Groceries are one of the biggest budget items on most families’ lists. Of course, how much you spend will depend on where you live, what you eat, and what your spending habits are. As food costs increase, so may the grocery budget for a family of three.
As you create or revise a monthly budget, it can help to look at how your food spending compares to other families.
American Average Grocery Budget for Family of 3
Each month, the USDA publishes a report showing the average costs of groceries at three price levels: budget, moderate, and liberal. Here’s a look at the middle-of-the-road spending for a family of three in 2022. Notice how the average cost of groceries rose more than $87 over the course of the year.
|Month (in 2022)
|Average Cost of Groceries
How Much to Budget for Groceries Per Person
No matter the size of your family, your grocery budget can depend largely on the cost of food where you live. For instance, according to data from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, people in Hawaii, Alaska, and New York tend to pay more for food than residents of Texas, Idaho, and Michigan. This means $700 per month for groceries may be more reasonable in Texas than in, say, Hawaii.
Creating a household budget and aren’t sure how much to allocate for food? A good rule of thumb is to set aside 10% of your income for groceries and other food costs. So if you take home around $5,000 a month, plan on budgeting $500 for food.
However, you may need to adjust that percentage, especially if you have a larger family or live in an area with a higher cost of living. It may be wise to track how much you spend in any given month on food and see what a reasonable budget would look like for you and your family.
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How to Prioritize Your Grocery Spending
What does it mean to prioritize your grocery spending? It’s simply a way to ensure you’re making the most every dollar when you’re grocery shopping on a budget.
One strategy to consider is to set aside money each month automatically so you have enough to spend on food. Another option is to put groceries as one of the top line items in your monthly budget so you don’t forget to set aside money for it first.
It’s also important to scrutinize how much you spend on food and the choices you make in the grocery store aisles. It could be that your grocery budget is fine, but you may need to reel in how much you spend on certain ingredients or find cheaper alternatives.
Above all, though, make sure you settle on a budget that works for you and your family. Be sure it’s enough to cover what’s important to you all while still sticking to your larger spending plan.
How to Stay Within Your Grocery Budget
It’s easy to give in to temptation at the grocery store, but rest assured, staying within budget is possible. A budget planner app can help, as can these tips:
Shop at discount retailers
Buying your groceries at lower-priced retailers can add up to significant savings, even better if you’re able to purchase ingredients you need on sale. Some retailers may have rewards programs, helping you earn free or heavily discounted groceries.
• Make pricey purchases go the distance: Meat or related products like eggs tend to cost more than other ingredients. Look into recipes that help you stretch a pack of meat or carton of eggs over several meals.
• Use what you have: Before heading to the grocery store, go through your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry to see what you already have. Besides preventing food waste, this also helps you avoid purchasing items you don’t need.
• Buy store brands: In many cases, store-brand items cost much less than brand-name items. The quality for generic items may also be similar.
• Use coupons: Though it may not seem like it’ll make a huge difference, using coupons or grocery store rebates can help make every cent count. Be sure to do some comparison shopping before you hit the checkout counter. Even with discounts, you may still come out ahead with generic or store-brand versions.
• Embrace meal planning: Making plans can help you estimate your food costs for the week and ensure you only purchase items you need.
• Do a spending audit regularly: Tally up how much you’ve spent and what you’ve spent it on. Look for places to cut back on spending, such as purchasing pricey ingredients that can only be used once.
Recommended: Does Buying in Bulk Save Money?
How to Budget for Restaurants and Dining Out
Eating out is a luxury, but it can also be done on a budget. Consider the following tips the next time you’re considering a night out on the town:
• Decide how many times a month you want to eat out: Knowing approximately where and how many times you go out in a given month will help you make a realistic budget.
• Consider drinking only water: While it’s tempting to order fancy drinks when you’re out, sticking with water can help you and your family save money.
• Look for weekly specials or discounts: In an attempt to earn your business, many restaurants will offer specials, such as free kids meals or discounted menu items. These deals usually happen on a weekday, though on occasion you may find discounts during restaurants’ busier times as well.
• Budget for tipping: Paying for your meal isn’t the only cost involved in dining out. Make sure to leave enough room so you can tip your server or bartender.
Recommended: Examining the Price of Eating at Home vs Eating Out
Tips for Getting Help if You Can’t Afford to Buy Groceries
Sometimes, budgeting will only get you so far. If you need help with food and other necessities, there are some organizations and agencies you may be able to turn to for temporary help:
• Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): If you can meet the program’s eligibility requirements, the government-run program will give you a monthly stipend to spend on food for you and your family.
• Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): The WIC program is for eligible pregnant women or mothers who have infants up to age 5 who are at risk of not receiving enough nutrients. Note that you’ll need to apply for this government-funded program.
• USDA National Hunger Hotline: If you’re facing food insecurity, you can call the hotline daily from 7am to 10pm ET to find resources like local meal sites or food banks.
• Local food pantries: Many religious organizations, colleges, and other local nonprofits may have food pantries. Call ahead to see when you can receive assistance.
Budgeting for grocery costs isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the effort. It may be worth considering looking at average costs in your area as a guideline for how much to budget and looking at ways to save on food to ensure you’re not spending more than you can afford to.
Using a money tracker app can help you maximize every dollar you make. SoFi’s app connects all of your accounts in one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see all of your balances, spending breakdowns, and credit score monitoring, plus you can get other valuable financial insights.
Stay up to date on your finances by seeing exactly how your money comes and goes.
What is a reasonable grocery budget?
Most experts recommend budgeting around 10% of your income to food costs.
How much should a family of four spend on groceries?
Depending on where you live, the average cost of groceries for a family of four can average from $945.30 to $1,401.50, according to data from USDA.
How much does an average family spend on groceries?
The average family spends about 10.3% on groceries, according to USDA data.
Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio
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