Fri. Apr 19th, 2024
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Spending money on food is nonnegotiable; we have to eat. And chances are you eat most of your meals at home.

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On average, groceries cost between $290 and $548 per month for one person. However, expenses can vary depending on location, dietary choices and personal spending habits.

If you don’t budget for groceries and instead just buy what you need — and want — at intervals throughout the month, you could be overspending. To help you sort it all out, here are the facts about the average cost of groceries each month in the U.S. and ways to determine how much you should be spending.

The Average Cost of Groceries Per Month

What does the average U.S. household spend on groceries per month? According to 2022 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is the most recent available, the average spending on food at home is $5,703 annually, or about $475 per month for U.S. households. That amount represents an 8.4% increase from 2021.

The figure also varies depending on the type of food each household buys, the amount consumed, the prices for groceries where you shop and whether you use one of the grocery delivery services that charge additional fees.

Higher-Income Earners Spend More on Groceries

How much you make will also determine how much you spend each month on groceries.

Unsurprisingly, a higher income rolls out a smorgasbord of options. For example, people with higher incomes can afford to pay more for organic produce, prepared foods and gourmet items.

Low income, however, not only comes with a need to make every penny count to stretch the food budget, but it can also influence overall choices. According to a 2019 study published in BMC Public Health, lower-income households purchase fewer healthy foods like vegetables and dairy than households with a higher income.

Low-income households also pay more for the food they buy. A tighter budget puts money-saving bulk purchases out of reach, for example. Those households also shop online less frequently, and they have less access to large grocery stores with competitive pricing, according to Progressive Grocer. This can lead to food insecurity, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as a limited choice of safe, nutritionally adequate foods and/or inadequate access to these foods. In 2022, 17.9% of U.S. households were food insecure (12.8%) or had very low food security (5.1%).

How Much Should I Be Spending on Groceries Per Month?

To determine how much you should be spending on groceries each month, consider the food plans created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which detail monthly at-home food costs for January 2024, depending on four spending levels: thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost and liberal.

These plans can help you estimate a monthly grocery budget based on the size of your household and what type of budget you’re working with.

Spending Plan for Each Family Member

Below, you’ll find the breakdown for a single person, a family of two and a family of four. The figures are based on a four-person household and adjusted according to USDA guidelines for other household sizes. Larger families generally pay less per person due to economies of scale.

  • One-person household: Add 20%
  • Two-person household: Add 10%
  • Three-person household: Add 5%
  • Five- or six-person household: Subtract 5%
  • Seven people or more: Subtract 10%

Here’s a look at the USDA food plan spending for a single person, a family of two and a family of four as of January.

USDA Food Plan Spending for a Single Person

Here’s the breakdown of monthly costs for each type of food plan for a single female in the 19-50 age group — or 20-50 age group for the thrifty plan. Figures are rounded to the nearest dollar.

  • Thrifty: $290
  • Low-cost: $307
  • Moderate-cost: $365
  • Liberal: $452

Here’s the breakdown of monthly costs for each type of food plan for a single male. As with the single female, the thrifty plan for males bases costs on the 20-50 age group, but the other plans use a 19-50 age group.

  • Thrifty: $364
  • Low-cost: $361
  • Moderate-cost: $452
  • Liberal: $548

USDA Food Plan Spending for a Family of 2

For a family of two, with one male and one female age 19-50 — 20-50 for the thrifty plan — here’s the breakdown of monthly costs for each type of food plan:

  • Thrifty: $601
  • Low-cost: $618
  • Moderate-cost: $765
  • Liberal: $949

These amounts were calculated by adding the costs for one male and one female from the respective single plans and adding 10%.

USDA Food Plan Spending for a Family of 4

For a family of four, with one male and one female adult age 19-50 — 20-50 for the thrifty plan — as well as one child age 6-8 and one child age 9-11, here’s the breakdown of monthly costs for each type of food plan:

  • Thrifty: $976
  • Low-cost: $1,059
  • Moderate-cost: $1,312
  • Liberal: $1,584

Costs for your family will differ from the examples because of variations based on age and gender.

Work Out a Budget for Groceries

Not having a budget for groceries is dangerous because it leaves you open to temptation when you visit or order from the grocery store. Without knowing how much you should be spending each month, you run the risk of overspending, spending too much on the wrong items and even wasting foods due to throwing out perishable items, such as meat, dairy, baked goods and produce, that you buy and don’t use.

Consider the 50/30/20 Budget

One budget that may appeal to you is the 50/30/20 budget. Within this budget, you spend 50% of your monthly net income on needs, which is where your grocery budget would fall, along with other necessities like mortgage or rent, insurance and car payments. Things you want — but don’t have to have — comprise 30% of this budget, and 20% goes to savings and debts.

To create a budget for your groceries, subtract 50% from your net income and then subtract needs other than groceries from that number to see what you have left to spend on groceries. If it’s not enough, adjust your spending in the wants category to compensate.

How Much Do Groceries Cost?

Budgeting for groceries is easier if you know ahead of time how much things cost.

Cereals and Bakery Products

At just 56 cents per pound, flour is the cheapest cereal/bakery item the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks. That’s good news if you like to bake or make your own pasta, but most people buy their grain products pre-made and so pay significantly more. Pasta, for example, is $1.42 per pound. Bread is pricier — $2 per pound for white bread and $2.60 per pound for whole wheat.

Meat

Meat can take a hefty chunk out of your food budget, especially if you like beef. Even ground beef, which is the least expensive, is $5.12 per pound. Splurging on a sirloin steak will set you back $11.71 a pound. Less expensive, and often healthier, choices include boneless pork chops, which are $4.37 per pound, and whole chickens, which are $1.95 per pound. If you prefer cut-up chicken, opt for legs. They average $1.75 per pound, whereas boneless breasts are $4.11 a pound.

Dairy

Egg prices are down 28.9% since February 2023, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which makes them a nutritional bargain at an average of $3 per dozen. Milk prices have also dropped, and whole milk now averages $3.94 per gallon. Cheese is still pricey at $4.77 per pound for processed American cheese and $5.73 per pound for natural cheddar. At $5.89 per half gallon, ice cream is a splurge.

Fruits and Vegetables

As a category, fresh fruits and vegetables are some of the least expensive fresh foods available. Bananas, for example, are just 63 cents per pound, on average, and oranges are $1.53. You’ll pay more for strawberries, however — $3.05. The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t track prices for all vegetables, but it does watch tomatoes ($2.13 per pound), white potatoes (97 cents) and lettuce ($1.44 for iceberg, $2.57 for romaine).

Beans are another bargain in this category. They do double duty as a source of vitamins and fiber, like vegetables, and protein, like meat. Dried beans are just $1.63 pound.

How To Stretch Your Grocery Budget

Planning a careful grocery shopping strategy can save you hundreds of dollars on your annual grocery tab. Here are a couple of ideas to help you get started.

Plan Weekly Menus and Make Shopping Lists

Apps like eMeals take the guesswork out of meal planning with weekly menus, complete with recipes and shopping lists, for a monthly price of $5 for a 12-month subscription. If you choose carefully, you can make easy, budget-friendly dinners that will last you all week. Print off a custom grocery list to shop for ingredients, or send the list to Walmart, Kroger or other participating stores to pick up your ingredients and avoid impulse shopping. Menus are designed for your eating style, with plan options ranging from kid-friendly to paleo.

As a free alternative, the What’s for Dinner website lets you browse recipes and create your own custom shopping list.

Use a Cash-Back App

A cash-back app like Upside can also save you money. Just shop or order from a participating merchant for cash-back rewards. As of March 21, partners include Price Chopper and Schnucks, plus a number of casual restaurants. The app also awards cash back at many gas stations — you can use those savings toward your grocery purchases.

FAQ

You can’t get by without groceries, but you can set a budget based on USDA guidelines designed to help you plan healthy and affordable meals for you and your family. Here’s more information about how much you can expect to spend.
  • What is a realistic food budget for one person?

    • According to USDA guidelines, one adult female should spend $73 to $113 per week. An adult male should spend $91 to $137 per week.
  • What is a realistic grocery budget for two people?

    • Depending on how tight their budget is, two adults should be able to buy a week’s worth of groceries for $150 to $237.
  • What is a reasonable grocery budget for a family of four?

    • A family of four should be able to purchase a week’s worth of groceries for $244 to $396, depending on how strict their budget is.

Daria Uhlig and Jodi Thornton-O’Connell contributed to the reporting for this article.

Data is accurate as of March 21, 2024, and is subject to change.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

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