You may be wondering what the right amount of money is to be spending on groceries every month. This can be especially important to know if you are setting up your first budget, trying to improve your current budget, or simply looking to reassess your spending! It’s important to understand the average grocery cost per month for most families, and then determine what would be a good amount for your family.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what the average grocery spending is in the United States. I’ll also give you an easy formula to follow to determine how much you should be spending on groceries for your family based on your family size, cost of living in your area, and family preferences!
Plus, it’s going to be easy and take less than 5 minutes for you to determine!
What is the Average Grocery Cost Per Month for Families in the United States?
According to Valuepenguin, “The average food cost for a U.S. household was $6,602 in 2013. That’s roughly $2,641 annually per person (based on the average 2.5 people in each household).” This means the average grocery cost per month falls somewhere around $220/month per person.
However, that $220/month per person includes all food spending, restaurant and grocery, so the grocery spending per person would probably be slightly less than $220/mo per person if you were to isolate grocery spending.
The amount of $2,641 annually per person for food gives a good baseline for us to start thinking about grocery budgets.
I have a family of 5, so for us that would be $2,641 x 5 = $13,205 spent per year on food. Divided by 12 to give an average for each month, that’s about $1,100 per month in food spending for my entire family of 5. This seems pretty close to what we spend, so I think this average is pretty accurate.
It’s also an average grocery cost per month, meaning many people spend much less per person, and many people spend much more per person.
So how do you know what would be a good grocery budget for your family?
The Five Things That Will Impact Your Grocery Budget the Most
How much should you be spending on groceries per month? Well, it really depends. Every family will be unique in their spending and when trying to determine an adequate grocery budget to set for your family, you’ll want to consider these five things.
There are five main things to consider that will affect your budget:
- The number of people in your family
- The age of the eaters in your family
- Cost of living in your area
- Quality of food purchases and dietary needs
- Your income/how much you can afford
The more people in your family, the more you’ll need to spend. But with each added person you will likely need less money per person. The age of your eaters will also impact the amount you’ll need. Teens and adults obviously eat more than babies and toddlers, so plan accordingly! Your cost of living and location can also make a big impact on your grocery budget with high cost of living areas usually having higher food costs. Your budget will need to be slightly higher if you purchase organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, vegetarian, or other dietary specialties regularly. And lastly, your income will certainly affect your food spending.
Every family spends differently too, and has different income to work with. Some families are quite thrifty, some are more generous in their spending. Some are low income and some are high income. All of these factors will impact your spending and how much you can afford to spend on groceries as well.
Here is what I recommend based on reviewing the average grocery cost per month data above, the USDA’s spending recommendations, speaking with hundreds of other budgeters that I interviewed for this article from all over the U.S., plus my own experience after budgeting for groceries over the last 5 years.
Suggested Grocery Budget for U.S. Families in USD
|Family Size||Suggested Monthly Grocery Budget (Thrifty)||Suggested Monthly Grocery Budget (Average)||Suggested Monthly Grocery Budget (Generous)|
The table above is pretty accurate because for each additional person added to the family, the total cost to feed each person decreases slightly. This mimics real life because with each person you are feeding, the amount of additional funds you need to spend for each person does naturally go down.
However, if you want a very simple formula to stick to and remember quickly, try the Quick Formula below. It’s not as accurate because with just 1-2 people to feed you will usually need to spend on the higher end. The more people you add, the less you need to spend for each person. However, the formula below with give you quick estimate of the range your budget should be in. You can (and should) adjust it as needed for your family.
2022 UPDATE: Because of rapid inflation in the US and rising food costs, I would add on about 10-15% to the numbers above until things settle down (if they ever do).
Quick Formula for Calculating Grocery Budget
|Suggested Per Person/Per Month Budget (Thrifty)||Suggested Per Person/Per Month Budget (Average)||Suggested Per Person/Per Month Budget (Generous)|
|$150 per person||$225 per person||$300 per person|
What About Restaurant Spending?
The tables above do not account for also having a restaurant budget. If you have an additional restaurant budget, that is okay.
You may want to decrease your grocery budget slightly per person if you also have a significant restaurant budget, because the more money you spend on restaurants the less you will need to spend on groceries and still keep your family fed. I do recommend keeping them as separate line items on your budget so that you can track them properly.
Example 1: A grocery budget for a family of 5 using the average quick formula above would be $225 x 5 = $1125/mo (not accounting for any restaurant budget). If you have a restaurant budget of $200/mo, you may want to decrease your grocery budget to $1,000/mo, and also have a restaurant budget of $200/mo, for a total food spend of $1200/mo. Those are rough numbers that I deduced because you can’t completely replace grocery budget money with restaurant money dollar-for-dollar, since restaurant/fast food costs more for the same amount of food.
Example 2: Let’s say there is an above average spending adult couple. Using the generous quick formula above, their grocery budget would be $300 x 2 = $600/mo. They decide to have a restaurant budget of $200/mo. So, they decrease their grocery budget to $500, plus the $200/mo restaurant budget, for a total food spend of $700/mo for the two of them.
These are just two examples of how you can adjust the suggested grocery budgets above to accommodate for a restaurant budget and get your total recommended food budget.
I don’t have a scientific formula for the grocery budget v. restaurant budget balance, just do what works best for your family. Every family will be different. I hope these examples help you decide.
How To Classify Your Family: Thrifty, Average, or Generous?
Thrifty would apply to families to who do everything possible to cut costs with groceries. This would also include families who are low income or who have little wiggle room in their budget for food, don’t have a lot of specific dietary preferences, and live in an average or low cost of living area.
Average families buy a mix of inexpensive groceries and some luxuries every now and then too. They likely have average to high incomes $50,000-$100,000, average aged eaters, and some but not many dietary preferences. They likely live in an average cost of living area.
Generous families would be those who are willing to pay more for groceries because of big eaters, specific health and dietary concerns (like buying organic or gluten-free), and make enough income to support this spending. This may also apply to families who live in higher cost of living areas, especially big cities and the East and West coasts of the US.
You are likely to be a mix of several of these but relate most closely with the thrifty, average, or generous label. This is just a guide, so you should adjust your grocery budget as needed.
These labels aren’t hard and fast, they’re more like on a continuum. So if you fall somewhere between 2 of these labels, your grocery budget might as well.
The most important thing to consider is- what can you afford? If your family is currently spending generously but you are very low income and living off of credit cards, it’s probably time to adjust your budget down to the average or thrifty range.
All of these budgets would be reasonable and allow for a healthy diet.
Don’t Skip This Step: Determine Your Current Grocery Spending to Help You Determine a Good Budget for Your Family
Setting a grocery budget for your family will be much easier if you know your current grocery spending amount very clearly. As a budgeting coach, I’ve worked with dozens of clients who had no idea what their grocery spending actually was and they were shocked when they added it up. Don’t glaze over the power of this step!
To determine this, go back through your grocery spending from the last 3 months (Yes, comb through all those transactions! It’s worth it!), and total up the amount spent each month. Then, calculate the average over the last 3 months. (Total grocery spending over 3 months ÷ 3 = average grocery spending)
Next, determine if this amount is more than you would like to be spending or more than you can afford. If you decide to cut back, use the table above to determine a better grocery budget for your family.
To get a complete budget going, check out my How to Make a Budget tutorial. It includes a free Excel template that will help you build a clear budget for your family.
So, were you able to determine what a good grocery budget would be for your family? Please let me know what you decided on for your family in the comments below!