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Staff Writer at Debt Reduction Services

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How Much Should Groceries Cost?

I have received many, much-appreciated emails from readers and educators alike wondering about my suggestion from as far back as our 2011 budgeting presentation and a 2010 blog that households should try to spend between $75 and $125 per person per month in their household on groceries. Many of these emails express concerns that the suggested budget amount appears extraordinarily low, especially when compared to the suggested figures released by the federal government (upwards of $200 to $400 per person per month – see USDA 2017 Cost of Food report).

As with most all consumer goods, prices do go up. In the years subsequent to my earlier post, I have tended to raise the figure, though not to what many still feel is reasonable. Most disagreeing parties either cite their own household grocery budgets, the IRS’ allowable living expenses national standards for food (see example here), or the USDA’s Food Plan as proof that I’m off my rocker. After all, my suggested monthly grocery allowance per person is usually half that of the federal government’s suggestion. Even then, I know from personal experience and from other sources that it is possible to spend even less per month – as little as 25% of the IRS guidelines – and still eat nutritious and satisfying meals.

The first point to make is that the IRS guidelines are not suggestions nor even averages. These are amounts below which related expenses claimed on our taxes are not questioned by the IRS. Additionally, the USDA’s food plans are based on the assumption that most all American families can conform to one of their food plans: 1) thrifty, 2) low-cost, 3) moderate-cost and 4) liberal. If I were involved (and there’s a good reason I am not), the names of these plans would instead have been: 1) reasonable, 2) dial it back, 3) lap of luxury and 4) Alaska (yes, food is sky high expensive there).

I know from my experience in teaching, as well as my own family of six expenses (including 2 teenagers), that the $50 to $150 per person per month is a reasonable range for food for many (if not most) American households.

Is it easy? No.

Is it convenient? Certainly not.

Stacked Soda cansAt $125 per person per month, you would have to eliminate most of the grocery store budget busters that add nothing to our diets but do add inches to our waistlines, such as bags of chips, expensive brand name breakfast cereals, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages.

A $125 per person per month grocery budget means that dinners are not served from convenient, but expensive, heat-and-serve containers or pre-chopped bags and boxes. Rather, dinners are likely prepared, if not from scratch, at least from several basic ingredients. Expensive meats are likely not an everyday affair on the dinner tables of households living on a $125 per person per month grocery budget.

A Brown bag LunchA $125 per person per month grocery budget means brown bag lunches for all family members in school and at work. However, according to 2012 data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ website, essentially ONE-HALF of all American schoolchildren are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches at schools.

A $125 per person per month grocery budget also probably means buying store brand rather than name brand products.

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 my amazingly resourceful wife regularly hits $50 per person per month (including our older teens). Such frugal budgets often require an extra hour or two per week of research on the Internet and circulars for special deals. There was a time when our grocery shopping habits included the extensive usage of doubled-value coupons, buy-one-get-one-free coupons and the like. However, now, grocery shopping trips typically include two trips a month to a warehouse (e.g. Costco), a weekly run to the supermarket, an occasion visit to the local grocery store for milk, and a monthly trip to the bakery outlet for half-priced (or better) bread. When our local grocery store has special deals (aka “case lot sales”), we usually stock up on many of the staples available at great prices.

Delicious Crepes with Strawberries

But our $125 per person per month grocery budget also includes healthy and tasty breakfast cereals (hot and cold), organic deli meats for sandwiches a couple times per week, some convenience foods, but mostly healthy and delicious meals (including affordable, in-season fresh fruits and vegetables). 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 $125 per person per month grocery budget may seem like a farce to a household currently spending $300 per person per month, but it’s actually quite achievable. In single-parent homes or homes where both parents work full time and non-work time is spent hauling kids from one activity to another, grocery planning and shopping time are likely difficult to come by or not prioritized. For such families, spending $125 per person per month is not an impossibility, but it may be a casualty of the realities of life.

I do recognize that there are many communities and neighborhoods around this country that do not have grocery stores nearby but rather convenience stores or corner markets whose prices are higher than grocery stores. Coupled with the fact that many households lack sufficient transportation to carry more than a few bags of groceries at a time, and the strategies described above may be irrelevant.

Following a ChecklistRegardless, here are the basic principles of minimizing grocery costs in every household:

  1. Plan and prepare for each grocery trip
    1. Be a little flexible in your meal planning options, since what is on sale may not match what you are craving for dinner that week
  2. Don’t pay full price unless absolutely necessary
    1. Take advantage of periodic sales on staples that have a long shelf-life
    2. Buy meat when it’s on sale and store in the freezer
    3. Use store coupons especially when items are on sale
    4. Check store ads and take advantage of store policies that match other stores’ low prices
  3. Leave the credit card and possibly even the debit card at home if you know that you are tempted to overspend using plastic

Keep in mind that I always say in my classes that the $125 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.

This article was updated May, 4th 2017 to reflect current grocery spending standards.

Todd Christensen, Author of Everyday Money for Everyday People

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Todd Christensen
Director of Education – Debt Reduction Services Inc.

Best wishes on your endeavors to take control of your finances!

Related Articles:

7 Keys to Saving Money on Groceries

Cost of Raising a Child

Do You Have Questions About Grocery Expenses and Managing Your Expenses?

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So if you need more information regarding how you can spend less on groceries or have any other questions about your personal finances, please feel free to comment below and we’ll get back on and answer as fast as we can!

  1. SUMMER SPEES

    Family of 6 here- two adults, two teens, one (overeating) 10 year old, one preschooler, in rural Wisconsin. We eat very healthy (no artificial anything, no HFCS, no hydrogenated oils, plenty of lean proteins including beans/lentils/nuts) and still we only spend about $125 PER MONTH PER PERSON! We coupon but not religiously. We shop in bulk when feasible. We shop at Aldi stores for about 50% of our food budget. And I’m constantly on the hunt for a good deal. If we didn’t live 15+ miles from the nearest grocery store, I could potentially cut the grocery cost even further. I can’t believe that anyone could spend $300/mo per person even if they didn’t go to the lengths we do to stretch our grocery budget!

  2. Maya

    Hello Todd,
    Thank you for this article. We leave in California (in the Bay Area). We are 12 people in our home (5 of our boys are between the age of 18 and 14 and do 2and half hour of sport daily). We spend $2500/month in grocery and household items. Do you think that if we consider our area we should be able to diminish our monthly cost? Thanks, Maya

    • Todd Christensen

      Hi Maya, and thank you for your post. With 12 in the household, I hope you have some help in the purchasing, prepping and serving departments. That’s a handful!
      $2,500 per month for 12 people works out to be just under $210 per person per month. Different parts of the Bay Area are going to be more expensive than others, of course. For a small household of 2 or even 4, I would say that might be a per person expense at the upper end of our recommended range. For a group as large as yours, I would expect that there would be room for cost savings, even with 5 boys between 14 and 18. That said, I also recognize that many teen age boys love to hang out at the homes of other teen age boys, and if your home is that hub, you may be feeding many more than just the 5 teenagers. For readers in such circumstances, and when money is tight, there may need to be some house rules to change the open door fridge policy to one of a little more restraint.
      I would recommend, besides the text of this blog, that you look through the great comments below to find some other ideas. Here are 6 keys (a sneak peak at an upcoming blog on saving money on groceries) to cutting costs on groceries: 1) Take a long-term approach by finding ways to save an additional $5 to $10 each week; 2) find the best deals on groceries first and then make the menu based on those foods; 3) go through grocery store circulars each week to both understand typical area prices and to find the best deals; 4) stock up on non-perishables that are on sale, including at case lot sales; 5) use a deep freeze to store perishables (dairy and meats) and grains that you find on sale; and 6) keep at it.
      Good luck in your continuing efforts, Maya, to make a positive difference!
      -Todd

  3. Pradipta (Food lover)

    I spend around Rs 6200 ($100) for monthly groceries. I only prefer to buy some specific items from big departmental store and for rest I prefer local stores.

    Processed meat & other packaged non-vegetarian items, ready to eat foods etc actually cost more as compared to other grocery items. I normally avoid such items to buy from store. Rather I prefer to cook those at home. It helps me to reduce monthly grocery expenses.

  4. Alex

    how do you survive spending $5 a day

    • Todd Christensen

      When it comes down to it, $150 a month is $5 a day. Sounds pretty intimidating. I highly recommend, Alex, that you look through the many great ideas and stories in the previous comments about others who are able to feed themselves fairly well on even half that.
      Certainly, it’s pretty much impossible to buy individual meals and spend less than $5 per day. Taking advantage of bulk pricing and, even more importantly, sale pricing, it critical. And, as mentioned in the post and many times in the comments, where you live, where you shop, and what sort of food you eat will have a huge impact on how little can or how much you do spend on groceries.

      • Alex L

        My wife and I lived in San Diego for many years. She spends like $800-$1200 per month just for the 2 of us. We always had quarrels over this, I reckon that $500-$600 should be good enough per month; she counter argued that it was me who ate the most which I disagree. Neither one of us is obese.

        So in the last 6 months, I took on a new job in Austin, whereby my company provided all my meals. I spent only $20 per month on grocery for myself in Austin. In taking this job (I was paid lower salary in TX compared with CA), I calculated that perhaps she by herself would spend only $500 per month in CA, maybe $600 tops, and that would justify huge savings overall, hence this job is a great move. But boy, was I ever so wrong ! She continued to charge monthly amounts of $900-$1200 on the grocery shops in San Diego using credit cards. She does not eat starch, bread, potatoes, pasta, but still how is this kind of grocery spending possible for one person ? Very frustrating.

        • bakecookworkfrugal

          Interesting. So if she is not eating any “starch”, then what is she eating? Expensive protein powders? Salmon and other expensive type of proteins? Organic foods? Artisan style foods? Foods from “health food stores”? Imported high end foods?

          Perhaps she is valuing being thin over being more average (eating carbohydrates)and not being as thin. Meaning she is not starving but eating high end nutrition foods that are not realistic for most wage earners who are minding their food budget.

          Most people working average jobs with average pay with some ambition to have some savings at the end of their working life need to be very conservative with running expenses. It does add up after a good 40 years of working.

          I know of the odd person that spending/living like this, but then they either dont have a pot to piss in or they have a hubby that rakes in good dough, providing with future financial security, so grocery expenses are not high on the “concern list”.

        • Todd Christensen

          Wow, that’s a tough one, Alex! Thank you for sharing your experience, and I think your frustration is a normal reaction.
          Of course, I don’t have answers to all such situations. This does sound, however, that it simply has to do with what I call habitual spending. It is similar to parents whose kids move away to school or out on their own. It might take six months or more for the cook in the home to stop making such large meals and adjust them to fewer mouths at the table.
          Habitual spending is tough to address because, well, it’s habitual. Any change will eventually have to come from a self-awareness of the overspending. Such self-awareness often comes through either very difficult conversations or, probably more commonly, some very challenging financial circumstances that make us reconsider our our spending habits.
          Sometimes, it might also be the case that we see someone else in our social circles and have a conversation with them about their own spending. You know how it is said that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with? Our spending habits absolutely fit into this category as well. While she might be different, I would guess that your wife’s 5 closest friends spend similar amounts of money each month on their own grocery bills. If all they see when it comes to grocery shopping is each other’s grocery expenses, they will continue to think their spending levels are the norm.
          Good luck on the new job in Austin! Lots of expenses should be lower in Texas than San Diego. It just can match the weather.
          -Todd

  5. Colleen

    Maybe its where/how we live, but our food budget is much lower than even your suggestions. We are a family of 7 and spend around $500/month on groceries, which include pet food and other household supplies. I’m working on separating those in our budget, but aim to spend $400/month. There’s no way we could afford $125/person…$875!
    We shop at aldi’s, discount grocery stores, and walmart only on things we get our employee discount on (10% off produce & non-food items). We also raise our own chickens for eggs and garden to grow a lot of our vegetables that we freeze or can.

    • Todd Christensen

      Thank you, Colleen, for your comment. As you suggest, where you live does have a large impact on the cost of groceries. You also have the advantages of shopping for a larger household than most (getting lower prices on bulk items) and getting a 10% discount on produce. While gardens are a lot of work and chickens, well, come with their own smelly challenges, you probably save another $50 or more through the fruits of your own labor.
      I’m interested to know how many adults there are in your home and how many of you work full-time/part-time? Also, have you always been able to keep your grocery spending down? Or has it been experience or a system that you’ve developed over time?
      Again, thanks for sharing!
      -Todd

  6. Elizabeth

    I live in remote Alaska (on the road system). For my family of 9, our monthly grocery & gas budget is $1200. This also includes toiletries, etc. The USDA has a separate Cost of Food for Alaska & Hawai’i. Accordingly, the suggested budget for my family is roughly $1400 to $1500 for FOOD ONLY. Anyone in the lower 48 complaining that they can’t possibly only spend $125 per person per month is full of it.

    • Todd Christensen

      Wow, Elizabeth! Given your location (I like how you have to specify “on the road system” – so not Barrow, then, right), that really is impressive. To be honest, I have talked to people who, due to health reasons, have chosen certain diets that work out to be $1,200 in groceries just for one person! It does come down to priorities in most cases. The hardest part of any spending controls (whether on groceries, housing, toys, transportation, cable TV, etc.) is to understand our own motivations and priorities. Someone who spends $250 a month on cell phone service and a smartphone device may not have even asked themselves why they spend 5 times more than many others. For some, it might be quality. For others, it might be convenience. For others still, it might be a status thing. We should not judge (certainly not condemn) each other for our various motivations for spending as much or as little as we do, so long as we have thought about them and chosen them intentionally. Otherwise – and this is good timing given the series of tweets I’m sending out this month at EverydayMoney4U – we are walking financial zombies, spending without thinking or perhaps without realizing that we have options.
      Thanks again, Elizabeth, for sharing!

  7. Marti

    Nutritious breakfast? Nutella!? Main ingredient (58% ) is processed sugar, followed by vegetable oil, not to mention saturated fats and numerous other questionable (and NOT non-GMO I might mention) ingredients. Palm oil that is NOT farmed sustainably (can you say rain forests?) They have already settled a class action lawsuit for false advertising for inferring they are part of a healthy breakfast. Apologies for the negativity but it frustrating to find so many articles that one assumes is written by an expert in the field and then find food suggestions that are nothing less than a falsely advertised toxic tsunami.

    • Todd Christensen

      Thanks for visiting our blog, Marti, and for sharing your frustration. And I am sorry that there was a misunderstanding of both what I wrote and of my purpose for writing this blog. As an employee of Debt Reduction Services, Inc., I have never attempted to write anything that portrays me as an expert in healthy eating, with non-GMO, vegan-based, secure-our-food supply, sustainability or with any other type of nutrition angle. These are all important topics that are worth considering. This post, however, is on saving money generally on groceries.
      I am not, nor do I claim to be, an expert on nutrition. So once we can get that out of the way, I did fairly clearly indicate that when we have crepes, it’s our splurge, which should be understood to be something other than an actual meal. We do not have crepes and Nutella for breakfast but as a dessert after dinner, though when we have homemade crepes left over for breakfast the next morning, I love to fill them with scrambled eggs and salsa… kind of a Franco-Mexican way of waking up to the morning.
      That said, are you aware of any chocolate-hazelnut spreads that are more earth friendly? I’d be happy to learn more.

      • Bernie

        Wax orchards is a healthy diabetic friendly chocolate spread. It is delicious! Sweetened with fruit juice only. I am not diabetic, I simply eat the product because it’s a healthier alternative to other things.

        • Todd Christensen

          Thanks, Bernie, for the post. You said the magic word, “chocolate.” It got my attention.
          I’ll check it out.

  8. SH

    I don’t think this is taking into account parts of the country. I live in NYC and could never imagine spending only $150/month/person. Even IF you could, you’d still have to schlep everything around since most of us don’t have cars. I’d rather see an article specific to the most expensive cities in the U.S.

    • Rick Munster

      Hi SH, thanks for the feedback. I believe the article makes mention of certain locations being unable to meet that particular target, however, if you apply what is discussed in the article you should knock down your food expenses considerably. The cost of groceries, for example, in NYC is approximately 30 percent higher. The $150 target looks closer to $200 and keep in mind that is running an extremely lean budget. Just a few additional purchases can really throw that goal out the window. I tend to look at grocery spend as a percent of my budget that I am comfortable using, I do the same for entertainment, transportation, travel, and clothes and it helps. I have a savings target in mind and do everything I can to contribute more than the goal.

  9. Arlette M Popiel

    I assume your budget is for food only i.e. does not include paper products, soap and things like foil, plastic wrap etc. What would be a good monthly budget for those items?
    I am a single person and celiac with other food allergies, any suggestions for keeping my food costs down?

    Thank you.

    • Haley

      I typically spend about $75-$90 per grocery trip, every other week, for 2 people. We eat a vegan diet and very little gluten. I often make tofu stir fries with a quick homemade sauce and frozen veggies, simple chili with fresh peppers for flavor and spice, TJ’s gluten free waffles for a quick breakfast, peanut rice noodles, and veggie soups. I buy about one container of Better Than Bouillon a month to save money on broth and it makes a huge difference. I favor meals that have rice as a base because it’s filling, cheap, and adds protein. If you eat eggs, I know Trader Joe’s and Aldi typically have a dozen for around $1 vs the usual $2-$3 from Kroger, Publix, etc. The key for me is to buy staple pieces and lots of spices so that I can transform simple meals into something really delicious. I like to make big batches too and freeze them for lazy days 🙂

    • Laurel

      My food budget does not include non-food items. For the most part I buy those in bulk at Sam’s Club or our local food service warehouse. I try to keep extras of most things on hand so I can take my time replacing them. Either waiting for a sale, clearence or a week that I spent a lot less on food.

      As for gluten-free… My family is not gluten-free, but serveral of my neighbors have family members that are. I’ve been participating in a meal exchange and have needed to exchange gluten-free ingredients. So I research those the same as any other ingredient. The local international market has a much better price on gluten-free soy sauce then the store I buy most of my groceries from. They had 5 different brands that had a gluten free version. One was twice the size of the Kikkoman at most stores for a dollar less.

      I’m told barrilla has the best gluten-free pasta. Go to the website and request coupons or look for them in the paper. At the store I frequent most, the gluten free version is the same cost as the regular. With a coupon, it could be cheaper than the store brand.

      Also, think about things differently. Eat more of the things you can get a good deal on and less of those that you can’t. Another example is… I made a quiche for my neighbor. Instead of trying to make or buy a gluten free pie crust, I cooked brown rice and pressed that into the pie plate in the same manner as a graham cracker crust. She said it was awesome.

      Research may take time, but it is well worth it. Ask employees, talk to customers in line, look for the clearance sections. Sometimes those are tucked in a corner out of sight. Many stores markdown the gluten-free and organic ingredients because they don’t move as fast.

      In the big picture it’s about little savings over time.

      • Todd Christensen

        Thanks again, Laurel, for the pointers. I really appreciated three key principles of lowering grocery costs that are tucked into your comments:
        1. When non-perishables are on sale or clearance, stock up on them.
        2. Adjust menus to what is more affordable rather than trying to find the most affordable options for a chosen menu.
        3. Time, as you point out, is always a critical component of lowering our grocery bills: short-term time spent now researching and shopping around, as well as long-term time that gives us the experience to know where to shop and how to build the best and most affordable menu.

    • Todd Christensen

      Thanks, Arlette, for the post. Yes, while we often purchase such supplies at the same time and at the same store as our groceries, they often add another $10 to $50 a month or more to the budget, depending on household size and needs. That said, such products are often among the best items to buy at discounts by combining manufacturer coupons and in-store deals.
      As for lowering costs when there are food allergies in the home, the cheap and easy answer, but also the best long-term response, it based on that from Laurel, below. Pick one grocery item a week to research and find where to buy most affordably. It will take months and possibly even years, but with sustained focus, saving $5 here and $10 there, it is likely that you will eventually find regular savings on groceries that can add up to hundreds of dollars a month. This is really a tortoise vs hare issue.
      Additionally, you can do an online search for saving money and grocery shopping with food allergies. There are a number of results that can provide specific tips and even coupons.
      I would also invite the community to share helpful thoughts, as is so often the case.
      Thanks again, Arlette, and all the best!

  10. Laurel

    There were a few other things I forgot to mention. I built my family’s food budget based on the USDA’s Thrifty food plan and cross referenced it with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. The Thrifty Food Plan gives expenditure shares for different food groups along with pounds of food for different age groups and caloric needs. I then took the recommended # of servings off the Guidelines for Americans and compared the 2. After you figure out that for a female ages 19-50, should spend 16% of her food budget to buy 2.77 lbs of grains per week, with a budget of $50 per week, that 2.77 lbs should cost about $8. That more than allows for nice loaf of bread at $3.00 per 24oz loaf, a box of name brand whole wheat pasta for $1.50 16 oz, and a box of multi grain Cheerios for $3.00 for 12oz. And a half pound of brown rice for .50¢. (assume you can afford to buy 1 lb and have it last 2 weeks). That would certainly cover breakfast lunch and dinner. You would pick a different variety each week, of course.

    I keep a “price book” spreadsheet of items I’m likely to purchase. When I find a new store I do a price survey to see if that store is worth returning to. Most stores are good deals on only certain things.

    With all groups of information (cost of local food, recommended amount to purchase, and expenditure shares), I was able to build a realistic healthy food budget for my family. (it’s just a guideline, for example we eat more whole fruits than juices, more legumes than animal protien, but these are personal choices).

    Yes, the project to took time and some skill with Excel but in the end it was completely worth it. It became a game to figure out how to meet our food needs for the least expense. I wish I could share my spreadsheet, but I have yet to figure out how to make it general enough to apply to most people.

    https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USDAFoodPlansCostofFood
    https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietary-guidelines-2010

  11. Laurel

    It is very important for people to keep in mind that some people live in a food “desert”, meaning limited availability. They are limited by transportation, how much they can transport at one time, time available to prepare foods, education on food preparation, and storage space available.

    I look at my family’s food budget of $300 for 6. 3 adults, a 15 yr old, a 3 yr old and a 3 month old (she is breastfeed, so she doesn’t really count yet). I think we spend a fair amount. I don’t make everything from scratch, but we rarely eat convenience foods. I buy whole wheat bread from a local food service warehouse for .50¢ – $1.00 for a 32oz loaf. The last 2 years we visited a local farm that offered a u-pick at .25¢ per lb and brought home 1,500 – 1,800 lbs of produce over a 5 month season, that we canned, froze and dehydrated. I buy 25 – 50 lb bags of rice, beans, flour, cornmeal etc. We have a local store that offers 40 lb cases of chicken leg quarters for .49¢ per lb and ground beef cubes for $1.00 per lb. Around the holidays they sell turkeys for .49¢ per lb. I bought 8 over the season, cooked and froze the meat.

    I know that I am a very fortunate person. We have a lot of options available to us. I got my 1st chest freezer for $25, then traded it in for an upright for $65. We have a wonderful local chain of donation based thrift stores. I also get my canning jars for .25¢ ea.

    I’m a stay at home mom, so I have more time to be in the kitchen than a working mom. I can take all day to prepare a food, like cooking a turkey. I have help cleaning up after a big cooking project where a single mom would not.

    It would be unfair to compare my family and budget to another. My biggest piece of advice is to look at your current food budget and keep finding new ways to save yourself money based on what is available to you. I have whittled mine down over about 8 years from the days of being a single working mom. I use to spend $300 a month for 2.

    • Todd Christensen

      Great points, Laurel! I think your recommendation to keeping whittling away at the monthly grocery bill is absolutely on point. Going from $200 per person per month to $100 or even to $75 doesn’t happen over night, and there is no one big thing that will make it happen. It is an ongoing process of saving $10 a month here, $25 a month there; $20 this month, and $35 next month.
      Thank you for your post!
      -Todd

  12. kathryn

    A Canadian here. This is what my husband and I (both retired, mid-50s) spent in June 2017 We average about $200-250 per month, but in June we stocked up…
    month of June 1-30 2017=$391.51 (I didn’t pay this much, because I used my ‘points’ –store loyalty incentives)

    cold supplies & toilet paper- year supply

    cat food/cheese/coffee= several month supply

    Lots of ‘treat’ food and some ‘I don’t feel like cooking when sick’ food-

    DAIRY- & EGGS = $75.36

    NN sour cream $2.99 (600 pc pts) =$2.99

    dozen eggs 6 @ $1.88 =$11.28

    doz eggs- $1.88

    2Lmilk 3 @ $2.99 (1500 pc pts) – $8.97

    2Lmilk 3 @ $2.99 (1500 pc pts) – $8.97

    2Lmilk 3 @ $2.99 (1500 pc pts) – $8.97

    4L milk –2 @ $5.69= $11.38

    18% coffee cream – $2.07

    old cheddar (450g) 5 @ $3.77= $18.85

    PRODUCE= $37.39

    apples $6.99 (reduced) (600 pc pts)=$3.49

    banana= $0.36

    strawberries – $2.49

    bananas- $0.39

    mushrooms = $1.49

    lemon juice – $1.97

    rainbow peppers $ 3.47 (reduced) = $1.99

    3lb sweet potatoes- $2.97

    cantaloupe – $1.97

    Motts garden cocktail – $0.99

    mushrooms – $1.77

    tomatoes- $1.88

    strawberries- $2.97

    10 lbs russet potatoes 2 @ 2/$5.00= $5.00 (1000 PC pts) = $5.00

    cantaloupe= $2.47

    broccoli (reduced) = $0.75

    strawberries- $2.97

    mushrooms- $1.47

    MEAT= $25.25

    NN bacon –$3.99 (800 pc pts) = $3.99

    med ground beef ( $2.99 lb)= $8.32

    whole chicken 2 pk = $12.92 (PC pts 2600)= $12.94

    BREADS- $ 10.84 (we make our regular bread in our bread machine)

    OM hamburg buns – $3.59 (reduced) $1.79

    OM hamburg buns $2.49 (reduced)( 200 pc pts) =$1.24

    naan bread $ 1.69 (reduced) (400 pc pts) = $0.84

    pc tortilla 2 @ $2.99 (800 pc pts) = $5.98

    GV bagels $2.50 (reduced) = $0.99

    PET SUPLIES= $72.35

    friskas can cat food 10 @ 10/$7.00 ($2.37 coupon ) = $4.63

    whiskas can cat food – 12 @ 5/$4.00 ($5.34 coupon) =$4.60

    whiskas can cat food – 5 @ 5/$4.00= $4.00

    whiskas cat treats 4 @ $7.99 = $31.96

    pc ex meaty dry food 4 @ $6.79 = $27.16

    7000 pc pts per $35 cat food purchase

    CONVENIENCE MEALS= $18.32

    Hungry Man tv dinners 2 @ $3.33= $6.66

    Hungry Man TV dinners 2 @ $3.33= $6.66

    Fish n chips 2 @ $5.00 =$10.00 (reduced)= $5.00

    STAPLES= $49.26

    Basmati rice (8 lbs) = $11.99

    Jumbo shell pasta $3.79 (reduced) = $1.89

    kraft BBQ sauce 6 @ $0.50=$3.00

    GV oil- 3L= $4.97

    NN coffee 6 @ $3.99 (4800 pc pts) = $23.94

    instant coffee (200g)= $3.47

    JUNK FOODS= $3.36
    Sherbert fountain candy 2 @ $1.49 (reduced) = $1.48

    2L rootbeer – $0.88

    compliments cheesie sticks- $1.00

    BAKERY=$18.11

    gumdrop cake $4.49 (reduced) – $2.24

    Homestyle apple pie- $3.49

    donuts $3.00 (reduced) = $1.50

    donuts- $5.00 (reduced)= $2.50

    date squares –$5.00 (reduced) = $2.50

    Cinnamon rolls- bakery- $4.29

    Compliments cookies $1.99 (senior’s discount) =$1.59

    COLD + MEDICINE CABINET SUPPLIES=$62.80

    Halls Black cherry 2 @ $1.49= $2.98

    comp flu relief- $15.98 (senior discount) – $12.79

    comp cold & flu relief- $9.29 (senior discount) – $ $7.43

    Nyquil cherry- $12.49

    95 airmiles per $35 Comp purchase

    effervecient Vit C- 3.49

    Benylin DM = $13.49 (discount) = $11.47

    Compliments cough lozengers- $2.99 (senior’s discount)=$2.39

    Compliments elastic bandages 2 @ 2.33= $4.66 (seniors discount) =$3.77

    Advil cold and sinus meds- $7.49 (seniors discount) = $5.99

    TOILETRIES= $18.47

    Comp toilet paper 4 @ $ 4.99 =$19.96 (senior discount) –$15.97

    kids toothpaste – $2.50

    • Todd Christensen

      Hi Kathryn,
      Thank you for your openness! Are these figures in CAD or USD? At current exchanges, your groceries were either $377.51 USD ($188.76 per person per month) or, if figures are CAD, then the equivalent of $264.26 ($132.13 per person per month). Of course, other months are far less than that.
      Would you mind, Kathryn, sharing what metropolitan area you live in (large or small)? That also makes a big difference in the cost of groceries.
      Regardless, you have obviously learned how to navigate the grocery system to minimize your expenses, taking advantage of store rewards (points), coupons and senior discounts. Congratulations! Plus, with the little extra work you put in, you get affordable bread AND the unmatched aroma of a fresh-baked loaf in your home!

  13. Jessie Barrett

    I just want to point out (without having read through all of the comments, so apologies if this was covered) that grocery shopping and mostly everything else is catered to families or to at least couples, making it easier to divide meals and monthly expenses. When shopping for one, everything is more expensive, especially when you live in a highly populated and desirable place. I live in NJ by the beach where it’s commutable to NY and Philadelphia so it’s insanely expensive. $125 a month on groceries is completely unrealistic unless you want to eat like a college kid with little nutrition or variety. It would be nice to come across an article that was more realistic and helpful.

    • Kelle Payne

      I agree with you!! 180 to 200 per person is more realistic and provides more to work with when making tasty recipes and healthy snacks, drink, and meals! I spend roughly $375 per month for my 40 pound 18 month toddler and I, in the Phoenix metropolitan area

      • Todd Christensen

        Thanks for including your metro area, Kelle! Phoenicians, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, spend 13.9% of their monthly expenditures on food, just slightly higher than the US average of 12.8%. That is not the same as saying that food is slightly more expensive in Phoenix, although some might try to deduce that. The same site indicates that just 61% of food expenses of those living in Phoenix was for food prepared at home, while 39% was spent on food prepared away from home. That also is slightly higher than the 59.5% US average. Payscale.com indicates that the cost of living in Phoenix is 3% lower overall than the national average, with groceries being 6% lower.
        Being a single Mom, you have plenty on your plate already to deal with beyond affordable food options. The extra demands on your limited time mean that it is understandable that you spend a bit more than some other households per person if they have an extra hour or two each week to plan their shopping and to visit an extra store or two (or as a commenter below mentioned, perhaps four or five) in order to minimize grocery expenses.
        $180 to $200 is well within the USDA guidelines while at the upper end of our recommendations. If it’s working for you, and you are also achieving your financial goals (investing for the long-term, saving for emergencies and short-term items/activities), then keep at it. The $125-$150 per person per month groceries budget can be particularly helpful for households that are really struggling to come up with an extra $50 to $200 or even $300 or more per month and that are not approaching their grocery spending intentionally. I hope that households that are managing their finances well and making progress toward their goals don’t feel bad or guilty about spending more on groceries. That is certainly not my intention.
        Enjoy that toddler of yours, Kelle, and stay cool down there in Phoenix!

    • autumn

      perhaps your issue has to do with where you live, what grocery stores you shop at, lack of creativity or something else, but it is quite realistic to be able to feed one person on $125 per month. My husband and I eat on $50 each or $100 total. We eat varied meals with plenty of nutrition, but we do have to give up on luxuries like steak, shrimp, etc. most of the time unless it’s on sale for a really good price. I’ve lived in three different states: Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana and so I have gotten accustomed to how to look up what stores are around me within a 5 mile radius. I always check the weekly ads before going shopping and I only shop once a month. (Though I used to shop twice a month) I always have to go to 2-5 shops, but usually they’ll all be right next to one another. I shop at the dollar tree, meijer’s, aldi’s, kroger’s, lucky’s, fresh thyme, gordon food service, ollie’s, walmart, or save-a-lot depending on what’s on sale and unless I need cleaning supplies and spices I like to keep it at 1-3 stores that are right next to each other per month. I go to ollie’s usually for spices as they are 80 cents to $1 a bottle there unless I need salt or pepper which I get for 50 cents for salt at an actual grocery store or $1 for pepper at the dollar tree. Cleaning supplies and dog food for two dogs is accounted for in my grocery money. Cleaning supplies at the dollar tree work just as well as name brand from other stores. Dog food I get at Aldi’s at $8/8lb or at kroger’s for $10/20lb or $18/50lb depending on what is convenient and how low we are on dog food. Lucky’s and Fresh Thyme are organic specialty stores, but I don’t usually go to them unless their prices in a weekly ad are just that impressive. I once got cheese for $2/lb and saffron for $1.20, which are both quite impressive deals. Gordon Food Service is a bulk food store and so the price has to be impressive as well as my meat stores running low before I’ll go there. Speaking of which, I buy 100-150 count sandwich bags from the dollar tree and break down or cut my own meat that I buy in bulk. Like, if I’m going to have steak, I buy beef round roast and cut it into steak and cubes for things like beef stew. Pork chops you get from pork loin not pork butt as that is made different and more for shredded pork sandwiches. Anyhow, after the meat is cut to size, I package it in the sandwich bags and store it in the freezer until I’m ready to use it. You can even do this for ground beef. Just use a cup measure to measure them out to the size you want. You can do multiple sizes and label whether it’s for hamburgers or cooking things like lasagna, shepherd’s pie, etc. I do think it is wise to label all of your sandwich bags of meat with the date, what it is, and what you plan to use it for so that you don’t forget. Now, I don’t own a deep freezer, I just use my freezer, but if you get as good as I am at shopping you may wish to invest in one because meat keeps for months and usually when you buy in bulk and freeze for later it piles up pretty quick. Now, if you’re worried about how tender the meat is after thawing from the freezer there are several methods you can use. Cut hash marks or crisscrossed lines in your meat or use a meat tenderizer to help it cook in a way that’ll leave it more tender. Use a dry or wet marinade. Dry is just spices rubbed on the night before and wet is using a sandwich or gallon size bag and putting seasonings and vinegar in it the night or several days for even more tenderness. You can even add fresh garlic, onion, and/or mushrooms for more flavor. Now, freezing things usually doesn’t cause so many issues that you have to use tenderizing methods every time, but if you have no teeth or want the meat to be more moist it is useful to do these things. Cooking methods can also help. Things like using two step cooking methods like cooking the meat in oil until it browns the putting it in the oven or adding water to the pan and putting the lid on to finish cooking are just two examples. Meat actually goes from uncooked to cooked to tough to fall apart tender if you cook it correctly such as browning beef then cooking it in a pot for beef stew. Anyways, moving on. I usually have a method I like to use to determine whether something is a good deal. Produce should be $1 or less per pound and meat should be $2 or less per pound anything more than that means it’s one of the more expensive produce or meat options or that that store doesn’t have a very good deal on that food item at that particular point in time. Now, you likely also need to know what I do to keep fresh produce all month long since I pay so little for food and only shop once a month. You should only buy fresh items that spoil quickly enough for two weeks and use it first. Things like milk and softer veggies and fruits like tomatoes and peaches. Things like eggs and bread will last all month long if stored properly. Things like broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, and celery will also keep for most of if not more than a month if kept properly as they are harder veggies. Fruit wise think apples as pears which are harder fruits. You can also buy frozen veggies or fruits or buy fresh and prepare them properly to be freeze and store them in the freezer in sandwich bags. Now, I think I’ve covered everything to do with storing, but I’m sure you’re still bound to bring up your original point about shopping for one being harder to do than for a couple or family. While I’ve kind of been answering that this whole time, I will spell it out for you. If you buy in bulk and store in the freezer what you won’t be able to eat fresh within the first week than you can shop the same as families and couples do. Make smaller sizes of meals or make enough to have leftovers for a few days. Unused ingredients just mean you can make it again later and leftovers just mean you wait to use ingredients for other meals later. I see you have said you live in New Jersey, many of the stores I shop at are in new jersey and from what the ads show the prices aren’t much more than it is where I live. Another tip that might help you figure out how to plan for the long term in order to use ingredients bought in bulk is to plan out a months worth of meals with recipes and everything. First you’ll need to gather some recipes, some may be new to you, in which case buy only enough stuff to make that meal once until you know if you like it, if you do plan to have it more often the next month. Once you have the recipes, make sure you’ve converted them to either one serving or enough for just a few days leftovers. A digital kitchen scale which you can buy as cheap as between $5-$10 may help you ensure you have the right weights for meats and such. Then you can plan out an approximate schedule of when you’ll eat what. Try to account for fresh ingredients being used first and for when you plan to use leftovers as well. If it’s too much to do a whole month at a time, try two weeks at first. Just take the $50-$150 budget you set for yourself for the month and divide it in half and see if you can plan for two weeks for it. For example, let’s say you want to plan two weeks for $50. An example menu would be: lassagna-3 days, chicken parmesean with sauteed zucchini and biscuits-3 days, pesto based pasta with diced chicken-3 days, shephard’s pie-3 days, tilapia with lemon and butter, rice pilaf, and broccoli-2 days. This would require the following ingredients: 2lb ground beef ($4), 2 jars pasta sauce ($2), 1 tub cottage cheese($1.50), 8oz cheese($1.80), 3lb boneless, skinless chicken breast ($6), 1 loaf bread($0.85), 1lb zucchini($1), 1 can biscuits($1), 5oz spinach($2), 3 pk fresh garlic($1), 1 bottle canola oil ($1.50), 1 box pasta noodles($1), 1lb potatoes($1), 1 packet gravy($0.33), 3lb fish($12), 1 lemon($0.50), 1lb butter($3), 1lb rice($1), 1lb broccoli($1). All prices are approximated based on my experience and a new jersey aldi’s ad. May be cheaper or more expensive. Total for just dinner: $42.48. This might not leave much for breakfast and lunch, but if you’re like me you usually only eat two meals a day. $2 box of pancake mix, $1.50 pancake syrup, $0.75 for some eggs, already listed butter, $3 for some bacon. That brings the total to $49.73 for two weeks worth of food with major splurges like the $4/lb fish or $3 for bacon. If you got cheaper meals than that than you’d likely even be able to have extra food leftover at the end of the week. However, you said healthy and nutritional meals, so, I tried to list some variety and healthier meals. Many times the issue is also what you consider a serving size. For me 1/4-1/2lb per person of meat is normal and I only use 1/2 lb for my lassagna. However, I listed 1/2-1lb meat for the meals. For one person likely a carton of eggs, a box of pancake mix, pancake syrup which should last a month or more, and a pack of bacon should be enough for 2 weeks breakfast with reasonable portions. Heck, the pancake mix itself with the syrup would be enough for one person for 2 weeks or more for breakfast in my house as we can only really eat 2-3 normal sized pancakes each before getting full. So, I hope maybe I have sparked your creativity on how to better budget for one while still eating healthy meals.

      • Todd Christensen

        Autumn, you sound like you’re rocking the $50/person/month grocery bill. Thank you for sharing both your experiences and your suggestions. As you noted at the start, location and the availability of affordable grocery store options is key. Your ideas on how to purchase meats but spend less doing so are helpful. Yes, having a deep freeze would make things easier, but as you pointed out, not required.
        I would reiterate my point that spending less than $125 per person per month is absolutely not easy without some serious planning and discipline (which both get easier with experience), and it’s certainly not attainable without work and even some trial and error. But thank you for your post, and keep up the good work!

  14. Erin

    I spend about $260 a month on groceries (including everyday cleaning products and paper products like toilet paper) for myself alone. I shop at aldi and walmart also cause as pat said – they are the least expensive.

    Though I hardly ever make “fancy” meals, once a month at best it still seems $125 a month or even $150 is a little impractical.
    It very much CAN be done if someone drinks mostly water and eats foods that are just not filling, meaning you are hungry constantly. Ramen and generic, tiny frozen pizzas just doesn’t cut it.

    For this Todd guy, saying they have occasional crepes with nutella, deli meat a couple times a week, those things alone would put someone way over the $125 guideline. Once again, unless the family eats the same amount as someone in a third world nation. That will go over REAL well with the teenage boys of the family. I think 75% of any given household grocery budget is feeding them alone.
    Wait, did he say “organic” deli meats? The wages of sin is not as bad as buying organic. And organic deli, HUGE double whammy.

    I myself am always looking for ways to save money but here is the truth – if you save money in one area, the cost is still going to show up in some other area. The “cost” may not be money but may be some discomfort or inconvenience that wold not even be worth it. One can only “cut back” so far before it starts creating other problems.
    It would be like saying, “screw it, I can save $100 a month by not paying the electric bill!” It works great as long as you do not mind living like it is the year 1835.

    I call B.S. on this guy’s article

    • Annie

      Erin–gosh, all I can say is it must be nice to have enough money to not have to worry about the cost of “discomfort”. Honestly, ramen and frozen pizza are way beyond my budget abilities. A bag of rice, beans, plain oats, plenty of veggies and a gallon of milk go a long way. Throw in some eggs and flour and you’ve got meals for several weeks as a single person! (assuming you have basic spices on hand and a bag of yeast. You can even afford a rotisserie chicken as a splurge (which can make a bunch of meals and delicious broth!). I live in North Dakota where milk is 5.00 a gallon–and this is not a problem– but you included non- food products in your total budget (the 125.00 per person is food only) so I guess your comparison is not really accurate. I’m swinging 75.00 a month per person by necessity. We don’t starve and most of our foods are “clean” home cooked foods. My biggest splurge is buying coffee–which has little nutritional value for the cost.

      I would also like to point out that in very RURAL America groceries can be expensive, produce can be poor and shopping options very limited. We have cars but 120-250 miles of driving for better choices is just not economical.

      I have lived in 5 different states and nine different cities ranging in population of 1,000 to 4 million. This budget was possible in all– but my staples and “go to” meals change according to what is available.

      Joke about third world countries– I’ve been to those too and they have provided me with economical, filling, and tasty foods as well as PERSPECTIVE. Discomfort because I cannot afford a home chef to cook my steak = first world problem.

    • Melissa Jackson

      I agree with Erin 100%. We have a home of 7 people, 5 kids/2 adults. We spend about $175-$200 a month per person not including household items like detergent, paper and hygiene products. We shop at Target, Walmart and Aldi and live in Omaha. We are a family that has recently decided to stick to only buying clean, healthy whole foods. And while it is possible for us to not spend much more than we already do, eating higher quality foods (not because we are snobs but because it’s healthier for consumption) would be impossible at a budget of $50 per person per month. Eating poultry/dairy/meat/ from grass fed animals Is expensive. So is organic fruits and veggies. Yes, these REAL foods actually nourish your body thus preventing you from eating all day long, but it’s still more than $50 a month. And, time is money. I plan a menu, make a list and go to 3, sometimes 4 stores for our shopping. I don’t have much more time than that for groceries. I work 40 hours a week, my husband works 50 hours a week and is a full time student. Plus, we have 5 kids, all in dance, band, football, and other extra curricular activities that change constantly. Spending more time on our food planning is not an option. I do think that the $150 a month is doable, the $50 is not. But I’m just a 37 year old mom that’s been buying groceries for 18 years now.

      • Todd Christensen

        Hi Melissa, and thanks for the post! You obviously have a very busy household and do your best to save on grocery purchases regularly. I’m sure I was thinking of families exactly like yours when I referred to additional grocery savings being casualties of household realities in the post above. In such scenarios, I often just marvel at how parents pull it all off without pulling out all their hair from the craziness of life.
        For many a grocery shopper, just trying to keep grocery expenses at current levels is hard enough, let alone trying to lower them with extra time and efforts.
        And as you note, chosen diets can have a huge impact on our spending. This blog is not meant to make anyone feel guilty or unappreciated for their efforts to control their grocery spending. Hopefully the tips and experiences shared can spark ideas to help households in need of finding $50 or $200 to redirect in their budgets.
        So just as it would be unfair for me to say that all monthly grocery bills above $125 or $150 per person are wasteful and unnecessary, it would likewise be unfair for me to infer that all grocery spending of $125 or less per person per month is unhealthy or unrealistic. I recognize that there are plenty of American households spending $175 to $200 per person per month and getting the best deals they can on healthy food. There are also many American (and Canadian) households spending less than $125 per person per month and still eating healthy and wholesome meals.
        It is unfortunate that this blog post cannot address both the health and financial aspects of GMO vs Organic vs Processed vs Canned vs Fresh vs Home Grown vs. Community Garden vs…. foods. While health and finance issues are certainly connected, we need to maintain the focus of our blog on finance.
        Thanks again for your submission, and we wish you all the best in your continued efforts to keep your grocery spending down.
        -Todd

    • Todd Christensen

      Hi Erin,
      Thanks for taking me up on my invitation to share your frustrations in grocery bill reductions. I appreciate your willingness to share what you did.
      Just a few comments for you:
      First, I’m not sure where you live, but as I mention in the article, there are many places around the country where food prices are going to be higher than other locations. Alaska and Hawaii are the obviously expensive areas, but every state has a region or two that is more expensive than others. This may very well be the case for you.
      Second, buying food for a one-person household is usually more expensive than buying for a 3- or 4-person household, on a per person basis. In my presentations, I usually cite the $150 to $200 range for a one-person household monthly grocery budget and $100 to $150 for multi-person monthly household grocery budgets. Since you’re also include cleaning, paper and other household products in your $260 monthly grocery bill, your monthly spending does not seem much above my own recommendations.
      Finally, as I offer to anyone wanting to find a way to free up $50 to $100 a month in household spending, I invite you to take me up on my grocery spending challenge. For one month, snap a photo or scan your grocery receipts (x-ing out any personal information you are uncomfortable sending or any non-grocery items) and email them to me at [email protected]. You may be right in that there is no way to reduce your monthly bill. But if I could find even $25 a month to help you save, that’s $300 a year! I can think of a hundred things I’d like to do with $300. Any takers? This free service is available each month on a first-come-first-served basis, generally limited to just 5-10 consumers.
      Remember, we’re a nonprofit credit counseling agency trying to help all consumers anywhere to achieve a more stable and manageable household financial situation and reach their personal finance goals. We’re not out to sell anything or prove we’re right. We are, though, here to help.
      All the best, Erin!
      That Todd Guy 😉

  15. Chase

    I’m honestly a little baffled at the budget listed here? it seems extremely exorbitant. my idea of eating on a budget is a lot closer to 50/person/month at most and involves a lot of rice and beans, some fresh in-season produce, and not a lot of meat or full meals.
    Also, if you’re concerned about your food budget, maybe consider not buying organic.

    • Jeff

      With a diet like that there are other consequences, like starving your body of the nutrients it needs to thrive. Especially young children where the brain needs a lot of protein to develop properly. Otherwise, you will pay for it in the long run which includes herbicides and pesticides in your produce. Grow your own before you purchase non-organic conventional farmed produce if you are on a $50 a month budget. It was proven that in the UK their was a food shortage in the 40s and the poor actually ate better than the wealthy because they grew their own food.

    • Todd Christensen

      Chase, your post brings up a great point. There can be definite tradeoffs (what some might call sacrifices in quality, taste or variety) in all grocery budgets. Thanks for your comment!

  16. emma merriweather

    I have to have salt free foods…low fat..low cholesterol….prices are high in this state….I spend about two hundred….yes I get fresh fruits and veg…mostly chicken….but still need paper goods which are high…detergent…dish soap…yes I buy the cheapest..and store brands…real is real….not a junk food buyer…

    • Stephanie

      Emma,
      You sound like you are doing great on the food part, but the paper is killing you. You could switch to cloth napkins ,kitchen towels and un-paper towels for a substantial savings and you would be helping the environment too. Worth looking into. It’s all we use and I don’t buy paper anything (except TP) and we saved $100 a month on just that change!!

  17. Gloria

    Dear Pat, I was surprised to read you had diabetes and the description of what you do it. Not surprising that you do have
    diabetes. Canned fruit has a lot of sugar, frozen fruit would be better. And I know pizza is not good for a diabetic. Nor is starting
    the first meal off with toast. I hope you do not drink orange juice in the morning too. Seek more protein. My brother is diabetic
    and it is not something to ignore. Look and read up on many sources available online.

  18. Diane

    Hi

    Thank you for the article but where I live it is unrealistic.

  19. Linda

    Hi Todd…I saw your post from a few days ago, then read all the much older responses. Have you updated your numbers for 2017? I’m glad I found your site.

    • Todd Christensen

      Hi Linda,
      Yes, these figures have been updated, as far as the USDA food plan ranges and our recommended ranges are concerned. When we’re counseling with clients who live alone, we understand that they will likely have grocery expenses even a bit higher than our recommended ranges. $200 a month, I think, would still be reasonable for a single person, though there is always room for improvement. Then, of course, there are areas of the country where groceries are much more expensive (I’m thinking about the entire states of Alaska and Hawaii). Additionally, special diets can create huge ranges in spending. We’ve worked with individuals battling severe illnesses with very strict diets and have seen their monthly grocery bills three or four times higher than our recommendations. These are exceptions, of course. Many homes where the primary shopper has an hour or two a week to organize and plan his or her spending for the household can still, in many places around this country, spend $75 to $125 per person per month for groceries.
      Thanks for the inquiry! All the best,
      Todd

  20. Leah

    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…

  21. Todd

    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).

    • Liz

      Todd, will you be sharing a link to this calculator? Pretty-please? And thanks for your great tips and insight — you’ve helped me save quite a bit on groceries and household expenses, despite my living in Alaska.

  22. Todd Christensen

    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 they are 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 are 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

  23. Mary

    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.

  24. Todd Christensen

    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

  25. Pat

    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.

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6213 N. Cloverdale Rd. Suite 100 Boise, ID 83713

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