One question I see time and again is “How much should I spend on groceries?” To be honest, figuring out how much you should budget for groceries varies for every family. There isn’t a set amount you should use. But, it is important that your grocery budget amount is accurate.
It is easy to know how much you need to include for utilities, loans, and even fuel. But, when it comes to spending money on food, what is the right amount?
As much as I wish this were a simple answer, there is a lot that goes into your grocery budget. The following can be used as a guide when figuring out how much you should spend on food each month.
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HOW MUCH SHOULD I SPEND ON GROCERIES?
It can be tough to figure out how much you really should budget for groceries vs. what you may currently be spending. There is not a right or a wrong number, but you must find the right amount to include in your budget so that you don’t overspend.
Fortunately, there are some different tricks you can try to help you figure out exactly how much you should budget for groceries.
BASED UPON NATIONAL AVERAGES
According to the US Department of Agriculture, that average cost of groceries per month is around 6% of most budgets. However, the study also shows that Americans also spend 5% of their disposable income on dining out. That makes your food budget 11% of your overall income!
If you use this method, budget 6% for groceries each month and 5% for dining out. If your take-home income is $3,000 a month, you will budget around $180 for groceries and $150 for dining out. Of course, if $180 won’t cover your needs, then you need to scale back on dining out and use any additional money towards your grocery needs.
A more efficient, and realistic, way to figure out how much to budget for groceries is to look at what your current grocery spending. The way to do this is by completing a spending form.
You will review all your spending purchases over several pay periods. It includes food spending, fuel, dining out, entertainment — everything. The result will show you an average you are spending on groceries every single week.
If you feel that is too much, you can try to reduce your spending, keeping in mind that you and your family will also have to adjust the way you eat.
Sometimes, you want to get specific help when figuring out how much to spend on food. There is a simple to use, online grocery budget calculator; you can use for free.
Fill out the information for all of your family members, then hit calculate. It will return an average you should plan on budgeting for your family.
I ran this report for my family, and the result said that we should spend $219.35 per week on food for our family of five. That is more than we spend. On average, I spend around $125 – $150 per week on everything our family needs.
While a budget calculator can be helpful, it may produce the same results and show an amount that is either higher than what you know you spend or what you can afford. Use this calculator as a guide, but not the only factor when determining your grocery budget.
U.S. AVERAGE PLAN
Another way to reach a budget amount is to look at the plans created by the USDA. The most recent plans are on their website. They provide the weekly cost for a thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost and liberal plan on a weekly and monthly basis. The amounts are broken down by gender and age. You will need to total the numbers listed for the people in your family.
For example, the average grocery budget for a family of four (4) is around $871, per this report. The amounts will be lower, of course for a family of three or higher if you need to budget for a family of five.
Once again, these numbers should be a guide. Once you start grocery shopping for your family, you may find that you spend much less – or even more – than what the average family spends on groceries.
SPECIAL DIETARY NEEDS
If you have a family member who cannot eat gluten, or who has other dietary restrictions, these can affect your budget. Make sure you keep these specialty foods in mind when developing your budget as they can cost much more than average foods.
GROCERY SHOPPING ON A BUDGET
If, after you’ve looked at these ideas, but still feel you need to lower your grocery budget further, here are some simple ideas you can try:
- Reduce your dining out budget. Eat at home more often and stop meals out. That is a simple way to find money to add to your budget.
- Use coupons. While they are not for everyone, coupons are the simplest way to save money on the items you need. Even if the coupons aren’t available for the foods you need to eat, you can find them for household products you use, thereby reducing your spending and increasing the money you can spend on the foods you want.
- Stick to your list. Never shop without a list and only purchase the items on your list.
- Menu plan. Figure out your meals every single week – before you shop. That way, you have a plan for the week not only to know what you will eat, but the ingredients will be on hand when it is time to cook (reducing those frequent drive-thru meals).
- Other helpful tips to create a grocery list on a budget.
Take the time to create your grocery budget that is feasible. Don’t try to make it so low that it is unrealistic, or your budget will fail month after month.