The USDA creates food plans multiple times per year using current food cost data to calculate the cost of food at home at four different levels. The grocery budget calculator uses the low-cost level for comparison.
Each Cost of Food at Home Plan provides enough food for all meals to be eaten at home or carried out of the home. All plans provide the calories and nutrients recommended by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Thrifty plan, which is the least costly of the four, is the basis for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp program. The Low-Cost and Moderate plans provide appropriate diets for most people. The Liberal plan permits a greater variety, more meat, and a different mix of fruits and vegetables than other plans.
When reading the table, keep in mind that the information is based on nationwide averages. It does not include non-food items purchased at grocery stores or meals purchased at restaurants. Footnotes are provided to assist in adjusting food costs based on different family sizes.
If you spend more on food than the grocery budget calculator estimates, the reasons might be:
If you want to lower what you are spending at the grocery store, Spend Smart. Eat Smart. can help. If you find that you’re continually exceeding your grocery spending plan, evaluate your menus and shopping list for ways to cut costs. Consider the following:
If you spend less on food than the grocery budget calculator estimates, here are some possibilities:
If your spending is less than predicted because you don’t have the money to spend for food, consider Food Assistance Resources.
Congratulations! Since your spending at the grocery store is pretty close to the Low-Cost Plan, this means that you probably have some skills and knowledge about how to plan, shop, and cook. Just make sure that you are eating the recommended amounts from each of the food groups for good health. ChooseMyPlate.gov has a tracker and a meal planner that can help you plan for good nutrition.
Learn more and sharpen your skills by visiting Iowa State University’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart.
Figures for the grocery budget calculator are based on the Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home, Low Cost level for the latest month available.
To calculate overall household grocery costs we: