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How much should you spend on groceries? (and other grocery questions)

I’ve gotten lots of questions in the new year about my grocery budget, so I thought I’d answer them here in a post, rather than emailing/responding to everyone’s comments.

Less work for me, and then everyone can benefit!

How many people are you feeding?

I’m currently feeding five people (two adults in their 40s, and three girls, 17, 14, and 12). 

Does your budget include toiletries, cleaning supplies, and paper products?

Yep.  I include both in my total.  However, I don’t buy tons of paper products (particularly paper towels, which can be pretty easily replaced with washcloths and kitchen towels).

I also don’t use a whole lot of cleaning supplies, and I don’t use disposable cleaning supplies, such as Windex wipes.  So, that stuff doesn’t use up a great percentage of my grocery budget.

grove collaborative kitchen towel

Should I make my grocery budget just for food? Or should I include cleaning supplies, etc.?

That is completely up to you! The money is going to be spent no matter what, so I don’t think it matters how you categorize it.

Where do you shop?

I do about 80% of my shopping at Aldi. I also get a Hungry Harvest produce box each week.

I shop at Costco here and there (my top ten Costco purchases here!), and I also pop in to non-Aldi grocery stores to buy whatever Aldi doesn’t carry.

How do I know how much to budget for my groceries?

How much you should spend on groceries depends on so many factors, such as:

  • the size and ages of the people you feed
  • the type of diet you eat
  • the area you live in
  • the amount of time you have to cook from scratch
  • the amount of disposable income you have

So, it’s impossible for me to say how much you should spend, and you should NOT NOT NOT feel like your budget should mimic mine.

For instance, some factors that influence my budget size:

  • No one in my house has a large build, and my current kids at home are girls. If you are feeding male teenage football players, you will need more food than I do!
  • I have easy access to Aldi and to plenty of other grocery stores, which makes it easy to find low prices.
  • I am a work-at-home homeschooling mom, which means it’s not that hard for me to avoid convenience foods and cook more from scratch.

You can get a ballpark figure of what it should cost to feed your household by using the USDA numbers, which you can access right here.

Their numbers end up being high for me, but that’s because they’re a general guideline.  Your mileage may vary!

skillet sausage with orzo

I think your shopping/eating/food management techniques are the thing to focus on rather than a specific dollar amount. 

If you are faithfully doing things like:

  • shopping at the lowest priced stores in your area
  • buying generics
  • shopping sales
  • avoiding unnecessary purchases (like sugary beverages or a bunch of disposable products)
  • cooking a lot of meals from close-to-scratch
  • managing your food waste

then your spending level is probably not something you should worry about unless you really, really do not have that money to spend.

In that case you may have to resort to more active measures such as:

  • reducing meat consumption/eating cheaper cuts of meat
  • really sticking to from-scratch, unprocessed eating (for instance: only eating bulk oatmeal instead of cold cereal)
  • drinking only water
  • eating more basic fruits and veggies
  • growing some of your own food

Well. I had a lot to say about that question, I guess!

The main thing to remember is that you should not beat yourself up if you spend more than another person. 

No two households are exactly the same, and even if you shop super-duper carefully, you still might not be able to get your spending as low as another person’s.


Figure out what’s reasonable for your household and your overall financial situation, and do not let other people’s lower grocery budgets keep you up at night, mmmkay?


Readers, how have you determined the size of your grocery budget?

P.S.I want to help you feel good about your grocery spending! So, if you have other grocery-related questions for me, leave them in the comments, and I’ll either add them to this post or make a new post in the future. 

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Kristine Alexander

Tuesday 1st of June 2021

Hi there, is Aldi cheaper than Walmart by chance? I have been shopping Walmart for groceries exclusively for about three years now and have turned a blind eye to other grocery options for saving money. Your thoughts?


Tuesday 1st of June 2021

This all depends on what you're buying. If you are comparing Aldi's private label brands to Walmart's private label brands, Aldi is usually going to be cheaper.

But the name brand products are not usually a good deal at Aldi; those will tend to be cheaper at Walmart.

I really like how small Aldi is; it feels so much more convenient than Walmart, especially if you are just popping in for a few things. I'd recommend walking through an Aldi store to see what you think about how it compares to Walmart!


Wednesday 9th of October 2019

I just found your post after freaking out about grocery shopping. My husband is constantly telling me not to worry about it. But I can't seem to stop myself.

He is a truck driver and is gone for sometimes months. Our budget includes basically 2 households of 1 each. When he is gone, he is on tour (hauls music/entertainment). Their meals are catered when at a venue. Which means he's only buying coffee & the occasional meal out. He has a small fridge & microwave in his truck for frozen meals when he doesn't have access to catering. When he is home I always send him out with frozen meals I've cooked: soups, pastas, empanadas, breakfast burritos. I don't worry about his spending so much, it's mine. In fact, I worry constantly that he doesn't spend enough on himself.

I have gall bladder issues & a recent diabetes diagnosis I'm trying to handle through diet instead of medication. Whole foods/fresh foods are so much more expensive. I'm basically doing a low keto-type diet, which means all the cheap fillers to make a budget stretch, I can't eat. No bread, pasta, rice, beans, quinoa, oats, grains... Or very very limited. I don't drink sodas. I drink coffee, water, tea, juice occasionally. I don't buy sweets or snacks. I never have. If I get one 80% dark chocolate bar it'll literally last me 2 weeks.

My budget is all fresh/frozen veggies, berries, lean meats, cheeses, full-fat dairy (not milk, but heavy whipping cream, greek yogurt, etc), spices, & aromatics. We do not have an Aldi's here in Las Vegas, not an Aldi's in the entire state. Farmer's markets are more expensive than grocery stores. I'm averaging $60-80/week for JUST ME depending on if I need personal supplies (monthly girl items, dog food, ACV, shampoo, etc). I always try to buy on sale & seasonal for fresh produce. Most of what I get is for cooking from/close to scratch.

I remember when I was younger spending $30/week on just me & getting tons of stuff. Now I spend double or more than that & hardly get anything. I'm freaking out over my budget. I rarely have food waste because I freeze leftovers for either me or my husband. Even veggie scraps & meat bones to make soup broths. We struggle, but not as bad as so many others. Other than incorporating coupons, which I've never managed to get the hang of & always seem to be for boxed items/grains/etc... that I can't or don't eat anyway, what am I missing or what else can I be doing?

Our goal in the next year is to try to move out of LV to a more rural area where I can put the extra money to good use, like having a garden and some chickens. Until then, I feel like I should be doing something because I feel incredibly guilty over what I spend each week just to stay healthy.


Wednesday 9th of October 2019

I'm sorry that you are struggling! It sounds to me like you are doing everything you can to maximize your grocery dollars while still sticking to a diet that works for your health. I'm inclined to agree with your husband about your grocery spending. :)

So if I were you, I'd look to other areas to cut instead, if you are not able to make ends meet.

Danielle Zecher

Wednesday 7th of August 2019

Off topic, but what is the noodle dish in the picture? It looks delicious!!!!


Wednesday 7th of August 2019

That's zha jiang mian, a recipe from Cook's Illustrated. And it was tasty!


Thursday 31st of January 2019

I've tried reading other frugal living blogs, and they always make me feel guilty. I love this blog because it accepts that different people make different choices, and that's OK.

My family's goal is not frugal living, it is mindful spending. We spend a bit over $1000 a month on food for 4 people (and that's just food, no cleaners or toiletries). I don't shop at Aldi at all, and I usually don't buy generics, but that is because my family can taste the difference. I also don't use grocery store spices or seasonings, and instead order them from an online spice merchant (and they're cheaper there!). I've taken the time to find the one brand of pasta that my family likes best, and since we can afford it (partly by spending less in other areas), we have decided that the greater pleasure we gain from the taste of the better pasta is worth it to us. I cook almost everythng from scratch, but that's because my family complains about the taste of convenience foods or even eating out.

And here at this blog, I don't feel like that decision is judged. I do read it and consider some of the cost saving methods, even try those of them that don't result in sacrifices in taste my family would notice. Thank you!


Friday 1st of February 2019

I'm so glad you feel that way here! I want people to feel encouraged here, not judged.


Thursday 31st of January 2019

I know this is a little late (been busy this week with 3 sick kids), but what is the noodle recipe in the picture above. It looks so good!

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