How Much Does the Average American Family Really Spend on Groceries?

When you walk through the door after another trip to the grocery store, do you feel weighted down by full bags of food and a dangerously empty wallet?

You’re not alone. The average American family spends a significant percentage of their income on food every week. And that doesn’t include how much we spend eating outside our homes, or having food brought right to our doors.

How does your allotted grocery budget — and how much you actually end up spending when you finish shopping — compare to the rest of America? Read on to find out.

Americans spend the most money on junk food

Junk food

Junk food | Mukhina1/iStock/Getty Images

That probably doesn’t surprise you. According to a 2014 paper from economists Matthew Harding and Michael Lovenheim, Americans’ grocery carts aren’t filled with produce or even the grains we all claim to love so much — at least not in excess.

Most of them are filled with snack and junk foods.

The analysis found that 16% of average American grocery budgets went to snacks and candy and nearly 13% was spent on meat and protein. On average, 7.5% went toward packaged meals, and 4% of budgets went to canned food.

How much do Americans spend on groceries?

How much do you expect to spend every time you step up to the checkout counter? $100? $200? Depending on where you fall, you’re either well below the weekly national average, or you need to start hunting for coupons.

The majority of American families spend between $150 and $300 per week on groceries, according to a 2013 report from the United States Department of Agriculture. This number factors in home-prepared meals and snacks for four-person households (two adults and two children) and food waste costs. It does not include fast-food purchases.

How to save money on groceries

Basket full of groceries

Basket full of groceries | Antonio_Diaz/iStock/Getty Images

Are your weekly or monthly grocery bills higher than the national average? Here are a few simple tips to help you save cash at the supermarket.

  • Use coupons. Though it might seem like saving a few bucks on food here and there isn’t worth clipping coupons, it all adds up.
  • Go generic. There are generic versions of many brand-name food items at your local store. Chances are, they taste just as good for a much lower price.
  • Always shop with a list. You’re much less likely to splurge on half a cart full of junk food (we’ve all done it) if you leave it off the list. Even better, stay away from those aisles.
  • Browse without your tiny humans. Sometimes, it’s impossible to avoid bringing your kids along to replenish your food supply. But once they see those cookies, and that cereal, and those cupcakes, RIP your grocery budget. When you can, shop without them.
  • Don’t shop hungry. Ever. You’ll never make it out of there without your I-only-eat-this-when-I’m-stressed-and-I’m-always-stressed food.

When it comes down to it, whether you try to splurge on healthier items or end up buying way too many bags of potato chips, saving isn’t easy. But you don’t have to spend a paycheck and a half to feed your family. It will take some work, but it is possible.

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