How to spend less on groceries, even during inflation

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Everyone buys groceries, but how much should an individual or household spend on food each month? Food is the third largest expenditure for Americans, and for those looking to cut costs, it can be a place where reductions are possible with some planning and budgeting.

In 2020, Americans spent an average of 8.6% of their income on food, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Everyone is different when it comes to their personal food choices, household, and budget, so it’s difficult to come up with a goal amount for everyone’s monthly grocery bill. However, looking at averages across the country can help one figure out if they are within the range of other people in their region, age bracket, and household size.

Related: Does net worth include home equity?

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Grocery Bills and Inflation

Inflation can have a big effect on the price of groceries, making it harder to stay within a budget and reduce one’s bill. Over the past year, the cost of groceries has increased by 10.8%  . Some foods, such as meat, poultry, and eggs, have risen by 14.3%. This increase is partly due to inflation and partly due to food shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Average Monthly Grocery Budget Bill for One Person or More

There are several factors that determine how much a person might spend on groceries each month. These include age, gender, how many people live in the household, and monthly budget. Another major factor is the region one lives in. Some areas have much more expensive food than others.

The most expensive city for groceries is Honolulu, Hawaii, where the monthly average grocery bill is $556.76. The least expensive city is Manchester, New Hampshire with an average of $183.00, according to Move.org. Other expensive states include Vermont, Alaska, and New York, while less expensive states include Kansas, Idaho, and Utah.

In addition to groceries, one’s overall monthly bill for food includes any snacks and meals eaten out. The averages below are based on an individual or family cooking all their meals and snacks at home, they don’t include meals eaten out. Averages look at foods many people commonly purchase, such as eggs, dairy, meat, bread, and produce items.

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1-Person Average Grocery Bill

Grocery bills usually cost $229-$419, depending on age and gender. Men and younger people have a higher average.

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2-Person Average Grocery Bill

For a household with two people, the average grocery bill doubles to $458-$838. If a household consists of one adult and one child their bill is likely less than a household with two adults.

Averages for children vastly vary depending on the age and gender of children, location, and budget. For each child under 12 added one can estimate an additional $143-$357 in their bill. If teenagers are in a household one can expect to add an additional $233-$344.

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4-Person Average Grocery Bill

Averages for a family of four are based on two adults between the ages of 20-50, and two children, one aged 6-8 and one aged 9-11. The average grocery bill is $887 per month.

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Buying Groceries vs Dining Out

As briefly mentioned, in the past year, some foods have risen in cost more than others, due to issues in the supply chain. These include meat, fish, eggs, and poultry.

It’s up to each individual and family to decide how often to eat out or get takeout food and how much of their money to spend on dining at restaurants. In general, eating out tends to cost more than cooking at home, and it’s a good idea to keep track of and budget for or it can add up quickly. The USDA recommends spending about 4% to 5% per month on dining out. A couple ways to help save money on eating out are to pick up food instead of having it delivered, and to find discounts and loyalty programs for local restaurants.

In looking at the average grocery bills above, one might start to think that they are spending too much on groceries, if they didn’t already feel that way before. Here are a few tips for lowering one’s monthly grocery bill.

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1. Make a Budget and Plan Ahead

Allocating funds for groceries in a monthly budget planner then making a plan for what to buy can help reduce one’s grocery bill. Meal planning and shopping lists can help with sticking to the plan.

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2. Look for Discounts and Sales

There are many discount apps and coupons available for those who are grocery shopping on a budget. They are free and can help with reducing one’s grocery bill. However, some coupons can be tricky and actually cause additional spending, if they ask one to purchase two or more of an item to get the discount or they result in buying an item that wouldn’t have been purchased otherwise.

Some stores also have sale days, especially after a big holiday, so those can be good days to go shopping.

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3. Don’t Shop on an Empty Stomach

Avoiding impulse buying is another way to reduce one’s grocery bill. Studies have shown that shopping on an empty stomach leads shoppers to spend more and to buy high calorie foods that may be less healthy.

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4. Consider Meal Kits

Although meal kit services may appear expensive, and some are, if they reduce the amount that one eats out at restaurants or the amount spent on groceries, that is a plus. Meal kits provide pre-portioned meals, so they prevent buying extra ingredients that go to waste.

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5. Pay Attention to Delivery Fees

Having groceries delivered can be a great way to save time, and since it can help with sticking to a plan and grocery list, it can also help prevent impulse buys. However, delivery fees and tips can add up, so it’s important to factor those into monthly budgeting.

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6. Shop at a Different Store

It can be easy to fall into a pattern of shopping at a certain grocery store due to convenience or their offering of foods one likes. But if that store has higher prices, it may be worth considering going to a different store for some or all of one’s groceries.

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7. Create a Routine

Another way to stay on top of grocery budgeting is to create routines. This can help with sticking to a shopping list and making sure extra food doesn’t get purchased.

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8. Buy Generic Brands instead of Name Brands

Many stores carry their own brands of food that are cheaper than big name brands. These items are very similar in taste and quality but have a lower price point.

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9. Shop More Often

It may seem surprising, but going to the grocery store more often can help people spend less money than if they go on mega runs. The reason is that it avoids food waste because it’s easier to think about what will be eaten within the next few days than the next couple weeks.

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FAQ

How much should you be spending on groceries a week?

The average cost of groceries for U.S. households is $102 per week. This varies greatly by location, age, and number of people in one’s household.

What is the average cost of groceries per month?

The average cost of groceries for U.S. households is $411 per month.

Examples of Popular Discounted Grocery Stores

Popular discounted grocery stores include Walmart, Smart & Final, Sam’s Club, and Trader Joe’s.

Image Credit: Samsclub.com.

The Takeaway

Since there is more flexibility in buying groceries than other expenses such as rent and other bills, cutting back on grocery spending can be a great way to save.

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This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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