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Financial Feud: Grocery Cost vs. Quality

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In Dispute:

$500 a month

The Argument:

Maura

I like buying a certain quality and variety of groceries, but my husband thinks I spend too much money. He’s says we shouldn’t pay more than we have to and $400 a month should be plenty. I say we managed to pay off all our student loans in a few years, even while spending up to $900 a month on food, so we can clearly afford to buy whatever we want now. AM I RIGHT?

Expert Opinion:

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Maura

The Argument:

My husband’s willing to pay a premium for food straight from the source (e.g. grass-fed beef from the farm up the street, vegetables from the farmer's market and eggs from our neighbor) but wants to spend as little as possible on other food items, such as canned goods. The difference for him is about markup. He says if you buy straight from the farmer, you know your money is going straight to the farmer. He doesn’t want to support a store that’s full of impulse buys.

I am less concerned about cost and would rather buy from smaller producers and stores, regardless of the markup. Plus, if we can afford it, why not get what we like? I don't go crazy with specialty items -- very rare "gourmet" purchases, no $20/pound cheese for me -- but he still thinks I’m being wasteful.

To prove his point, my husband conducted an experiment and took over our food shopping for a month. He went to Market Basket, a regional discount store, and was able to buy all our monthly groceries for $400. Now, he says we should use that as a benchmark. I know we can easily get by on $400 a month calorie-wise, but I don’t think it’s worth the sacrifice in variety and quality.

You both have good cases; you just have different preferences and priorities.  Why can’t you compromise and try shopping together for awhile and spending, say, $650 a month on your groceries (splitting the difference)?  This would make it more of a joint/team effort rather than a competition or argument between you two.

There may also be ways for you to prioritize which food “luxury” purchases are worth the most to you, while saving money your husband’s way on things that don’t matter as much to you.  Then you’ll both get what you really want, while understanding and appreciating the other’s perspective more. You’ll enjoy doing the shopping and eating together more too!

 

About the author

Diane Lim is a DC-area economist dedicated to wise, fiscally-responsible and socially-valuable public policies, and a mom dedicated to four great kids.
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