Cost of Groceries per Person per Month

I recently had an email I appreciated greatly from one of our management leaders regarding the suggestion in our budgeting presentation that households should try to spend between $75 and $125 per person per month in their household on groceries. His concern (a valid one) is that the number appears quite low when compared to the suggested figures released by the government (upwards of $200 per person per month).

If I had wanted to give a flippant response, I could simply have referred to the wonderful job our federal government does with balancing its own budget. However, that achieves nothing for us.

I know from my experience in teaching, as well as my own family’s expenses, that the $75 to $125 per person per month is a reasonable range for food for many (if not most) American households.Is a $75 per person per month grocery budget really possible? YES!

Is it easy? No.

Is it convenient? Certainly not.

At $75 per person per month, you would have eliminate most of the grocery store budget busters that add nothing to our diets except inches to our waste lines, like bags of chips, expensive brand name breakfast cereals, and soft drinks.

A $75 per person per month grocery budget means that dinners are not served from convenient, but expensive, heat-and-serve containers. Rather, dinners are likely prepared, if not from scratch, at least from several basic ingredients. Expensive meats are generally not an every day affair on the dinner tables of households living on a $75 per person per month grocery budget.

A $75 per person per month grocery budget means brown bag lunches for all family members in school and at work. It also probably means more store brands.

With all of these probabilities, you may be wondering what’s left to eat: crackers, peanut butter and the occasional water on the rocks?

Actually, in our household, where we’re been able to hit $30 to $50 per person per month (including our two 12 year olds!), our frugal grocery bill includes, yes, an extra hour or two per week of couponing, plus the additional $15 per month of local newspapers.

But it also includes healthy and tasty breakfast cereals (hot and cold), organic deli meats for sandwhiches a couple times per week, some convenience foods, but mostly healthy and delicious dinners. Plus, we have our occasional – 1 to 4 times per month, or more often if I’m lucky - home made crepes with Nutella and fresh strawberries (that’s our splurge).

The truth is, a $75 per person per month grocery budget may seem like a farce to a household currently spending $200 per person per month, but it’s actually quite achievable.

Besides, I always say in my classes that the $75 per person per month grocery budget is a target, not an inviolable law. The reality is that the grocery bill is one of the easiest of all household bills to save money on with a little extra effort. So that makes it a great place to start when it comes to improving the household finances.

Good luck, and please feel free to share your successes (and your frustrations) in reducing your monthly grocery bill.

Be Sociable, Share!

About Todd Christensen
Financial Educator, Facilitator, Lecturer, Speaker A Certified Personal Financial Counselor, Todd Christensen, M.A. is Director of Education for the non-profit National Financial Education Center at Debt Reduction Services Inc, served as President of the Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition from 2006 until 2009, and was asked in 2009 to serve on the Council for Certification of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Comments

7 Responses to “Cost of Groceries per Person per Month”
  1. Pat says:

    I sure would like to see a months menu for $75 per person. I can spend $8-10 a week on just fresh produce alone at an inexpensive produce store and I shop for 1 person-myself. I do not eat meat everyday. I am also a diabetic so I can not live on macaroni & cheese, cereal, rice, potatoes and pasta. I do eat more bread than I should because of sandwiches and I usually have toast for breakfast. I also can not eat whole eggs or cheese everyday because of my cholesterol. I must use soymilk because I can not tolerate milk. Most of my groceries are purchased at Aldi’s or Walmart-the 2 cheapest places to shop. The small amount of meat I buy is usually from Costco which I portion and freeze. I prefer to cook mostly from scratch but use canned fruit and canned and / or frozen veggies in some of my recipies. I even make my own pizza with dough and sauce made from scratch. Most of the meals I cook are simple and fast to prepare because I am disabled and can not stand for too long.

  2. Pat, it sounds like you’ve already been doing some extra work to control your grocery expenses. The additional demands on your grocery bill, due to the health-related issues you’re dealing with, do certainly make the budget more challenging. Also, if you are cooking for one, you’re not able to take advantage of the economy of scale that a larger household would have.

    The $75 per person per month would be the lower end of a reasonable grocery bill. As I refer to in the blog, for some households, $125 per person per month might be a little more realistic, and this may be the situation you’re in.

    Here are a few links to other checklists/tips for saving money on groceries:

    http://zenhabits.net/50-tips-for-grocery-shopping
    http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/fresh-ideas/easy-dinner-ideas/budget-grocery-shopping-tips.htm
    http://www.diy-home-tips.com/diy-money-saving-grocery-shopping-tips.html

    Best wishes, Pat!

    Todd

  3. Mary says:

    We spend about $250 per person per month on groceries, for 5 adults. We don’t buy much junk food and buy meat and produce on sale. We are very practical and careful with our spending. The USDA recommends half of the plate at each meal should be fruits and vegetables, which makes meals more expensive. We live in California, so possibly the cost of food is higher here.

  4. Mary, it’s cruelly ironic that many healthy, unprocessed foods seem to be more expensive, no matter where you live, than a lot of the processed, pre-packaged, ready-to-eat fare. I’m glad to hear you’re aware of and are using the new USDA Plate recommendations to have half of each meal be composed of vegetables and fruits (www.ChooseMyPlate.gov – I’m just disappointed that Dark Chocolate didn’t end up with its own plate portion).

    Of course, depending upon where we live, we have different options as far as stores to shop at: local markets and small grocery (even if their local chains) in urban markets tend to be less affordable than the regional and national grocery and discount chain stores found in the suburbs. The farmers markets springing up around the country can also range from the very affordable to the very expensive.

    And as you’re probably already aware, eating fruits and vegetables that are in season can have a positive impact on our monthly bill. Additionally, the age, metabolism, and general food preferences of household members can significantly impact the weekly grocery bill.

    Being practical and careful, it also sounds like you already avoid many of the grocery shopping No No’s like shopping without a list, shopping when you’re hungry or stressed, going to the grocery store without knowing what the weekly budget is, and shopping with plastic (credit or debit) rather than cash.

    Here are a couple of links to some blogs with extensive grocery shopping suggestions:

    1. http://bit.ly/oEmJ1B – 15 Tips on GetRichSlowly
    2. http://bit.ly/qFD9Y3 – 45 Ways to Save on Groceries at FiveCentNickel.com

    Enjoy, and good luck!

    Todd

  5. Todd says:

    I created a free calculator that will calculate your monthly spend based on the USDA averages (without requiring the PDF lookups and complicated adjustments based on how many family members). It’s accurate and up to date with the most recent annual average posted (currently 2011).

    It’s at http://sohelpmetodd.com/blog/food-costs/ if you want to check it out.

  6. Leah says:

    Found your site doing a Google search to see how off base my grocery budget is. I am struggling to keep it at $600 per month for just my husband and myself. It has been averaging closer to $700 per month. We eat a whole foods/locally grown/organic/grass-fed diet. I cook 90% of our food from scratch. I buy in bulk and watch prices so I can save on things we go through a lot. Coupons are no good because most of what I buy doesn’t have a bar code. We hardly eat out. I work full-time and spend hours in the kitchen as it is. We live in Southern California where healthy food is available in abundance but with a hefty price tag. Back when I used to eat a “Standard American Diet,” our grocery bill was still about $600, but I didn’t coupon, we ate a lot of junk, and spent about another $200 a month on eating out. You are so right that chips and juice and microwave dinners are expensive. It baffles me that we spend only slightly more on groceries as before, eat exponentially more healthy, and have almost eliminated our eating out budget. But wow – $75 – $125 per person per month…that is just impossible. At least where I live…

  7. Rick Munster says:

    Leah,

    Thank you for your comment.

    You are more than welcome to call and speak to one of our counselors this week for some budgeting assistance.

    We can be reached at 1-877-688-3328.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

*