This Tool Will Tell You if Your Grocery Spending Is Actually Normal

Cara Bridge and her three-year-old son Camden shop at an Aldi grocery store in St. Petersburg, Fla. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Setting a monthly or weekly food budget can feel like a brain teaser.

How much did you spend last week? Is that normal for you? What did you get for the money? Is that a reasonable amount to spend? Is there a cheaper grocery store you should be going to? Is there room to cut back?

The list of questions to ask yourself can feel endless. And then there’s the work of actually sticking to the budget once it’s set. It can feel easier to just give up on the budget altogether.

But there’s a free resource from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that takes some of the guesswork out of it.

Each month, the department releases an updated breakdown of how much individuals and families should expect to spend on groceries at different budgets.

According to a 2007 report, the numbers provided by the USDA are based on how much people spend at the grocery store and assumes they cook all their meals at home. So your numbers will vary based on how much you eat at restaurants.

Note that while income plays a role in how much people spend on food, the USDA’s budget groups are based on spending habits, not income.

Here’s How Much the Most Frugal Grocery Shoppers Spend

On the low end of the spending spectrum are the “thrifty” and “low-cost” plans.

According to the USDA, the thrifty plan is a benchmark for people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the government program that provides low-income people with money to spend on food. This group represents the 25% of the country that spends the least on food.

The next 25% of the country is represented in the low-cost plan. Here, a single person between age 19 and 50 would be expected to spend between $48.20 and $55.50 at the grocery store each week.

Alternatively, a family of four — a man, a woman and two children between ages 2 and 5 — would spend around $166 each week or $719.10 each month.

Here’s How Much Big Spenders Drop On Groceries

The 50% of us who spend the most on groceries fall into the “moderate” and “liberal” categories.

Under the moderate plan, a person between 19 and 50 years old can expect to spend between $59.10 and $69.50 each week, while the liberal plan allots between $75.70 and $85.30 for people in the same age group.

Families of four with young children are expected to spend $204.90 or $253.90 per week for the moderate and liberal plans, respectively.

Overspending on groceries? Here are some tips to save money on groceries every time you check out.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.