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Here is how much you should be budgeting for groceries every month

Cork Gaines,Andy Kiersz   

Here is how much you should be budgeting for groceries every month

The offers and details on this page may have updated or changed since the time of publication. See our article on Business Insider for current information.

  • US grocery prices remain high despite cooling inflation.
  • USDA's recommended monthly food budget for a family of four has risen 27% since 2020.

While inflation has cooled since its peak in June 2022, one place where American wallets are still being hit hard is at the grocery store.

The US Department of Agriculture tracks the prices of foods at the grocery store, and each month, it recommends food plans at various cost levels, depending on if you want a "thrifty," "low," "moderate," or "liberal" plan.

It also creates a strategy specifically for residents of Alaska and Hawai'i, as prices in those states tend to be outliers.

As of March 2024, the USDA recommends a family of four on a thrifty budget spend $976.60 monthly and $1,585.20 for a liberal budget.

On average, across the four food plans, the monthly budget recommendation has risen 27% since the start of 2020. Meanwhile, as of November, grocery prices were up 25.1% since the start of 2020, outpacing the 18.9% increase in overall prices.

However, the USDA changed the formula for the thrifty plan in 2021, resulting in a larger increase than the other cost levels. The average increase for the low, moderate, and liberal plans was 23%.

The plans are designed to show how to have a healthy diet at various price levels for a family of four, defined as a male and a female, both between 19 and 50 years old, as well as two children, one between the ages of six and eight and the other between the ages of nine and 11.

How to adjust for smaller households

The USDA has also broken down the recommended grocery budgets for individuals by sex and age based on recommended calories and nutrients during different stages of life.

For example, an adult male between the ages of 19 and 50 has a recommended moderate food budget of $376.90, and it is $318.50 for a woman in the same age range.

However, these recommendations are based on a household of four people, with some of the costs shared across the family. The USDA recommends adding 20% for someone only shopping for themselves, 10% for a household of two people, and 5% for a group of three.

Prices remain high even though inflation has cooled

The inflation on food purchased for the home has slowed, rising 1.2% in March compared to the same period in 2023, lower than the overall inflation rate of 3.5%.

However, the higher rates seen in recent years, especially in 2022, are still built into the prices paid at the store and are hitting consumers' wallets hard.

With food prices still weighing down consumers, some are becoming more conscious of how much they're spending and where.

Luckily, there are tools to help, such as meal planning, sticking to a grocery shopping list, using coupon apps, shopping in bulk, and looking around for the best deals on food.

Have your grocery budget and shopping lists changed in the last few years due to inflation? Reach out to this reporter at

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