How Much Should a Family Spend on Groceries?

Staying on budget this year is a challenge for almost every family. The school year is starting, we’re still facing a pandemic, and prices are rising on many necessary items, including food. While you want to do everything possible to eliminate wasteful spending, food is one of those things you can’t live without. So, how much should a family spend on groceries each month? And what can you do to stay within a reasonable grocery budget for your family?

How Much Does the Average Household Spend on Groceries?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2019 indicates that the average household (2 people) spent $4,643 annually on groceries or roughly $386.92 per month. However, we can be confident that this amount has risen significantly since more families eat meals at home now, requiring more groceries.

The USDA Recommended Family Grocery Budget

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the monthly budget for a family of four – with two children between 2 and 5 should be 944.50 on average. But if you shop for bargains, use coupons, and employ other savings strategies, you can get the monthly budget down to $766.40.

The USDA-recommended monthly budget for a family of four with children between 6 and 11 is around $1,128.20, or $907.20 if you use savings strategies.

Recognizing that some families are thrifty while others are more liberal with their money, the USDA suggests that a family of four should spend between $670.70 and $1,332.90 per month.

Teenagers Cost More

If your children are teenagers, your monthly grocery bill is probably higher, as they tend to eat more and have individual requests. Unfortunately, the USDA doesn’t publish recommendations. Still, they suggest that a teenage boy between ages 14 and 18 would consume around $74.50 in groceries weekly.

What can you do to stay within a reasonable grocery budget for your family?

How to Make Sure Your Family Stays on Budget

1. Include groceries in your household budget.

When you create your annual budget, be sure to include a category for groceries. This is often overlooked, and then your weekly grocery spending isn’t guided by your budget goals. You can teach your children how to stick to the grocery budget. Older kids can go to the supermarket with you. Show them how to compare prices and analyze expiration dates.

2. Always take a shopping list with you and only buy what’s on it.

Spontaneous grocery shopping is one of the chief reasons you’ll find yourself spending more than you should. Of course, shopping when you’re hungry is never a good idea either.

  • Make your shopping list after you inventory what you have on hand in the refrigerator and pantry.
  • Plan your meals ahead of time, and this way, you’ll know what groceries you need to buy.
  • Check to see if everyone ate any new grocery items that you tried last month. Then, if they’re still sitting around, you know not to waste your money on those items again.

3. Reduce the amount of food you waste.

Only buy as many perishable items as you know your family will eat. You’ll waste a lot of money if you need to throw out fruits and vegetables and other perishables that were not consumed in time.

4. Do your shopping online.

There are good reasons to purchase your family’s groceries online, chief among them being that you avoid impulse buying. Instead, you can gradually add items to your shopping cart, giving yourself time to do a complete inventory of what you need.

5. Shop mid-week.

Try to shop mid-week when there are more sales and the store is less crowded. The stress of long lines might shift your focus to getting in and out as fast as possible, with no thought to your grocery budget.

Bottom Line

While there are guidelines on how much a family should spend on groceries, you can use strategies to save money and reach your overall monthly budget goals.

  • Plan
  • Budget
  • Compare prices
  • Avoid busy hours
  • Leave your small children at home
  • Eat before you go