What Groceries Should Cost You Per Month

After reading a recent Reddit post about what a good weekly grocery budget for two adults would be, I thought it would be interesting to research this a bit more.

LIFE magazine did a little article in 1941 discussing the rising cost of food (prices had gone up as much as 14% on some food items over a two year period). It's amazing to look back at the following photo now and see how relatively cheap everything is compared to today's food costs.

cost of goods
Food prices were on the way up in 1941. Courtesy of LIFE magazine.

Every situation is different

Obviously, it's tough to make a blanket statement about what one ought to be paying for food. Some folks live in areas where prices are slightly cheaper. Others, chose organic over conventional foods. And then everyone exercises different levels of thrift in their lives (some, none at all).

In our household of three – which is really only two, as my step-son eats most of his meals on his own / outside the home – we place a premium on getting higher quality, healthier foods, realizing we are going to spend more per month because of this. Our grocery bill can run as high as $1,000/month which also includes some supplements my wife purchases that drive up our bill.

I know we can spend less each month, but eating right feels like an investment in our future selves in the hope that we can avoid some health costs down the road, Lord willing.

What the government says

While it is tough to pinpoint what the average grocery bill is for different age groups and living situations, the USDA puts out a monthly report on what it could cost different folks at various levels based on their situation.

I found it fascinating to look at. Here's their latest report (April 2017) on food for individuals on a weekly / monthly basis based on different expenditure levels.

USDA grocery costs
USDA grocery bills for individuals – April 2017

Of note is how the USDA cites food costs will go down as you age. So, an 12-year old will be eating for more vs. a 70-year old. It also depends on whether you're male or female (women eat for less in comparison to their counterparts).

And then when you look at what they cite for estimated costs of food for a family:

USDA grocery
USDA grocery costs for family – April 2017

Again, food costs seem to go down the older we get.

Needless to say, we are VERY liberal with our food expenditure based on their chart.

I take some of what the USDA puts together with mixed thoughts. In their recipes for thrifty (healthy?) meals (yes, they offer a recipe book / meal plan for free), they mention consuming different foods which I'm not a big fan of – among them: white bread and margarine. They also include a fair amount of dairy items.

What about you?

What is your monthly food budget for you / your family? Feel free to offer your thoughts and share your opinion on costs.

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  1. That is pretty on par with what we spend. We come in around $700 monthly for a family of 5, and we eat very clean (always fresh produce, lots of fruits and veggies as snacks, whole grains, limited red meat and lots of fish). Costco makes it doable for us, but it’s full of budget land mines that will blow you up if you get tempted by whatever they’re selling in packages.

    We had a guest poster on our blog that wrote about how she feeds a family of 5 for $360/month, and it’s legit. On that budget they still host dinners weekly! We aren’t there yet…

  2. Our monthly grocery bill exceeds $1,000, and is typically around $1,200. We are a family of four with two small children. My son is a goat. We do eat very healthy and do not eat out often at all. With that said, every month I review our receipts to see where we can reduce spending, as I think it is doable to spend less than $1,000. I’d love to put the savings into paying off debt. Groceries are outrageous. Cutting out meat for the most part helps.

  3. Ours is 1/3 less than the “thrifty plan” for a couple reasons. (And our budget includes personal care items, such as toothpaste, and cleaning supplies.) One, we use alternative sources when we can. Farm stands, salvage grocers, produce in season at the grocer, (more vegetables than fruits), and tons of loss leaders, coupons, and bulk discounts. Two, I cook from scratch. We don’t eat processed foods as a rule, and aren’t vegetarian. We don’t have a real garden at this time, so I miss some of the treat foods we used to have, basil (for pesto), asparagus, and rhubarb. Our area is about average nationally, cost wise.

  4. We live in New Jersey, so I’m not surprised that our fairly frugal grocery bill is roughly in the middle. Our average monthly grocery costs for two adults (one man, one woman) and 11, 9 and 1 year old kids fluctuates around $1050/month. We rarely eat vegetarian meals, but that would be a way to decrease costs. I make most of our meals from scratch and buy limited amounts of prepared food (some snacks for my husband’s bagged lunch and for the kids are exceptions). I buy in bulk where possible and freeze. I haven’t been canning as much recently because it’s rather incompatible with a curious toddler, but that’s something that has helped in the past. I do shop at the nicer grocery store (but not Whole Foods) and don’t usually buy organics unless it’s the same price. Hope that gives you a picture of what’s normal for us.

    • Sounds like you are doing a good job with the organization you are running there! :) I think it’s interesting to hear about what others pay in groceries every month vs what the general recommendations are (USDA).

  5. I try and eat from farmers markets and free range organic meats. Depending on what place I purchase these items from (Trader Joe’s vs Whole Foods) my budget can vary. I am trying to be more thrifty without compromising my health and wellness.

    • It’s a tough balance: healthy eating (esp eating organics) and staying thrifty.

  6. Wow, that seems high. My wife spends, for our family of 5 (3 kids aged – 9, 7, 1), about $120/week. We eat relatively healthy. She does very well it seems in “being thrifty”. Good info though, I enjoyed reading.

    • That’s pretty good Chris for a fam of 5!

  7. Well! I’m happy to say that most of the time we fall into the “thrifty” plan. :) That’s music to my ears! Mr. Picky Pincher and I usually remark that we eat like kings for pennies. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to eat well; you just need to focus on homemade and fresh foods for lower costs and better flavor.

    • True – packaged / processed goods can certainly blow up that grocery bill!

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