How much does it cost to feed YOUR family compared to these 2014 government guidelines? The guidelines are given for four levels of spending… thrifty, low-cost, moderate, and liberal. The costs for each level represent a nutritious diet where all meals and snacks are prepared at home.

It seems like we spend more for groceries every time we shop. We are buying more and more organic products and trying to find foods that are non-GMO… both very hard to find in our local stores and substantially more expensive. I cook and bake everything from scratch and try to buy as natural and as local as possible, with emphasis on fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains. I shop for groceries to keep my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator stocked, rather than shopping for a week of meals at a time, so I can wait for sales on the items I regularly buy. My biggest savings come from comparison shopping and buying in quantity.

GOVERNMENT ESTIMATES OF COST PER WEEK

For one child,
age:
Food costs for one week
Prices from December 2013
(the most recent government figures available)
Thrifty plan Low-cost plan Moderate cost plan Liberal plan
1 year $21.40 $28.70 $32.50 $39.60
2-3 years $23.40 $29.80 $36.10 $43.90
4-5 years $24.50 $30.90 $38.30 $46.70
6-8 years $31.20 $43.10 $52.30 $61.70
9-11 years $35.40 $46.80 $60.60 $70.50
For one male,
age:
Food costs for one week
Prices from December 2013
(the most recent government figures available)
Thrifty plan Low-cost plan Moderate cost plan Liberal plan
12-13 years $38.00 $53.70 $67.40 $79.00
14-18 years $39.00 $54.60 $69.50 $79.40
19-50 years $42.20 $54.30 $68.30 $83.70
51-70 years $38.40 $51.30 $63.90 $76.90
71+ years $38.80 $50.90 $63.10 $77.80
For one female,
age:
Food costs for one week
Prices from December 2013
(the most recent government figures available)
Thrifty plan Low-cost plan Moderate cost plan Liberal plan
12-13 years $38.10 $46.40 $55.80 $68.30
14-18 years $37.30 $46.50 $56.30 $69.20
19-50 years $37.50 $47.20 $58.30 $74.50
51-70 years $37.00 $46.10 $57.40 $68.80
71+ years $36.10 $45.70 $56.70 $68.20

GOVERNMENT ESTIMATES OF COST PER MONTH

For one child,
age:
Food costs for one month
Prices from December 2013
(the most recent government figures available)
Thrifty plan Low-cost plan Moderate cost plan Liberal plan
1 year $96.60 $124.30 $140.90 $171.80
2-3 years $101.60 $129.20 $156.30 $190.10
4-5 years $106.20 $134.00 $165.90 $202.20
6-8 years $135.30 $186.60 $226.70 $267.30
9-11 years $153.50 $202.80 $262.40 $305.40
For one male,
age:
Food costs for one month
Prices from December 2013
(the most recent government figures available)
Thrifty plan Low-cost plan Moderate cost plan Liberal plan
12-13 years $164.80 $232.70 $292.00 $342.10
14-18 years $169.20 $236.40 $300.90 $344.00
19-50 years $182.70 $235.50 $295.80 $362.90
51-70 years $166.30 $222.30 $276.80 $333.20
71+ years $168.10 $220.50 $273.30 $337.20
For one female,
age:
Food costs for one month
Prices from December 2013
(the most recent government figures available)
Thrifty plan Low-cost plan Moderate cost plan Liberal plan
12-13 years $164.90 $201.00 $241.80 $295.80
14-18 years $161.80 $201.50 $243.90 $299.90
19-50 years $162.50 $204.40 $252.80 $322.60
51-70 years $160.30 $199.60 $248.60 $298.30
71+ years $156.60 $198.10 $245.60 $295.60

All of the food costs are adjusted for a four-person family. If you have a smaller or larger family, you can still calculate the overall household food costs for YOUR family by making the following adjustments:

  • For one person, take the appropriate age cost figure amount and add 20 percent.
  • For a two-person family, take the total of the two appropriate age cost figures and add 10 percent.
  • For a three-person family, take the total of the three appropriate age cost figures and add 5 percent.
  • For a four-person family, no adjustment is needed… just add the four appropriate age cost figures.
  • For a five or six-person family, take the total of the five or six appropriate age cost figures and subtract 5 percent.
  • For a seven or more person family, take the total of the seven or more appropriate age cost figures and subtract 10 percent.

Bon Appétit!

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Comments

Heather F

I knew I was thrifty but… I can usually feed my family of 3.5 (I’m pregnant) each month on what it says it would cost to only feed my husband- in the thrifty category!

Phyllis

I have 4 teenage sons and a husband who does hard physical labor. They eat huge amounts so I was amazed to discover that we are just above the thrifty plan. I needed the encouragement.

Susannah

Thanks for this post. I have enjoyed the others you did and I was wondering if there was going to be one for last year. I agree with you – I think the overall estimates are high. I also agree that food prices have risen much more than the government talks about. I’m spending more than $100 a month more than I used to for groceries. We eat well but I am careful with prices.

Marina

I have 3 kids under 8 and 2 over 12 plus my husband and me. 3 of us have multiple allergies and can’t eat alot of things. I buy alot of organics so I was pleased to see that we still come in between the thrifty and low cost plan. I think I’m doing well.

Cynthia

We usually feed two people on $50 a week … one male and female in the 20′s. I think with the amount that they give for a college couple like us, even on thrifty at $80 a week, they could easily live on home cooked meals and not processed stuff.

SharleneT

Interesting survey. I’m assuming it’s for people who don’t grow any of their own fruits and veggies. I know meats have gone ridiculously high, recently, and I’ve often wondered how anyone can feed their families more than one meal a week. In that vein, it seems that to live frugally these days you have to do the very thing most young people refuse to do — and that’s cook their own meals and garden. That’s such a huge money-saver.

Rhonda

Wow! According to these charts my family budget should be around $659.30 for the thrify plan. Out of necessity, we are definately hovering closer to $400/mo and sometimes less than that.

AJ

Wow- I work full time, have a part time job about 10 hours a week in the evening, I figured by those charts- I should be at 7685.50/yr and 640/monthly for the thrifty plan. I wrote down high ball park #s for what I spend thru the year… and I realize not everyone has access to the things I do- but here it is
900/yr-75/month at the Amish market
600/yr-50/month for beef we order from a farmer
150/yr- /12.50/month for canning supplies (includes any jars lids and seeds ect.)
300/yr-25/month for other meat like poultry, bacon,pork
150/yr-12.50/month for veggies since we can, foodsaver and only buy in season veggies.
200/yr-17/month snack food for son’s backpack and other little treats- I consider koolaid/tang a snack
*this is the most appalling one to me!
300/yr-25/month on SODA acckkk- this needs to stop
400/yr -34/month for incidentals- things I forget about milk,cheese,eggs that we get from a farmer, dish soap, deodorant and a buffer for when meat doesn’t get marked down that I can freeze or can for later!
that works out to 3000.00 a YEAR or 250.00 a MONTH….
I feel pretty danged good!

We cook from scratch and the boys are used to it- they love it- Hubby helps and encourages… do we go out to eat? Yep- once a month! everyone needs a treat!

Spendwisemom

I feed our family for $50 per week. We used to have 4 of us at home and now there is only three of us. I like having the extra cushion so I don’t plan on spending less than we do. I feed us healthy food and good meals for that much. Even though we don’t live on food stamps, I wanted to prove that someone who got food stamps could live well on them so I took the challenge to prove it could be done.

Urbandad

I’m actually currently doing an experiment with my 11 year old daughter. I am having her make the shopping list and going to have her come with me when we go shopping for things we need to price (like meats, etc.) Being in an urban area, there is limited access to farms for fresh meat, eggs, milk, etc. But I am giving her the initial budget to try to keep to of thrifty plan. My son, who has an eating disorder caused by him being a “super taster,” so he generally eats things plain (pasta, rice, chicken, pork), or just mildly flavored with some salt and pepper. Other than that, he doesn’t really eat anything else, but that’s a conversation for a different forum.

I’ll let you know how the experiment goes with trying to have my daughter be able to stick to budget.

Bellewiccan

Thank you for this. now maybe my husband will realize that $150 is NOT enough to spend for 2 adults and a teenager!

robin

Yay, we are thrifty! According to the chart we could be spending $148.96 (on just food?) but we spend a very strict $120 on ALL groceries- includes cat food, detergent, etc. Shopping at the farmer’s market and making everything from scratch makes a big difference, as does buying from bulk bins at the co-op.

Carolyn

We spend much, much less than this. I was amazed that on the “thrifty” plan, the chart says that would spend what amounts to $460 for my little family of four. Wow! I spend about 60% of this and every month try to stock up on extras for food storage.

Jack

I probably spend about $200 in groceries per month. This does not include $ paid for breakfast/lunch at work and an accasional evening meal. I just need to be more frugal, cook more at home, take food in to work more, etc…It’s hard given how much time I spend at the office. Urgggg…

Laura

Going by the Thrifty Plan for my husband (36.80), myself (34.60), and our 8 children (20.20, 21.40, 22.40, 28.40, 28.40, 32.80, 36.10, 36.10) and minus the 10%: $267.48 per week

We spend an average of $125 per week.

Brianna

My father-in-law lives with us ($35.40). My husband ($38.60), myself ($34.60), twin 13-year-old boys ($34.70 twice), 10-year-old boy ($32.80), 4-year-old girl ($22.40), 6-year-old girl ($28.40), and a 2-year-old boy ($21.40). Total $283.00, subtract 10% ($28.30), new total $254.70. I usually spend less than $200 a week, so I must be doing ok!

Dan

I have to do better. I eat many of my meals out and probably spend more than $250 a month. I don’t really know what I spend. I need to eat better than I do. You’ve inspired me to make a change. Thank you!

Chrissy

On the thrifty plan, I would spend $117.00 on our family of four. I currently spend between $50- $75 so I guess I’m doing ok although sometimes it doesn’t feel like it lately.

Linda

I’m in the netherlands, so I don’t know if I am actually entitled to post this comment.. *lol* But we spend much less than even the thrifty plan..

We’re a family of 3, and according to the thrifty plan we should spent $95 a week. In reality, it’s less than $70..

perhaps this thrifty is only so to ‘normal’ people.. say: the consumer generation ;)

Kelly

Well yes and no on it being high, it depends on how you cook and what you have avalible to cook. I had a penpal when I was in highschool who lived in innercity New York and the only place to by groceries with in a reasonible distance was one of two convenace stores, and her and her Mom where paying $3 for a half gallon of milk $1 for a can of instant soup and $1.50 for a loaf of white bread (and this was in the late-90s). So when calculating these figures (that they use to calulate food stamps and welfare) they had to take situations like that into account.

Just saying…

Linda

Hi Shirley! :)

Thanks for your reply! As to answer your questions…. groceries are pretty much dirt-cheap here in the Netherlands. Which is strange, because we’re doing ‘pretty well’, according to European standards. We’re one of the wealthiest countries on earth, with the MINIMUM income for one person being about $1800. I hear the Dutchies always complaining when food prices go up, but really.. we have nothing to complain about. I’ve recently been to Italy and Ireland, and noticed the prices were MUCH higher there, and the national income was lower than ours.. Now, as for the examples you mentioned.. let me give you the price of a few staples, so you can compare:

(I’m giving you the cheapest option, no name-brands, ok?)

flour – 1kg – $0,70
milk – 1 quart – $0,90
rice – 1 kg – $0,70
dried beans – 1 kg – $1,50
cheese – 1 kg – $7,00 (real cheese though, not that melted-with-milk-and-salt-added kinda gunk)
eggs – a dozen – $1,50
chicken – 1 kg – $5,00
beef – 1 kg (for stew) – $8,00
cheap coke – 1 1/2 quart – $0,50
coca cola – 1 1/2 quart – $2,00
bananas – 1 kg – $2,00
apples – 1 kg – $1,50

Well, that’s about it I guess…. I have no idea how these compare to prices in the US.. one thing I know though.. is that whenever you guys complain about the gas price, think of us.. we’re paying over 10 bucks a gallon! (mostly taxes, of course) ;)

greetings from the netherlands!

Mrs. B

I make almost everything from scratch (including condiments). I shop a produce co-op for fresh fruits, and dry goods co-op for grains and beans, we grow a vegetable garden, and we raise rabbits and chickens and my husband and sons generally harvest two deer per year. But even with all that, I still have to purchase dairy products, cooking oils, spices, etc. I spend around $55.00 per week for a family of 5. If we didn’t do the above, according to the thrifty plan I’d spend $173.00 per week! Thanks for this providing this comparison, It’s helped remind me that all the work we do is worth it.

Nicki

Wow…I am spending too much.

My husband has a special diet and needs to have a lot of fruits and veggies. They are pretty expensive here lately, even in season. I shop at a local farmers market when I can, but they are not that much cheaper and have a limited selection. Any suggestions?

sealander2008

Wow, I converted the table into New Zealand dollars, and our household of 4 barely spends half the thrifty budget, even if I include one restaurant visit a week. And food is more expensive here than the US…gotta wonder just what that hypothetical budget is being spent on? Looks like I can shop at the farmer’s market and buy grass-fed beef and lamb (actually you can’t buy any other sort here) on half the budget needed to feed an American family.

Trish

Thanks for this. We have been living pretty tight as a few here seem to be as well. It was good to have a dollar amount to work on. This is generous in the amounts given. Our tally for the family of 5 was $208.30. Which is about what I spend. Thank you for your useful guide.

Ali

This is a great chart! My husband and I fall in the thrifty category. Pretty good considering we eat a lot of meats and fresh veggies (shopping around the perimeter of the store). Healthy food is never the cheapest option but we can make it work.

Pam

This website is full of interesting info. It’s great to know there are normal people out there. I live in San Diego and the mindset here is way beyond extremely different than the comments I am reading here. Thanks for the great recipes and tips. I’m always looking for ways to cut spending, but at the same time enjoy life.

Barb

The guidelines seem to be a little low according to todays economy. We hunt and eat deer meat all year round, we garden and can all our vegetables and freeze what we don’t can. We barter for eggs and I bake and some times sell baked goods. We still need to buy flour, grains and milk and toilet paper and soap and deodorant and shampoo. We still need to put gas in our vehicle to go to work for a little more than minimum wage. I do see people buying pop and chips on food stamp cards ! To buy a steak at the store would be useless as we find deer meat much tastier and healthier.

Suzanne

I would guess that the government is basing these guidelines on mostly processed food. I am seeing prices like brand name cake mixes for $1 each and brand name soups for less than $1. I don’t buy processed food and prices for non processed foods keep going up. We’re paying big for trying to eat healthy. Sticking to your principles is costly too. For example I paid $3 a dozen for eggs last week. Eggs from caged hens were less than half that price.

Ginny Lee

Same here. Grocery prices keep going up even from week to week. Things cost way more than they did a year ago. I too think the weekly guideline estimates are high.

Willow

According the guidelines, we are in the ‘thrifty plan’ although we certainly don’t feel like we’re scrimping along on any part of our diet. We don’t buy many processed foods and purchase almost all of our fruits and veggies from the local farmers market (it’s open 50 weeks a year because we live in SoCal). My husband does most of the shopping and he says that some things have gone up and some down, so the overall cost has been about the same. Changing to local organic cage free eggs, we’re paying three or four times the price for eggs, but that is a choice we’re making to match our values.

Vicky

EVERYTHING has gone up here… I try really hard to stick to a budget while still eating non or minimally processed foods (so coupons are out!), I make all our food, can our garden’s produce and make my own breads/pastries. It still is a challenge!! Eggs went up so much, plus the premium cost for buying organic or at least cage free, we got our own!!!!

Sky

Prices in South Carolina have skyrocketed. Especially fresh fruits and veggies. I only buy hormone and antibiotic free meat, eggs and dairy and it is double the cost, but worth it to be healthier.

Sylvia

These don’t reflect Washington DC metro area prices at all! Or maybe as someone said above, it’s all processed food. We don’t eat any processed food and we spend a lot more than this. I recently commented to the store manager that my grocery bill was really high and I didn’t even buy any meat and she told me it’s because fruits and vegetables are now selling better than meat so, they started to raise the prices on those items.

Lauren

Wow – we’re almost in the low-cost plan and that’s with shopping at Whole Paycheck, er, I mean Whole Foods. I e-mail my grocery list to our nearest WF and my husband picks up the groceries on his weekly trip to our largest nearby city.

We grow our own beef, some of our veges, our own eggs and our own milk and some cheese. As noted in other comments, we don’t eat much processed foods.

One thing this table leaves out is how much families spend on eating out. Because there are no healthy food restaurants nearby we eat at home. The city folks eat out more, I believe. We did when we lived in the city. Fast food prices are still low, but its been years since I’ve eaten FF.

Deanna

It’s the same here. I’m paying considerably more now than I did say a year ago for groceries but I’m happy to say I’m still paying less than the ‘liberal plan’.

Michelle K

Oranges are $1.00 each in the stores here – and these aren’t even the nicest big ones. Winter squash is over a $1.00 per pound *on sale*. It’s discouraging to see the prices rise and be told that they haven’t. I live in northern Maine.

Stana

Thanks for posting these estimates. I find it interesting to compare what I pay to these figures. I think I’m doing fairly well but I do agree that prices have risen more than these estimates show.

Georgina

I followed your link and saw that one of the government suggestions for one of their meals was 4 oz of salmon. I wonder where they were able to find salmon at a price that would fit into their thrifty plan. If my figures are correct they allow $1.98 per meal for a man 19 to 50. Of course dinner and lunch would cost more than breakfast probably but the way salmon is priced in the stores in our area there is no way I could feed my family salmon and keep the cost per meal at less than $2.00 per person. So I agree with you, I’d like to know where they do their shopping too.

Cynthia

California, maybe? We still have pretty cheap groceries and can definitely imagine a thrifty plan budget for food with all the things available here. I haven’t noticed food prices rising too much, I noticed it mainly in the snacks.

narf7

Here in Australia it seems like food is going through the roof. At a time when many farmers are facing going to the wall thanks to our 2 monopoly supermarkets going head to head to cut prices and win over new customers for their Christmas food spending money, pretty soon we are going to be slaves to their massive price increases. Our government doesn’t even bother to try to kid us that our food is cheaper. They just say “you are going to have to tighten your belts” and roll out another round of taxes…that is why we planted our own veggies this year :)

Catherine

Got to agree with narf7. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to shop on a budget here in Australia. The Supermarkets don’t care – they just want the dollars but don’t care about the service, quality or the farmers that supply them. Everyday I give thanks for my vegie garden and that hubby, as an electrician, does heaps of work for the fruit growers in our area who not only pay on time but also send him home with lovely boxes of top quality fruit. I often wonder just how often we have to tighten our belt before it cuts us in half.

Rachel

We can’t even afford to spend as much as the thrifty plan, we end up eating a lot of pasta and sandwiches and other cheap, not-so-healthy things. But I have definitely noticed that prices are continuing to rise here in central Maine.

Mel

It’s hard to say here, but I will mention that we try to avoid going to the supermarket as much as possible. During our short growing season in the summer, we get most of our veggies from the garden. We buy our beef, lamb, and pork directly from the local farmer as a whole animal, and then divide it among the family. Eggs also come from the local farmer. The only animal products we buy at the store are cheese, milk, and butter, but thanks to living in WI these items are all local anyway. We do this because I have moral issue with the way many commercial farms treat their animals, and I feel better about eating meat when I know that animal lived on a pasture and was treated with respect, then butchered locally and humanely. The entire life cycle of these animals, from birth to butchering to my doorstep, occur within about 100 square miles. I am thankful for this, as I know it’s not an option for everyone.

I haven’t bought chicken in years because my only source of actual free range chicken is 2 hours away, and costs more than my pasture raised, certified organic cow.

We do buy some processed food. I like having cereal in the morning, and we do eat a lot of white rice (as well as basmati rice).

And chocolate. Ohh we love our chocolate.

In the winter we buy an excessive amount of veggies at the supermarket – food I know has traveled a thousand miles. I can’t be apologetic about it, though, so I willingly shell out the increasingly exorbitant price.

I have also gotten much better about baking from scratch, but I must lament that Betty Crocker still makes a better yellow butter cake than I can from scratch :(.

Eileen

I figured this last year to get my hubby to understand more should be budgeted for food. Last year I could spend $75 each week and get all the food and toiletries we needed. If the kids needed stuff then we had to spend more. This year we are paying at least $100 a week. However, that puts us below the norm because I can everything and buy in bulk. I could still probably get away with that much but we have went organic on fruits and veggies when possible and dont buy anything except kiwi and pineapple from other countries..its all usa stuff. We dont eat prepackaged anything..its all cooked from scratch. I also eat deer and when my friends buy half a cow or hog, then I get the necks, hocks, shanks, and whatever they dont want to eat for free. We try to raise what we eat. I dont see how people survive because I cant afford to pay what they say I should and still be a stay at home mom.

Amanda

We are spending less than the thrifty amount for our family of four. We do eat a lot of whole foods and organic. I avoid many processed foods and the pre-washed/cut produce. I buy a lot of grains and legumes bulk and grind my own flour. We are in AZ, so maybe our produce is more affordable than other areas of the country?
Snack foods kill our budget, so we try to stretch out the store-bought ones and fill in with homemade. I have definitely noticed that prices overall have jumped in the last year, especially for nuts and meat.

Katie

I live in between Atlanta and Macon Georgia. Week after week I see the prices increasing. If you want to eat healthy, fresh foods , you have to learn to make alot of things from scratch to make up for the rising prices. I don’t see how people who still have children at home are able to feed them all the fruits and veggies they need on a regular basis.I think the data on this needs to be revised to fit in with reality .

Julie

We spend about half of the “thrifty” amount per week in our household.

Ruth

We are spending less than the amounts posted. What is less than thrifty? LOL
Ruth, PA

debby

According to the chart, the thrifty plan budget for my family would be $117.50 per week. We actually spend around $70 at the grocery store (including all personal and cleaning products) and don’t eat out at all. Oh the things I could cook if I had the extra $42.50/week!!! The liberal plan for my family is $231.63. I can’t even imagine how to spend all that money!

Natasha

Wow, we too are less that the Thrifty plan and that’s including cleaning supplies and toiletries. I’m impressed;)

Barefoot

Yikes! We, too, spend less than the Thrifty plan. I suppose the difference is that this is the National Average, and groceries in some places are cheaper. Or maybe I am just really Thrifty-Cool…

debby

I actually woke up in the middle of the night realizing my math mistake. I’d love the extra $47.50/week (not $42.50). Hopefully I’ll sleep better tonight.

O.M.

My total for the thrifty plan was $121 and some change and that’s almost exactly what I spend per week, but not just on food – that includes food, toiletries and diapers. And to me that’s a high week. I strive to keep it lower than that.

Niki

Wow, I am below the thrifty. That is good considering we don’t have coupons and sales are not that frequent.

anna

wow! Until now, I was the only person I knew of who spent under 200.00 a week at the grocery store! Our grocery bill is also less than the thrifty plan and my family really feels like we eat good! No complaints about feeling deprived. Our bill usually comes to about 110.00-115.00 dollars a week including all toiletries and cleaning items….even the additional junk we buy at the local dollar store which we can surely do without!! (toys and nic-nacs we really don’t need). I am really enjoying the site here and hope to become more frugal and able to live more simply with right priorities. Thanks for all of your posts. I can’t wait to tell my husband!

sheri

Where the heck does the government do their grocery shopping in order to come up with these outrageous, inflated figures? If these are the numbers they use for programs like food stamps, then no wonder they are going broke. And no wonder the majority of adults are obese. Seriously, what are people buying that they need to spend that much?

Dee

I have a family of 8 and 4 dogs and we spend $400-$450 a month between food and non food items. Groceries cost more here but we still manage to eat well and healthy, fast food is seldom. I cook and bake by scratch.

Christy

Interesting. We spend less than the thrifty amount and rarely use coupons. We do cook most things from scratch and don’t eat a lot of meat.

Marlies

I do not work outside of our home ( I do craft shows and sell my jewelry at a few shops) and my husband gives me $100/ week to pay for 1/2 side of beef which runs us about $600/year (usually takes us about 18 months to go through ) and 1/2 side of pork every 6 months or so–$528/year. I also pay for whatever our 4 1/2 year old malamute eats, vet bills, heartguard, etc. We are definitely on the low end of Thrifty. I do a lot from scratch, can, preserve what I can get from the garden and a fruit/ vegetable market. Do not eat processed or junk food.