How much should I spend on groceries? – If you’re wondering how much to budget for groceries, spoiler: you’re probably spending too much! Here’s how to lower your bill…
One of the most popular questions I hear is, “How much should I spend on groceries?” And it’s a really great question. We all need to eat – but how much is too much?
How Much Money to Spend on Grocery Shopping
You’re probably not surprised to know that the average family of 4 spends between $719 and $890 per month on food – or even more! While there’s a lot of varying information about how much people actually spend on groceries, it’s typically considered that families spend at least $200 per person per month on groceries.
The hard reality is this…even THAT is considered overspending on groceries. At that rate, the average family would spend $800+ per month on groceries alone. Whew! That’s a lot of money! It is generally suggested that a family should spend $100 per person per month on food. With that, a family of 4 should be spending just $400/month on food.
Since I hate the whole monthly budget thing, I chart our spending by week. This would make your weekly grocery budget for a family of four $100/week.
If your jaw is on the floor and you’re saying “that will never work for my family,” I hear you. I have a family of five…and they’re all big eaters! But we just upgraded our budget from $75/week to $110 (since apparently all three of my sons are going through growth spurts at the same time…). At this budget, we’re not hurting for either money or food.
You may be asking… “How?” Well, let me share some of my shopping tips to help you buy the groceries you need while staying within a budget that fits your family and household.
Related post: The Class That Saved Me $10,800/ Year (& Taught Me How to Cook!)
My Top Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget
1. Meal plan!
Wait, before you write me off, I have NO time to meal plan either. That’s why I use this site that sends me a weekly meal plan (that fits all of my family’s dietary restrictions) along with a shopping list. So, I literally don’t have to do anything except bring the list with me when I go to the store. And unlike other meal planning sites, this one is $5/month.
This has been THE key to grocery budgeting success. Going to the store with a specific list of everything that I need to make lunches and dinners for the week has been a game changer for my shopping trips.
If I don’t make a list, I find I end up wandering down every isle and grabbing things at random. Yes, this includes lots of snacks. Impulse spending is a problem that I see often when you shop without a list and when you shop hungry. Always grocery shop after eating!
Related resource: Meal planning made easy.
2. Shop at a different store.
My favorite stores are discount grocery stores. They are stocked with bent boxes, dinged cans, and overstocked goods from big-name stores. All you need to do is Google “discount grocer near [your zip code]” and see if there are any in your area!
But, if you can’t find any, the next-best grocery stores are Costco (but make sure that you have one of these before shopping there!), Aldi, and Walmart.
You don’t need to shop at Whole Foods to get organic and healthy food. Both Costco and Aldi are making it a point to make all of their generic brands very high-quality products. And their prices are really tough to beat.
I know it’s nice to shop at your nearest grocery store, but you can likely save much more than you would spend on gas by going to your nearest discount grocery store.
Related post: 11 Expenses to Stop Spending Money On
3. Buy in bulk.
This goes back to shopping at Costco. Products are cheaper when you buy in bulk. So if you know that you go through a lot of flour, rice, sugar, oil and everything else, shopping at Costco might be the best option for you and your budget.
Also pay attention to sales. If you spot a good sale on an item you know you purchase often, it’s a good idea to stock up on it while you can. This works for canned goods, prepackaged items, and food you can freeze such as meat and bread.
In addition to sales, many grocery stores offer additional discounts for loyalty members or host customer appreciation days.
Related post: Cheap and Easy Instant Pot Recipes
4. Do a monthly spending freeze and clear out your pantry and freezer.
Spending freezes are the best! If you’ve never heard of a spending freeze, you need to check this out.
The 2-second overview is that you set a specific timeframe when you don’t spend money. Zero dollars (other than bills) gets spent during the spending freeze and you can’t stock up the fridge before or after the spending freeze.
This is a great way to both save a week’s worth of grocery money and clean out your pantry and freezer in the process. You might be working with lentils and canned tomatoes by the end of the week, but that’s okay!
A spending freeze will force you to get creative with the food that you already have.
This will also help you get back on track with your grocery budget if you’ve been starting to drift into frivolous spending at the store.
Related post: The One Weird Trick to ALWAYS Stay Under Budget
5. Use cash back apps.
Ibotta is my go-to grocery store app. I don’t do couponing (I actually failed at it more than once!), so cash back apps are the only way that I’ll use something like coupons.
You get cash back when you buy even generic items with Ibotta, which is why I love it! Plus, you can use it at Costco and Aldi (both places that don’t usually accept coupons). You can get $10 for signing up with Ibotta through my link.
It will save you a few dollars (maybe even more) each time you shop. You won’t get rich this way, but it’s a great way to save up for something special (I use mine to add to our Christmas fund each year).
Related post: Best Money Saving Apps You Need
6. Buy generic brands.
Skip out on the fancy name brands and go for the generic brands instead! On average, you can save between 15%-30% by choosing generic rather than name brands. Most of the time, you won’t notice a huge difference in taste for products either.
Sometimes, there’s nothing better than the taste of name brand. (ketchup, I’m looking at you!) But for other things, such as oil, sugar, dish washing soap, ziplock bags, granola bars, etc., you can definitely get away with it.
7. Double your recipes.
Most of the time, you’re going to have leftover ingredients from your recipes. From the juice of half a lime to two chicken breasts, you can’t always buy the exact amount of food needed to make your meal. And you don’t want any of that extra food to go to waste!
Oftentimes, doubling your recipe and stocking up with leftovers will help you to save money, time, and keep you from wasting food. Either use the leftovers for lunch or freeze them for when you need a quick meal.
So, How Much Should I Spend On Groceries?
“How much should I spend on groceries” is a tough question that many people ask. It’s kind of relative, as there are a lot of factors to take into consideration:
- Location (some areas are more expensive by a LOT!)
- Dietary restrictions (being dairy, gluten, soy, egg, or nut free are all things that can make grocery shopping more difficult and costly)
- Family size
These all contribute to how much you spend at the grocery store.
The general rule of thumb that I have been told is that when you’re on a budget, $100 per person per month is the way to go. And while that’s almost an impossible number for some people, for others it’s totally doable. I’m not here to pass judgment at all (my husband and I used to spend close to $800/month back when it was just the 2 of us… yikes!)
If you’re an individual or family wondering how much to should spend on groceries, the best thing you can do is cut back your budget and find a number that works for you!
How much do you spend on groceries and how many people are in your family?
Francesca - From Pennies to Pounds says
These are great tips Caroline! Meal planning is my favourite because you can work out how much you actually need to buy instead of guessing. It’s crazy the differences people pay for their groceries, and I guess it’s different in other areas!
I know, Francesca! I can’t believe how expensive groceries are in New York or other huge cities! But meal planning has been such a lifesaver! 🙂
Tina Hartsfield says
If you shop at Wal-Mart, download the Savings Catcher app, scan your receipts and if the same products are on sale locally Wal-Mart gives you the difference. All you have to do is scan your receipts! I have gotten over $30 back to use in the store.
Yes, Tina! SavingsCatcher is amazing! 🙂
This post really helped me figure out if I was reasonable with our grocery budget. We don’t have to buy beef and milk, but I still felt like I was spending too much. This post challenged me to re-examine what I’m buying with our grocery money! Yikes!
Glad to help, Janae! The first step is realizing that you spend too much! 🙂
Caroline, this list hits the nail on the head. Planning and a little savvy go a long way towards keeping a manageable grocery budget.
Another helpful suggestion is to buy ingredients that can be used for multiple meals. For example, if you’re making tacos and know you’re going to have extra tortillas, it might be wise to also make fajitas or enchiladas another night so you’re not wasting perfectly good food.
I love that! We’ve done frozen breakfast burritos with leftover tortilla shells, too. 🙂
Kim Galeta says
Great post! I really need to get into meal prep but first I may need to learn to cook, LOL. I love using Aldi to save on groceries!
Haha!! I’m the same way, Kim! I’m pretty sure my family would all starve without the Crockpot and the InstantPot! 😀 And Aldi is AMAZING!!
I spend $300 to $500 per month for my family of 4, but that’s because I coupon and use rebate apps. It takes time and effort, but it works for my family.
That’s so awesome, Missy! Those rebate apps really do add up! 🙂