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How much should I spend on groceries?

We surveyed our Ibotta users, and 76% agree that the economy has a direct impact on their grocery spending habits. And 75% think saving money on groceries is more important this year than last. No matter where you fall, grocery shopping likely eats up a significant amount of your monthly budget. Curious about how much you should be spending on groceries? We’ve got the numbers to help you figure it out so you can build a realistic grocery budget based on your unique family size.

Factors beyond just family size

While family size is a major factor, it's not the only one influencing your grocery bill. Consider these additional elements:

  • Location: Cost of living varies significantly between cities and states. Food may be pricier in urban areas.

  • Dietary needs and preferences: Special diets (vegan, gluten-free, etc.) often involve higher-priced specialty items.

  • Shopping habits: Planning meals, using coupons, and avoiding impulse purchases can significantly reduce your spending.

  • Eating out: Frequent restaurant meals diminish the amount you need to spend on groceries. But it increases your overall food budget. 

Of course, any shopping for groceries has noticed how big of a deal inflation has been in the past couple of years. While inflation is slowing this year, prices are still increasing and there is no sign of things going down any time soon. 

Budget Breakdown by Family Size

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) publishes monthly food plans outlining estimated costs for nutritious diets at four spending levels: Thrifty, Low-Cost, Moderate-Cost, and Liberal. These plans offer a helpful baseline for determining your ideal grocery budget.

Let's examine some general budget ranges based on family size using the USDA model:

  • Single Individual:

    • Low-cost: $250 - $300 per month

    • Moderate: $310 - $380 per month

  • Couple:

    • Low-cost: $300 - $600 per month

    • Moderate: $620 - $760 per month

  • Family of Four:

    • Low-cost: around $1060 per month

    • Moderate: around $1312 per month

*Data from the March 2024 report.

Important Note: These ranges are general ideas of what people spend. Your budget might fall above or below depending on the factors mentioned earlier.

Tips for Staying Within Your Budget

Looking at those amounts may seem daunting if you’re currently running over budget on every shopping trip. 

Earn cash back or use coupons

Of course this is our favorite tip. Ibotta has cash back offers on the brands and products you love, so you can earn on the things you already buy. The average Ibotta user earns $256 cash back per year, so that can help when you’re trying to stretch that budget.    

Meal Planning

Sit down with your grocery store ads, cash back offer list, and anything else you might need. Then create a weekly meal plan. This will help you avoid buying another salad mix you don’t intend to eat and letting it rot in your fridge. Also consider seasonal produce that might be cheaper, and other sales that are going on. 

Then when you get home, you can meal prep to make sure you have everything you need, and get creative with leftovers and pantry staples to reduce food waste and stretch your budget. 

Improve your grocery list

The best way to stay on track while you’re grocery shopping is to shop smarter. The first step is to make a list and stick to it. Make your list from your meal plan so you’re not overbuying. 

You can also use your meal plan to look at what you eat the most, or eat a lot of, that you could buy in bulk. Bulk items offer savings, but only buy things you consume regularly to avoid spoilage. Also be flexible with which brand you buy. There might be another brand with an Ibotta cash back offer that would make it a more budget-friendly option. 

Track trends and be flexible

Determining your grocery budget takes effort. Start with the USDA guidelines, adjust for your specific needs, and track your spending to identify areas where you can make changes. If you’re way over budget, try reducing by just 10% to start and go from there. Otherwise you might feel too deprived and be less likely to stick to your budget in the future.

Also, your grocery budget might fluctuate, and that’s fine. Some months may be higher due to rising food costs or special occasions. When you’re sticking to your budget most months, that can make it easier for you to splurge with confidence instead of worrying about your wallet. 

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