How Much The Average Household Spends on Food

How Much The Average Household Spends on FoodI am a frequent user of Mint.com. I don’t use a strict budget, but I do have a general idea of how much we spend on each category monthly and if I see things are trending in the wrong direction, Lauren and I will discuss whether it’s temporary or permanent. I don’t hate the idea of lifestyle inflation and I know our expenses will increase over time, but I do like to keep them in check whenever possible.

I Think We Spend Too Much Money on Food

One of the things I always keep an eye on is our grocery budget. While we enjoy the occasional meal out, the majority of our food is prepared in our home. We have $100 set aside in our budget for restaurants, and it’s not uncommon for us to not have used all of that.

Still, every month, I am surprised at how much we spend on food. I don’t think we are preparing extravagant meals. Most of our meals contain chicken or fish, and we try and have a salad nearly every day. We bring our lunches to school/work, and these range from sandwiches to salads, to some sort of pasta dish. 3-4 times a month, we’ll invite friends over for lunch or dinner, and each of these can run us $75-$100 (similarly, we get invited out 3-4 times a month). There’s always leftovers from these meals that last us another 1-2 meals, but this is undoubtedly why I think our monthly grocery expenditures are so high.

So how much do we spend? About $593 a month on groceries. That number just sounds so high to me, I think $500 would be more reasonable, but there’s no specific area that I think we need to cut back on, so it’s hard for me to complain about where we’re shopping or the types of foods we buy. Since I don’t think we can really change much, I did some investigating to find out how we compare to others, hoping to make myself feel better about our high grocery bill.

Comparing Our Spend

I started with the USDA Cost of Food at Home report for July 2014, which shows the average cost of food at home at four levels (thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost, and liberal). It shows that for a family of two, ages 19-50, under the thrifty plan, the average is $389.90, the low-cost plan is $496.90, the moderate-cost plan is $618.60, and the liberal plan is $774.20. Our spending is above average, but still below the liberal plan. We consider ourselves to be generally frugal people who do not buy especially expensive foods, but I guess we’re buying a lot of it? Still, it’s a relief that we’re not completely off the charts!

Next, I took a look at the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Consumer Expenditures for the Los Angeles Area for 2011-2012, which was released at the beginning of 2014. This shows the average annual expenditures for households for all categories, but right now, I’m focusing only on the food category.

How We Stack Up Against U.S. and L.A. Averages

According to the report, the average U.S. household spent $3,880 on food at home, while the average L.A. household spent $4,337 on that category. The average U.S. household spent $2,649 per year on food away from home, while L.A. households came in at $3,166 per year. Totaling these two categories, the average U.S. household spent $6,529 on food, while the average L.A. household spent $7,504 on food.

Food Away from Home

According to my mint.com account, over the last 12 months, we spent $816 at restaurants, $199 on snacks and coffee shops. So we spend just 38% of what the average U.S. household spends on food out of the home, and 32% of what L.A. households spend, on average. Not surprising considering how infrequently we eat out.

Food at Home

We spent $7,120 on groceries in the past twelve months, which is a whopping 83% more than what the average U.S. household spends, and 64% more than what the average L.A. household spends. This is also not surprising, I knew we were spending a ton!

Overall Food Spending

In total (inside and outside the home), we spent $8,135 on food over the past 12 months. That’s 24% higher than the average U.S. household and just 8% higher than the average L.A. household. That’s not nearly as high as I was expecting.

Takeaways from Average Food Budgets

After looking at these two sources of information and comparing our spending to national and local averages, I’m no longer concerned about our spending. Our lack of outside-the-home spending makes up for most of our grocery spending, and we really value those group meals with friends. We certainly are not going to cut back if it means fewer of those.

We can probably be a bit more conscious of where we buy our food to save a few dollars here and there. My new job is very close to both Target and Trader Joes, so we’ll likely spend a bit less if we take advantage of those two stores we like so much.

How much do you spend on food each month? How do you stack up?

7 Responses to How Much The Average Household Spends on Food

  1. Cindy Merrill says:

    Frugal recipes abound all over the internet, A good cheap dinner alternative is a dinner omelet, or make it a pancake/waffles supper: “Breakfast” after all, is the least expensive meal at home. Check out Church potluck & community dinners: You don’t HAVE to be a member, public is always welcome-kids usually eat for less than half price!

  2. Agreed! Three of us totaled 2013 at just over $11k or $30/day.
    Our restaurant bill was low, and was offset by eating pretty healthy at home. Quality fruits and veggies in season, and a mix of some organic foods don’t add to cheap. In the end, we decided to eat out at places that make dishes I can’t make at home. I’d rather have a great $200 restaurant meal every couple months instead of pub food (burgers sandwiches,etc) more often.

    • When we eat out, we often do ethnic foods we can’t do at home; Sushi and Thai are the most common. Other times, it’s the expensive meals for birthdays or anniversaries.

  3. Ben Luthi says:

    I think it really boils down to convenience. Now that I’m working 40 hours a week and another 15-20 on top of that with my freelancing, I just don’t want to take the time to do extra work.

  4. Delfie Encinias says:

    Im a single mom with seven kids 800 dollers for food still isn’t enough I cut corners in differt way get up at 6:00O clock in morning because the meats go cheaper thats a big saving for my house meats are the most expensive food to buy how to stock buy the can food when its on cheap but the catch is you have jump from store to store

  5. Lance says:

    There are three in our home and we spend between $200-250 a month. It is really variable, but my wife watches the budget like a hawk. We love leftovers and she keeps produce to $20 a week. I hate spending extra on food…and utilities. Those things can jump up $100 every month or they can go down. Just have to be proactive than reactive.

  6. That’s interesting you are spending so much! Usually when people say they spend a “ton” of money on food, I typically assume its on fast food, sit down restaurants, take out, and coffee. I try to break down my food budget by category. I find that if I don’t spend a lot on prepared foods, it usually drops a lot. Snacks, candy, and food that spoils easily will usually kill my budget. I started bodybuilding as a hobby recently, and in that community there’s usually a ton of people complaining about how much they spend on food. So, I’ve been following some of that advice which has brought my food bills down some.

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