Average U.S. Grocery Budgets – Where Do You Land?

Our circle of friends has just discovered that the USDA publishes a document every month that shows what the average person or family spends per week and per month on groceries.

The document breaks budgets down into four levels:


Before I give you the link, take a guess at where you fit in.

Do you know how much your household averages on groceries per week or month? Do you even have a budget? The topic came up because one of my neighbors read an article in which a woman wrote that making and sticking to a grocery budget was the key to getting her family out of debt. That’s a pretty bold statement – and I know you’re excited to see where you fit in, so here’s the link.

The January 2015 report says that an average family of four (with school-age children) spends $657 a month on the Thrifty plan, $863 on the Low-cost plan, $1075 on the Moderate plan, and $1305 on the Liberal plan. I can see how an $600 a month can come in handy – whether it’s for paying off debt, boosting savings, or just having fun. It was interesting to talk about this with our neighbors who all openly shared what they spend on groceries.

Our impressively thrifty neighbors are retired school teachers who managed to save enough throughout their working years to pay cash for their retirement dream home, send their two kids to college and take nice vacations twice a year. They just got back from the Galapagos, for example. However, they save money in small bits – for example, they shop for groceries on Tuesdays when our local market has special discounts for retired folks and check out books from the library instead of downloading to Kindles. They’ve got the knack of saving and spending where it matters.

On the other hand, our neighbors to the left are a family of six – that is grandma, grandpa, mom, dad, an 11 year old, and a new baby. They admitted to spending $1500 a month on groceries – and they also eat half their meals in restaurants. There are some health situations in their household that make life a little chaotic right now and their stance is that whatever they spend on food is part of buying more time through convenience.

Now, our neighbors across the street are also an interesting story. She’s a vegetarian for ethical reasons and he’s a vegan because he has a high genetic disposition to several types of cancer. While the rest of us are shopping at Trader Joes, they shop at the expensive gourmet market (you know the one) because getting ethically sourced food is part of their value system. Still – they only spend $500 on groceries per month for for 70 meals at home, and that includes ingredients for homemade pet food for their dog and two cats and all their eco-friendly cleaning supplies. They’re shopping at the most expensive place in town, but their grocery bill doesn’t include meat or dairy. They’re eating healthy and totally organic but still manage to stay in the Low-cost category.

Of course, these discussions in the neighborhood led to discussions about our freeze dryer and how it affects our grocery budget. This week – check up on your food budget and see where you land on the USDA scale. Next week I’ll tell you how the rest of the conversation went, including how much we calculated our freeze dryer saves us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.