How Much Money Do Families Spend on Food?


Average Family Food Costs Expenditures

Click on the graphic above to view it full size.

In considering budgets or expenditures, have you ever wondered how much other families spend on food in comparison to what you spend?

I know a lot of homeschoolers work very hard to keep a tight reign on their budgets, so I though this might be an interesting topic to examine. My husband and I are currently coordinators for a Financial Peace University class, so we've been reexamining our budget a lot over the last few weeks. We've especially been wondering how our food budget compares with other families—and whether we are spending more or less than 'average'.

To that end, I created a survey today and 150 families responded. With the information I gathered, I calculated what the average amount per person each family spent on food. I also took into account that some families need to purchase specialty foods, like dairy free, gluten free, organic, etc. Those differences are indicated in the infographic below.

Since our own family doesn't go out to eat much at all, I also tried to figure out an easy way to compare the budgets of families who regularly eat out with our own, taking into account that eating out is obviously much more expensive than eating at home. To do that, I just took 1/3 the amount spent on eating out and applied that to the basic grocery budget and in so doing I got an adjusted expenditure per person that would be more realistic to compare to my own family.

I also realize that feeding a 3 year old isn't as expensive as feeding a 10-, 15-, or 35-year-old, so I counted any child under 5 as only 6/10 the cost of a person 5 or over. As a note, this wasn't just a stab in the dark; I looked at the USDA figures for average family food expenditures and they suggest that children under five cost about 40% less to feed than those older than 5. This isn't exact, obviously, but again, I'm hoping to make it easier to compare expenses from family to family.

While there was a very, very wide range of monthly food expenditures per person among all the respondents to the survey ($30 for some families and up to $300 for others) I did discover through this survey that our family spends somewhat less than the average on our groceries. We aren't going to fret as much now that we're overspending on our food.

I also want to say that if you look at the graphic and think, "Oh my, we spend so much more than that!" don't fret! Remember that the numbers are only averages, and there was a very wide range of costs per person in the survey. So if you spend more or less, that's perfectly fine! This is just a fun exploration of family averages.

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  1. says

    It's really amazing how grocery store prices also vary so much from region to region. We live on the west coast, U.S., in an area that grows huge amounts of crops of nuts, fruits, veggies, berries, and lots of livestock raised and local dairies nearby. And yet, our grocery store prices are not inexpensive. We live right next to the largest interstate in our state (it cuts through our town), so it's not because transportation is a problem or big expense. We can easily spend $700 on groceries for a family of four (ages 12 and up), but I'd have to say that includes everything: paper products, stamps, one blended mocha out at a friend's coffee stand, expensive shampoo/cond. I have to buy for a daughter every month who has a very sensitive scalp ($35 per month just for that!). And yet, that doesn't include the beef we purchase on the hoof, grass-fed, here locally. We shop for the food bargains, plan inexpensive meals, etc. but because our state has the highest minimum wage in the nation, it makes everything here much more expensive. People who live in other states are shocked to learn that we spend $700 per month for a family of four. We could eat more frugally, eating beans several nights a week, but we choose not to. But we are definitely not eating luxurious meals! And maybe because we homeschool and we prepare 21 meals in our home each week, we just go through more food than those whose children eat breakfast and lunch at school every day. I don't know!


    Mary Ann Reply:

    @Julieanne, I think that's a really good point about homeschooling and lunch. I wonder if school lunches are included in the survey (I remember eating out being included but don't recall school lunches)? Most of Joy's readers are probably homeschoolers so I'd guess it's a fair comparison in the numbers, but it could definitely make a difference it they weren't. In addition to the spending on school lunches possibly not being included, the cost of preparing lunches at home for a family can vary widely depending on what is prepared. I find that I spend a lot more on school lunches when I prepare them myself than I would pay for a prepared lunch at school.


    Joy @ Five J's Reply:

    @Mary Ann, I wouldn't say that all the respondents were all homeschoolers, or that even most of them were. I surveyed family and friends as well as my readers of on Facebook. In their food costs, I asked them to include all their food & beverages, including school and work lunches, but NOT their eating out as a couple or as a family. So I would say that the cost/person includes lunches, even if those are eaten at school.


  2. Grace says

    The difference in grocery costs in various regions amazes me, too. I really expected groceries to be cheaper when we moved away from Chicago but it isn't. All my groceries (and I really do mean all) are more expensive here.
    Homes and property tax are drastically cheaper but the price of groceries still astounds me.


    Grace Reply:

    For example, I'd would get name brand pasta regularly for $0.89 (and it often went on sale for $0.59-$0.79) in Chicago but here the cheapest store brand is $1.08.
    Cilantro was 4 bunches/$1 in Chicago but here one bunch is $0.88.
    It is simply ridiculous.


  3. says

    We're in this range. We spent about 120 dollars a week for 4 humans and 5 pets. 1 of the humans is gluten free and 2 of the pets are. I think we're doing okay. If only we could get our gas expenditures under control! That's our biggest expense right now.


  4. Jennifer says

    Thanks for compiling this data!! I have been trying to figure how to shrink our grocery bill more, but it feels like squeezing a turnip!! :) After looking at your data, we are already much less than the average and we have 6 kids (2 are ages 1 & 2 – but the 2yr old can eat a surprising amount at times). Still going to watch expenses, but not as freaked out anymore.


  5. says

    Interesting data. Thanks for sharing. My numbers, for feeding a family of 6 who eats out and lives in the south are higher. My goal has been to get these numbers down, but I am always wondering if we are "normal" or not.


    Joy @ Five J's Reply:

    @Stacey, And that's my biggest reason for doing this survey. My husband really thought that we were WAY overspending in the food department. But then we did some research and then this survey, and it put our expenses in perspective. We're not as concerned that we're overspending any more either. We DO know there are ways for us to cut down (like our beverages! We spend about $110/month on milk, tea, coffee, and sweetener), but we're not as worried that we're WAY overspending.


  6. Aria Randolph says

    We live in Atlanta, have a family of six with big eaters, mill our own grains, and eat pretty much all 'clean' food – meaning not much prepackaged stuff.
    Our budget is right around $1000/ month, though it goes up a bit when I stock up on 45 pounds of grain and a gallon of honey. And we like our coffee and tea, though we drink most of it at home. :-)
    Just thought I'd throw that out there!
    Sending some grace from Atlanta,


  7. Allie says

    I participated in this survey. Several months ago I purchased Grocery University's Ebook, which includes a price book. The idea is great, but the average prices were not for our area. There was no way that I was ever going to be able to stock up on anything if I waited for her prices in our local grocery stores. That's when I started realizing we lived in an area with a rather high cost of living. I've always known the housing market was much higher than in other areas, but I never really noticed the differences at the grocery store until I became a stay-at-home mom. Suddenly I became more aware of these things I had never cared to worry about in my previous life. So there's another factor to consider as well. We also haven't suffered as much in our area as far as unemployment and foreclosures that the rest of the country has. Now there's a research project…if economics is your thing.


  8. Katie says

    thanks, I too, wonder if I am spending too much. But, I am finding the prices are always going up and never going down around here (in MI). We have twelve children and try and eat as fresh and whole as we can. This was easier to do in Lancaster, PA. Because you can easily buy from an Amish farm at a great price. Even the stores prices are comarable because they have to compete with the farm prices. But, now that we are back in MI. We find it hard to find the foods fresh and whole, and when we do they price is high. So, we spend about $1000 a month, but some months I can do $700. It depends how stocked my freezer and cupboards are, if I plan ahead and know what my menu is for the long term, I can stock up when prices are good. We don't eat out a lot, but do budget $100 a month for it, just so we can have that opportunity if we want to. we do feel blessed that GOd provides us with enough money to afford to feed our family. We pray that if we can save on food for ourselves, we can share that savings with those who can not afford to eat. Thanks again for the fun look at family eating costs.


  9. says

    This is great! I try to purchase all our weekly groceries on a budget, and it makes me feel better knowing how I average out alongside everyone else!


  10. Liz says

    How did you know I needed this information? I have struggled and struggled to keep our monthly grocery bill under $500 for a family of 3 but usually never make it and I remember being able to feed our whole family of 6 (when all the kids were home) on $400/mo. It helped me to realize that inflation really has taken a toll and I'm actually doing just fine, comparatively.

    The time it took you to do this is a huge gift, and clearly not just given to me. It sounds like so many others' perspectives have been helped.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to bless so many people you'll probably never meet.


  11. June says

    I always have guilt over our families grocery costs. We spend about $1000/mo. and 4-500 on eating out family of 4 – 12 and older.

    I read a blog called good cheap eats – she lives in CA and her food is much less expensive than mine in Dayton, OH. Plus everything costs more than it did a year ago?

    Ground beef is well over $5 per pound here last year it was $3ish (no antibiotics or hormones) ~ grass fed is $8/lb. Milk is about $2.50/gal. I have to choose bread that has high fructose corn syrup in it or pay $3/loaf?

    I home school 1 child and find myself feeding my family lower quality food and making things like bread. Sorry for voicing my frustration.

    You are a blessing…june

    It just feels alot harder now?


  12. TheresaB says

    I am always drawn to these types of posts . . . it's a sickness really. I ALWAYS feel horrible after reading them. We, without fail, spend more money on groceries than the high end of every survey. We are a homeschooling family of 5 in Northern Colorado. We are big people, not overweight, but tall. I sometimes wonder if we eat more than others do. My husband is 6'4", my 13 and 11 year old boys are 6'2" and 5'8" respectively, I'm 5'9" and my daughter, who's 8, is 5'4". Am I just making a justification? Does anyone else experience this? We spend an average of $1000 – $1200 per month on all groceries, paper products and pet supplies. We eat out only about once every six weeks. We don't buy specialty products or gourmet foods. I even shop at the dented can store when I can. I wish I could get our grocery expense down to $700! That would be so beneficial for us financially. I've tried couponing repeatedly. My husband won't eat beans, but not every meal has meat. I'm at a loss.


  13. Julie says

    We live in northern Ohio and have a tough time, with a family of 5, spending much less than $1000 per month on groceries, paper products, diapers, hygeine products, cleaning supplies and pet food. We purchase a side of beef once a year, so the beef cost is around $2.89 per pound. We also shop at Aldi for most foods, and eat pizza out about once every 6 weeks (the total is around $12).

    Is it possible that the survey included groceries only?


    Joy @ Five J's Reply:

    Yes, the questions asked were related specifically to FOOD and BEVERAGES, not paper products, toiletries, diapers, etc. So the cost per person is for food and drink only :)


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