September 6, 2015

How much is your monthly grocery budget? See what the USDA says it should be


I am often asked what should I be spending on groceries?” I think people ask this question because they want to know what the average cost of groceries is for a family and they want to know what the potential for savings is if they start couponing or change their buying habits. I think this question gives us a great baseline for what is a realistic goal for healthy grocery shopping (not just buying the cheapest stuff at the store).

To help you begin to calculate this number, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) actually calculates the average cost of food at home, on a monthly basis, and they calculate it at four different rates:

  • Thrifty plan
  • Low-cost plan
  • Moderate-cost plan
  • Liberal plan

I was surprised to discover that a family of four with two kids ages 6-8 are expected to spend $647.50 a month on the THRIFTY plan (the most frugal plan) and $1060 a month for the moderately priced plan! When we were living in our traditional house (before moving into an Airstream for full-time travel), we usually spent $300 – 400 a month shopping markdowns, clearance, sales and clipping coupons (family of 4). On the road we averaged about $600 last month – higher, but this includes more convenience foods as we travel and less options for coupon clipping as I don’t get the paper and I’m frequently switching grocery chains.

I want to emphasize grocery budgets are a really personal thing – your number is going to vary based on location, buying organic, food allergies, medical conditions or even just personal preferences. I would encourage you not to WORRY too much if your grovery budget is higher than the average – it could be higher for lots of reasons. This cost table is a great way to start the discussion, to identify where you might be spending the most money and to identify areas where you can save.

Let’s start a discussion – I’d love to know how much is your family budget for groceries each month (and how big is your family, how old are your kids)? Before you started couponing (or shopping strategically) what was your monthly budget? What are your best suggestions for saving money on groceries?  THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWER here – budgets are personal decisions and there are lots of factors that go into budgets – dietary needs, location, etc.


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  1. We are a family of 5 with pets and spend about $400 per month on everything: diapers, dog food, Health and Beauty, etc. I shop with coupons, shop multiple stores to get the best prices, keep a small stockpile so I can buy items at rock bottom prices, and we don’t buy organic. Meal planning and cooking from scratch help save money. Since one family member needs a high fiber diet, we all eat that way… lots of produce, baking with whole wheat flour, beans mixed into ground meat, etc. I’m happy with the way we eat and don’t feel like we’re deprived at all.

  2. On the thrifty plan our family of 9 should spend 1,118$ my grocery spending is 900-1000$ including household products diapers and formula. I would like to know tips on how to keep on a budget with a tight busy schedule. We also live in a rural community so we are an hour to the next major city so maybe some tips on how to make the best if it when u cant store hop to get the best deals? I also like to make my own sauces and mixes to save $$ so I love frugal wholesome recipes?

  3. This is just for food and not including household items (cleaner, paper towels, diapers, etc)?

  4. Family of 6 and I usually spend $400-$500 a month.. Closer to $400 most often.. I meal plan a lot. and make meals usually with a protien, a starch and a veggie. I have been raising my own meat chickens and processing myself recently and so the bill has gone down a bit into the $350 range.

  5. Between $1000-$1200. Family of 5 including our dog. We do eat organic and grass fed meats. We try to eat limited breads and pasta so our budget increases due to the amount of proteins.

  6. I used to spend about $200 a month with coupons, sales and discount grocery stores. Now family is eating about 75 percent organic, no gmo, and mostly all whole foods. We spend $700 a month now mostly at Costco and farmers market. Feeds 3 adults, 2 teen boys and thier hungery friends, 3 dogs, 3 cats, and all our toiletries. We also grow alot of seaonal food with some to freeze such as peas, tomoatoes, apples, kale, zucchini, berries, and pickles. My anual cost of gardening is less than $100 anually and is all organically produce.

  7. We typically budget between $600 a month but typically spend closer to a $1,000. It is my husband’s least favorite discussion about money. We are 3 adults 2 children….1 on the way. Children are 6 and 1 and baby is due January.

  8. We are a family of 5 (with two teenage boys). I aim to buy 80% local and/or organic. We spend about $600 a month including toiletries. Back in the day, we were a family of 7 (older children are adults living on their own now) and our food budget was never more then $125 a month. I used a ton of coupons, and we ate a lot of processed foods. We now eat a whole diet with very little processed foods. So gone are the days of buying $200 worth of groceries for $3.00 but we are a lot more healthy.

  9. We spend $1,800 for the 2 of us for the whole year which is about $120 per month with extra in November and December. We have a huge garden and I dehydrate and freeze a lot of stuff. Neighbors have chickens and give us eggs. I wait until I find good deals on meet and garden burgers and then load up. . We don’t drink soda at home-only once in awhile when we go out. I drink soy milk so I wait for the Kikkoman coupons which ranger from .55/1 to $1/1 for any kikkoman product. They sell the kikkoman brand at winco for $1.28 each and the cartons have a long shelf life. Also supply adult children from stockpile (veggies, cheese, meat). We eat well mostly from scratch. I don’t buy too many processed foods.

  10. We are a family of four with 9 and 12-year-old boys in Bellingham, Wa – where we have a lot of local options. Boys eat a lot, and I know it’s just going to increase. Every month, I do I budget in quicken an update categories as needed to fit that particular month. I start with $900 budgeted for groceries. We try to be somewhat selective about the food that we eat. We prefer local meat, but not necessarily organic. We know that if we can buy something locally it has had a much better life up to the point of becoming meat than anything from a feed lot. We shop a lot at Trader Joe’s which means that I can’t follow sales or clip coupons. I don’t actually know how much a month we end up spending on groceries, but I’m guessing it’s more than 900. By the end of the month I tend to figure out how much we have left in the total budget and how many days we have left in the month and give a daily dollar amount rather then amounts left in certain categories.

  11. Before couponing we were spending close to $1000 a month food, toiletries and household goods. That probably included diapers and convenience items as our daughter was a newborn. When I decided to stay home and I learned to coupon and shop sales, we budget $300-450/month in the Portland area but that doesn’t include diapers for two adults and a toddler. My husband is gluten intolerant, I’m lactose intolerant, and I only buy organic milk for my toddler.

  12. I have a family of 4 including a 1 year old & a 10 year old. I currently spend about 120-150 per week on groceries. This is higher if I need things such as toilet paper, shampoo, etc. I clip coupons & use meijer mperks otherwise it’d be much higher cost.

  13. We’re a family of four, with two children aged 1 and 11. Under thrifty plan guidelines, I should be spending $603.10 a month for groceries. I wish I had that kind of money! With a single income, I’m currently spending about $300 a month. I go to Aldi for milk, eggs, and some produce. I usually go to Sprouts to fill in the rest of my produce. For everything else, I go to Kroger. I go earlier in the day when they are putting out their mark down meat, groceries, and bread. (At least for anything that I couldn’t get at the dollar store) I stalk the aisles for closeout tags. I use as many coupons as I can. I join as many freebie and word of mouth marketing sites as I can to get product samples and higher value coupons for more “luxury” items. When we were still a dual income family, I didn’t really coupon or budget. We were a family of 3 and spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $500-$600 a month.

  14. Cheryl Shaub says

    Interesting – now I have a little backing when my husband thinks I spend too much at the store. We have a family of 6 – 2 adults and a 15 mo old, 6, 8, and 10 yr old. I spend somewhere between the low cost and moderate plan for the family of 4 with 6-11 yr old but we have 2 more people. Do you know if this table is just for food or total grocery purchase – paper towels, toilet paper , diapers, toiletries, etc.? My amount is total grocery and not just total food purchase.

  15. We probably average somewhere around $600 a month with a family of 5 (kids 2, 5 and 14). I have always been very conscientious of what is on sale and what has a coupon to match. This budget includes toiletries and household stuff. There are weeks we definitely eat better than others but I try to stock up when there is a really good sale so we have a little stockpile. Nothing to boast about but definitely more than a lot of people have. I do have to add we don’t have to worry about breakfast or lunch during school for our 9th grader because the district we live in had a grant for free meals for all of the students. This is definitely a HUGE savings for us.

  16. We are a family of 4 my son is 7 and my daughter is 4. We budget $400 a month for food, with an extra $40 that my husband carries around for days he needs to stop and get something for us on the way home from work. I don’t coupon, it takes a lot of time and we don’t eat much processed food. I do shop sales. Most importantly we meal plan and make sure that food purchased gets used as many ways possible. I also make freezer meals, which limits how much we eat out on busy days (eating out comes out of grocery money too.) The envelope system helps us keep to the plan.

    • Yes! Switching to using cash envelope from credit or debit card has probably helped us reduce our grocery budget more significantly than couponing. We still use credit cards for other purchases but we cash budget every.single.month.

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