What Is the Average Grocery Bill for One Person?

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In the United States in 2017, men aged 19-50 spent $184 to $367 per month for groceries. Women in that same age group spent between $163 and $325 per month, according to the USDA.

The amount that people spend on groceries varies depending on several factors. The prices of groceries are higher in some geographic areas of the country than others. People also spend more or less each month than the average because of personal factors like their age, activity level, weight, height and eating habits. This can mean that they end up with a higher or lower grocery bill than their peers.

United States Department of Agriculture Food Plans

In the United States, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) releases food plans on a monthly basis. When calculating the cost of groceries for Americans, the USDA makes several assumptions, including that people are buying their food at the grocery store and then preparing it themselves at home. The USDA has four categories of plans, which are thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost and liberal. The thrifty plan is the most basic and has the lowest cost for groceries, while the liberal plan is the upper limit of monthly grocery expenses. Factors like time and resource availability for meal preparation also factor into the USDA’s calculations.

Food Expenses According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also calculates Americans’ food expenses. However, the BLS takes multiple factors into consideration when determining how much money Americans spend on groceries, including income. While the USDA bases its food expense reports on the assumption that Americans are cooking meals at home, the BLS breaks down food expenses into money spent on preparing food at home versus going out to eat. The BLS also itemizes food expenses based on certain food categories so people can see how their money is allocated across various food types, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, meat and dairy.

Factors That Influence Grocery Prices

Sometimes, the amount of money that Americans spend on groceries varies throughout the year, and from one year to the next, based on fluctuating food prices. In the second quarter of 2017, for instance, grocery prices were lower than they were in the second quarter of 2016, according to the Economic Research Service. Prices dropped across multiple categories, but the categories of beef and veal, pork and eggs had the largest decline. Occasionally, product demand will fall due to an outbreak of food-borne illness. The contamination of eggs in 2015 with avian flu, for instance, caused a 13.6 percent drop in egg prices in 2016, says the Economic Research Service. The Economic Research Service also notes that food prices often correlate with fuel prices. A rise in the price of fuel will cause a rise in the cost of food, and falling fuel prices lead to lower food prices due to the cost of transportation associated with delivering food products. That being said, food prices are generally less volatile than fuel prices.

Breaking down average monthly food expenses is a helpful way for people to understand how much money they spend on groceries on a monthly and yearly basis. By evaluating where they spend money at the grocery store, people can also make adjustments to reduce their grocery expenses while still eating healthy, nutritious meals.