When you’re deciding on a goal for your grocery budget, it can be helpful to know what others spend. So, how much does the average person spend on food? Generally speaking, the average household spends about 10% of its monthly income on food, including groceries and dining out.
A more specific answer will be based on your household size, location and whether or not you follow special dietary restrictions or have food allergies. With that information, you can more effectively plan and prepare your food budget.
So, let’s talk turkey (or tofurky, if that’s your thing) so you can get an idea of what to budget for your monthly grocery bill.
What influences a monthly food budget?
Keep in mind that over time, food prices can change. This happens based on what’s in season and even in response to supply chain issues. With that, there are three major factors that influence food costs in America. And they should be considered when you’re budgeting for food each month.
The natural rising in the cost of goods is something we can’t control. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) tracks and analyzes consumer spending on groceries. The latest data available is from 2020, which shows that grocery costs rose 3.5% compared to 2019. It’s normal to have a 2% increase each year, so the rise from 2019 to 2020 was notably above average — likely due to pandemic-prompted inflation and countrywide supply shortages.
If you don’t live close to grocery stores, your expenses will be higher due to transportation costs and because you likely can’t comparison shop. Or store-hop for different sales and discounts on various products.
Certain items are also naturally more costly depending on where you are in relation to where they’re supplied. Seafood, for example, is generally cheaper in the Northeast than in the Midwest.
Needs and preferences
Diets can vary widely based on food preferences, health needs and food allergies. If you or your household consumes specialty foods like kosher meats, gluten-free products or all-organic items, your costs may be higher since those typically aren’t commonly well-stocked at general stores.
How much does the average person spend on food?
Based on the USDA’s September 2021 report on food plans, a “moderate” grocery budget for a family of four averages around $1,120 per month, or $280 per person. If you were to follow a “low-cost” plan, the average four-person household would spend closer to $906 per month, or around $227 per person. For a “liberal” budget, that average soars to $1,369 per month or about $342 per person.
For people living alone, here are the averages that the USDA provides:
- One adult, low-cost monthly plan: $245
- One adult, moderate-cost monthly plan: $302
- One adult, liberal monthly plan: $379
Note that these estimates don’t take into consideration special dietary requirements and assume that all food is prepared at home.
Do you have an average food budget?
If you’re spending well above the average on your monthly food costs, consider asking yourself why. The answer might be fairly straightforward — perhaps you live with food allergies or dietary requirements, so you can’t shop as cheaply as you’d like. Alternatively, it might mean that you’re spending money on items that aren’t necessities, that you’re not taking advantage of sales or that you need to more realistically assess what your budget is.
By comparing your monthly food budget to American averages, you can make informed choices about the health of your grocery budget. Then you can make adjustments and get a handle on your spending, if need be, every time you walk into the supermarket.