How Much Should I Budget for Food?

Disclaimer: The statements made in this post are the opinion of the author. They should not be viewed as financial advice. Please consult with a financial specialist before making any financial decisions.
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If you’ve followed my blog you know that I am a big proponent of tracking your spending, but how can you know if you’re spending the right amount or not? For example, how much should you spend on groceries per month?

The answer depends on a lot of things including cost of living, how many people are in your family (and how old they are), what matters to you when it comes to buying food (organic or not for example), where you shop, and so much more.

But let’s simplify it with some easy rules of thumb.

How Much Does the Average Person Spend on Food Per Week?

This is very difficult to pin down for a lot of reasons, one of which being that food is one of the biggest expenses people have. But according to Bank of America, the average couple (I’ll explain why we’re using a couple in a minute) spends around $618 per month on food.

Since most reliable data is given as cost per month for couples or families, we will have to break these numbers down.

Average Cost of Food per Month for 1 Person

First, this data is for a couple. Now you might think, well a couple is two people, so just cut that in half. That would be incorrect.

Food has a weird compounding thing where the more people you have to feed the less each person costs to feed overall.

A good rule of thumb is the 1-2-3 rule. One person will spend two-thirds on food as two people. Let me show you.

If a couple (2 people) spend $618 then a single person would spend 2/3 of that amount. So in this case the average cost of food per month for 1 person is $407.

This rule is also the 2-3-4 rule (etc.), meaning two people will spend 3/4 of what a family of three will spend and a family of three will spend 4/5 of what a family of four will spend, etc.

How Much 1 Person Spends on Food Per Week

Second, we need to break $407 a month down in how much per week. To be accurate we will divide $407 by 30 (the number of days) which is about $13 per day, and multiple that by 7 (the number of days in a week). So…

An average person spends about $91 a week on food.

Please note that if you had just divided 407 by 4 that would be inaccurate because of the extra days in a month. You’d have a $10 higher budget per week as a result.

Also, $91 a week is average, and average Americans don’t save money. So if you want to start saving money try cutting this back to about $50 a week.

Or cut it back to whatever is the least you can spend while comfortably eating.

How Much Should I Spend on Groceries?

Should is a difficult word, so let’s instead start with the average percentage that people spend on food.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a single person (making about $60,000 a year) spends 12.9% of their income on food.

Of that 12.9%, 7.3% is spent on food AT home, while 5.6% is spent on food AWAY FROM home.

That average food budget is entirely too high.

To put it into perspective, that is spending about $9 EVERY DAY on eating out alone. Many people spend less than that on total food spending.

Just simply cutting down on eating out will significantly lower how much you spend on food each month.

How much can you save by not eating out?

Assuming you spend the average amount and make $60,000 per year you will save about $3,400!

How to Cut Down on Eating Out

The key to cutting down on eating out is preparation.

Here are some tips for cutting back on eating out.

  • Plan you meals in advance (This also reduces spending at the grocery store)
  • Make homemade prepackaged breakfasts (like breakfast burritos)
  • If you drink coffee, make your own (even a nice coffee maker will pay for itself quickly with how much you will save not buying a coffee daily)
  • Pack a lunch (A homemade sandwich is much cheaper than an artisan wrap)
  • Don’t have cash on you to spend at the vending machine (because sometimes cash doesn’t feel like real money anymore)
  • If you drink alcohol, plan to have a drink at home after you eat out (this is much cheaper and will reduce intoxicated driving)
  • Delete delivery service apps from your phone (adding this step means you have an actual need to re-download the app instead of just a whim to eat)
  • Buy a Crock Pot (this let’s you cook the meal when you have time and eat it when you don’t)
  • Have a set amount of money you can spend eating out each month AND don’t spend more than that.

What Percentage Should You Spend on Groceries?

Since groceries and eating out are different, let’s remove eating out from the equation. That starts us with an average of 7.3%.

If you ate out only occasionally, this average amount would be fine, if you make $60,000 a year.

If you make less than $60,000 a year, then your percentage will be higher, but I would say no more than 12%.

This is because if you have to spend more than 12% on groceries each month, there are assistance programs that can step in and start helping you out.

Don’t be afraid to get help if you need to eat.

The more money you make above $60,000 the lower that percentage should be. Just because you make $300,000 a year doesn’t mean you have to spend $3,000 a month on food.

That being said, you will generally spend between 5% and 10% of your income on groceries each month.

Monthly Grocery Budget Cheat Sheet

Handling all of these number to calculate your food budget can be exhausting. So don’t worry, I’ve got you.

If you still need help, then download my Food Budget Cheat Sheet. It lays out how much money you make compared to how much you should spend on food at that income.

What are some ways you can think of to lower your food bill? Tell me about it in the comments below.

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