View Full Version : USDA Report on cost of food--grocery budgeting

05-26-2010, 10:48 AM
I was entering bills into Microsoft Money and I always cringe when I see what I spent on groceries the month prior. It made me want to research what the 'average' grocery budget was for a family of 4. I came across this and wanted to share:


So, what are my fellow budget boarders thoughts on these figures?

05-26-2010, 10:54 AM
We are a family of 4 - myself, dh, dd (12) ds (9) and I try to keep our groceries around $125.00/week. But they probably average around $150/week.

05-26-2010, 11:02 AM
Looks pretty accurate to me. We're just two adults, with a liberal budget and we spend about that...$600 on food, and I'd say another $200 for toiletries and dog food. I budget just that....$800 a month.

05-26-2010, 11:27 AM
We are a family of four sometimes five. We have two adults, DS 14, DD 5.5 months, and one week a month my dad. He is a truck driver so he is only home occasionally. We homeschool DS. All three meals are eaten at home or taken to work. We spend right around $400 a month on groceries including the baby food. I make as much from scratch as possible to save. I also started a garden this year to try to save some money on veggies.

05-26-2010, 12:06 PM
Wow - I feel better about my grocery budget. There are 5 of us, and according to my math, the thrifty plan (with our ages) would run $649.83 a month. I know I come in well under that, since my budget for everything for monthly expenses excluding mortgatge and utilities (all food, clothing, gas, household items, entertainment) is $750. However, in the long run, it doesn't really matter what the government says about whether or not that is thrifty. What matters is that I am living within the budget that DH and I have agreed upon. So for someone else, that might be a drastically different figure.

05-26-2010, 12:20 PM
A very interesting document! Thanks for sharing! :thumbsup2

05-26-2010, 12:47 PM
That's interesting to look at. We're about in the middle of those ranges. I've only recently begun to try to really cut the grocery budget, so I think we can do much better. Family of 6 including three hungry growing boys.

05-26-2010, 12:48 PM
Wait 'til I show this to my DH! According to this document, our family, on the "thrifty" plan would spend about $684.40. We actually spent $250 on food and toiletries last month for our family of 5.:thumbsup2

05-26-2010, 12:57 PM
Wait 'til I show this to my DH! According to this document, our family, on the "thrifty" plan would spend about $684.40. We actually spent $250 on food and toiletries last month for our family of 5.:thumbsup2

Do you even eat???? :lmao: Goodness you must coupon or something!

05-26-2010, 01:11 PM
Well, I should be spending about $290/month for me - not telling my age - and my 10 year old daughter, under the "thrifty" plan.

I typically spend only $160-180. (Food only, I buy toiletries elsewhere.)

And I don't coupon! And we eat tons of fresh fruit and veggies.

I just watch where I shop, buy store brands alot, make sure to buy meat on sale (and rarely buy expensive cuts), and buy fruit/veggies in season.

I've also worked very, very hard to eliminate waste - I only buy what I know we'll use. And I freeze anything that we won't use immediately if it's freezable - even if it's half a jar of spahetti sauce! I think that has accounted for the biggest lowering in our food budget, honestly. Until I really started concentrating on not wasting, I'd throw tons of stuff out after it went bad before we ate it!

05-26-2010, 01:11 PM
Well I feel pretty good.
Our family of 4 in North Texas (DS7 and DS4) spend roughly $150 a week at the grocery store/Walmart and that includes toiletries, paper products & cleaning supplies - no pets besides fish that cost us about $10 a month.
We also eat out about $150 a week, too with DH & school lunches, date night dinner & family pizza night.
So we still fit with the liberal plan including eating out ~$1100 - $1200 a month.

05-26-2010, 01:20 PM
They look pretty good if you remove discounts such as couponing and just rely on "shelf prices." Couponers can often do better.

Budget drops too low and you aren't getting enough milk, green vegetables, whole grains, etc. And that's what the USDA is trying to measure - not "how low can you go" - but whats the grocery budget for families eating to the USDA standards. Also, its national averages. I was on another board and Californians were aghast at what we will spend for a red pepper in Minnesota.

05-26-2010, 01:34 PM
We are a family of 7 (8 in Dec) and I'd say we're pretty close to the thrifty plan for food and toiletries. I've been working on cutting back and I still have work to do. Big families can be pretty expensive.

05-26-2010, 01:35 PM
I was on another board and Californians were aghast at what we will spend for a red pepper in Minnesota.

Yeah, but our prices for things like eggs, beef and chicken will bowl you over!! :rotfl2:

05-26-2010, 01:47 PM
It makes me feel better. The Budget Board grocery threads always leave me scratching my head wondering how people are eating so cheaply.

We average an amount just under the liberal averages for our family size and ages. I'm fine with that as I definitely shop liberally. Everything needed to run a household from cleaning and paper products to personal hygiene are lumped into grocery as I buy everything at the grocery store. My totals also include a fair amount of alcohol as our grocery store has a large wine section. We are at a stage where we want to eat healthy and whatever we like. That includes a lot of fresh produce.

05-26-2010, 01:48 PM
Do you even eat???? :lmao: Goodness you must coupon or something!

Yes, we eat :) I use coupons, watch sales, stock up on staple items, etc. We're not eating cavier and steak every night, but we do pretty good.

05-26-2010, 01:59 PM
I've done the no-buy for the past two months. Each month, I have spent $300 on groceries and $100 on eating out for our family of four. I kept wonderful track of everything each day and added it up at the end of the month. Not bad for four of us... we don't each out very much, but we eat fairly healthy.

05-26-2010, 02:26 PM
We are about in the middle of the range, which actually makes me pretty happy!!:goodvibes LOTS of fresh fruit and fresg or frozen vegies.

05-26-2010, 05:23 PM
Do you even eat???? :lmao: Goodness you must coupon or something!

I know, wait until those boys hit the teen years. OMG. I can't keep food in the house, I tell everyone that comes over. "Hold on to your food, if you let it sit to long, the oldest will swoop down on it like a hawk. His nickname, the human garbage deposal.

Jennifer in MI
05-26-2010, 05:53 PM
Those charts always make me feel really good!!! We're a family of 6 - with two teenaged boys. We spend $150/week on food/wine. I buy mostly organic. I have a meat place where we get wonderful Amish raised grass-fed meats at VERY low prices. I belong to a food coop where I get all my grains/beans/nuts. I make our breads (tortillas, bread, pita, buns, etc). We do eat a lot of vegetarian meals, which helps with the cost.

We keep our snacks simple - yogurt (plain - sweetened with jelly or honey), apples, peanut butter, nuts, hummus/pita, vegetables, popcorn, etc. No expensive prepared snacks here.

I could do it much cheaper, but I'm not willing to sacrifice quality!

05-26-2010, 06:12 PM
This makes me go :eek:! We are a family of 4, so according to the chart at thrifty prices, we should be spending 510.10 per month. I have been averaging 320 a month for food, beverages, toiletries, paper, diapers, etc (not formula since that's covered by insurance). I coupon, shop sales, meal plan, and stock pile. By meal planning, I make sure that we eat fairly balanced meals. We don't eat a ton of frozen meals or boxed stuff. Now I couldn't IMAGINE spending 500 a month!

05-26-2010, 10:21 PM
Wow, what an eye opener! We're a family of 4 (me, DH, 20 year old DS, and newborn DD). Our "thrifty" total is $575 and the "liberal" total is $1127. In actuality, we average about $300 to $350 a month...toward the higher end of that now since I had to start buying baby formula.

I'm not counting toiletries, diapers, pet food, etc.

05-26-2010, 11:21 PM
I should be spending $56 a week on us for the thrifty plan but I spend $40. Our normal shopping trip is milk, bread, eggs, juice, yogurt, whichever fruit is on sale, whichever veggie is on sale, whatever meat is on sale. We never eat out of season.

05-27-2010, 01:57 AM
Family of four with two teenage boys and we fall in the "low cost" category if I include toiletries, entertaining and eating out. If I separated toiletries and entertainment (hosting people and/or eating out) I could fall in the thrifty catagory but I'd have to watch pretty carefully.

I notice their family of four didn't include teens and it's amazing how much our grocery tab has increased in the last few years since I've started having to basically buy double the amount of food I did when they were younger. (Since they've hit their teens I literally have to double almost every meal I make.)

My 17 year old has two friends coming over tomorrow and my first thoughts waffled between "hide the food!" and "what should I feed them?"

05-27-2010, 09:21 AM
Wow that is really interesting.

We spend about $80-95 or so a week for DH and I (depending on how much we're out of or if we're hosting a party... you know). We're vegetarian, boarderline vegan, and this has helped our costs drop dramatically. I also make a LOT from scratch, which takes up my time, but if it saves money, I'm all for it.

05-27-2010, 10:01 AM
I've been trying to figure out what we spend and my best guess is about $500/mo on average for our family of 5.

We don't really do much of our total shopping at the grocery store, because we get meat in bulk from a nearby farm and I preserve my own harvest and what I buy from the farmer's market and u-picks, so our costs are very uneven. We might spend $1000 in August when there is so much in season that I can freeze or can, but then spend $200 in January when we've got a freezer full of meat & veggies and are only buying dairy products and extras. And I've gotten really, really good (thanks largely to the budget board and other sites that BBers have recommended) at taking advantage of coupons and CVS extrabucks promos to get toiletries and such very cheaply.

ETA: Those figures were interesting. According to the USDA the thrifty plan for our family should cost $683, which I know is more than we spend. I always feel like we're spending more to eat the way we do, because I buy so much locally, but maybe we really wouldn't save by just getting everything at the supermarket.

05-27-2010, 10:40 AM
This is really interesting. I wonder if those numbers include toiletries, paper products, pet food, etc. (i.e. everything that can be purchased at your average supermarket) or just food for human consumption. We're a family of 3 - 2 females 19-50 & a 1-year-old - and our grocery spending for last month was only $317. If I include our eating out in that total it brings it to $458. So for all the food we consumed, we're between the "thrifty" & "low-cost" plans according to that chart. That makes me feel a lot better about what we spend on food! This month we've spent a good bit more, too much eating out, ugh. Next month it should go down though; we joined a CSA for the season so we shouldn't have to buy hardly any veggies or fruits for the next 5 months. Woohoo!!

05-27-2010, 10:56 AM
I agree - very interesting. We are a family of 4 and are on the high end of the low-cost number. We spend about $800/month (including toiletries and cleaning products), but we're aiming for $700.

We are big Grocery Gamers though, if we weren't our bill would easily be 40-50% higher.

It makes me feel a little better about what we do spend, though.

05-27-2010, 10:56 AM
pure food, I spend about $500 a month at the grocery store (this includes lots and lots of soda because well dh and I drink lots and lots of soda).

With all food and all other weekly shopping I spend on average between $600-$750 (depends on the month).

Lately, I have been averaging about $75 a week at the grocery store (just picking up staples and using my stock for everything else).

05-27-2010, 12:17 PM
I usually spend about $150 per week for my family of three (two adults and one 17 year old son). Per the table, a family of my size/age spends $145.50 per week on the "low cost" plan, so I would say it appears to be pretty accurate. I personally think we eat quite well, and get all the food groups in; I do not feel we do without anything.

05-29-2010, 03:53 AM
This makes me feel better. We're a family of 5 with 2 teenage boys. I used to grocery game and only spent around $300 or so a month before we went organic for health reasons. Since then our grocery budget has doubled. But I don't think $600 a month is bad for organic, especially after reading that report! We eat lots of fresh produce in season and I make almost everything from scratch. I still use what coupons I can and stock up when I can but it's much harder to find healthy stuff dirt cheap. Costco is getting more and more natural and organic things lately, which helps. The boys have been living off our large snack stockpile for awhile, but it has almost run out, so I've been spending more lately to fill them up, and expect that to increase, unless I start couponing again just for their bad-for-you snacks lol. I really struggle with tha now though, when I read the labels on that junk!

05-29-2010, 08:28 AM
For us I used to spend 120$ a week including toiletries and that was 3 adults and 2 kids. But my bill has gone up s ton now because we eat only organic fruits and veggies, also we eat only organic meet after seeing all the antibiotic they pump animals with just to make them bigger. Its twice as much but a so worth it . We also eat less meet now but we do feel better. I would guess that we spend about 150 or so on just food.

05-29-2010, 09:07 AM
I typically budget $600 for our family of 5, but that includes all cleaning supplies, toiletries, and eating out. So groceries really only are about $475 at most.

I love this e-book:


06-01-2010, 05:35 PM
Seems high to me, we are a family of four and our weekly budget for groceries is $100 including household items.