals. Thats a big change but I am loving the results! - 9/14/2010   6:38:09 AM
  • 4
    My house consists of 3 children under 18 and 5 adults. we spend on average about 650.00 a month on groceries and thats no junk food. we all eat healthy but we shop wisely. - 9/14/2010   6:34:53 AM
  • 3
    I try to plan meals around sales, buy store brands, etc. but my weekly grocery bill still comes to approximately $150 for 2 adults + 1 baby. I consider it the cost of being healthy, which is well worth the money! - 9/14/2010   6:21:48 AM
  • 2
    "the average household spends $148.48 a month– or 19 percent of all monthly spending – on categories that have a ‘wellness halo’ - REALLY???
    In my household theres me, my BF and my 22 month old son. We do our best to stick to organic and non-gmo foods and spend no less than $500 a month on groceries!!!
    - 9/14/2010   6:15:52 AM
  • 1
    Our family tends to be frugal about most things (e.g.: every year it's a "contest" to see how long we can put off turning on the heat for winter), but we still manage to buy organic and low-processed / non-GMO food even on a budget. We figure that what we put into our bodies directly affects our long-term health and ultimate quality of life, and so we care about minimizing our pesticide exposure and such.

    I suppose it helps that we live in a state that produces a lot of the vegetable / fruit produce that gets shipped around the country, so even organic produce is perhaps a bit cheaper for the residents here...

    If one is willing and able to take the time to cook or bake, we find it is usually cheaper to buy "ingredients" instead of "finished products".

    My guess it is is costlier in the long run (medically!) to eat UNhealthily. - 9/14/2010   6:13:21 AM

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