Consumer Math: What is an acceptable food budget?

Since before the beginning of the new year I have been thinking, no obsessing over what is an acceptable food budget for our family.  We have now been a family of 8 for a little over 3 months.  We have a mommy, a daddy, two teenage girls, 1 preteen boy, 2 preteen girls, a preschooler and a dog. 

The US Department of Agriculture says that on a "thrifty plan" should expect to spend around $1200 per month.  That figure was determined by the 2009 chart and I know prices have risen since then.  Umm, that's a second mortgage people!  And there is no way on two teacher salaries we can afford that!

Most people have no idea what they spend on food per month but I would guess from talking with people and teaching couponing classes that the average family spends about as much on food as they do their house payment.  The reason more people aren't appalled by the amount they spend on food is because they don't have to write out one check per month for it.  A quick trip to the grocery store here, run into Walmart there, McDonalds drive-thru once or twice per week. . . it all adds up to big money.

I would like to aim for half of the USDA recommendation or $600 per month.  Just figuring $1 per meal for 8 people for 30 days equals $720 so $600 is going to be quite a challenge.  I don't know if I can do it but I'm going to try.

Here's what I'm counting:
grocery shopping
fast food
dining out
health and beauty products
paper products
dog food and treats

Here's what I'm not counting as "spending" money:
Gift cards I'm given or earn through rebates or rewards
Extra Care Bucks spent at CVS
Register Rewards spent at Walgreens
Birthday Parties or other parties since it is part of that specific budget

I hope to update my spending totals each week and then monthly to see how close I can get to the $600 mark!

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