What Is a Realistic Grocery Budget?

See how your monthly grocery bill compares to the national average.

woman shopping in a grocery store with arms full of colorful bags
Photo: Moyo Studio/Getty Images

Budgeting can be tricky, especially when it comes to necessities like grocery shopping. It's hard to know how much you should spend on your trips to the grocery store because every family has a different budget.

If the thought of your current monthly grocery bill causes you stress, or you just want to know how your bill compares to others nationwide, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is here to help.

Every month, the USDA releases a guideline for a realistic grocery budget for Americans. Instead of giving one budget, the USDA releases food plans that represent a healthy diet at four different cost levels: thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost, and liberal.

The USDA's easy-to-follow chart breaks down each plan into smaller age-gender groups, including a realistic budget for individuals, families of two, and families of four. You can view the budgets by weekly or monthly spending as well as by age, ranging from one to 71+ years old.

The most recent guidelines for August 2021 use pricing from June 2021 to determine the budgets, but this month's guidelines don't include a thrifty plan. According to the guidelines, a family of four — which includes a male and female between the ages of 19 and 50 years old and two children aged two to five years old — should be spending a monthly average of $949.70 with the moderate-cost plan. If the children are aged six to 11 years old, the budget increases to $1,134.80 per month.

If you don't have children, a typical budget for a male and female couple aged 19 to 50 years old in the moderate-cost plan is $655.70 per month. If you are only buying groceries for yourself, the average monthly budget for a male aged 19 to 50 years old is $322.30 and a female aged 19 to 50 years old is $273.80 in the moderate-cost plan.

If you have a larger family than what is noted in the chart, the USDA offers adjustment suggestions to calculate your ideal budget.

Might you use more as a family of two? Sure, and larger families might even find ways to use much less than the USDA's guidelines. The goal, however, is to help you set a baseline and work your budget around that until you find what makes sense for you, your income, and your expenses.

The USDA also provides a more in-depth breakdown of the foods and food quantities in each plan through the Thrifty Food Plan, 2021 report, which was reevaluated for June 2021 food costs, and The Low-Cost, Moderate-Cost, and Liberal Food Plans, 2007 report. The monetary difference between the thrifty and liberal plans is nearly doubled across the board with only a slight difference between the low-cost and moderate-cost plans.


Was this page helpful?
You’ll Also Love