“How much does the average family spend on groceries?” is by far the most common question I get from people when I’m helping them develop a budget and plan their expenses.
Without copping out by saying “how long is a piece of string”, I have developed some averages over the years that have helped guide what I believe is a realistic budget for groceries for most families.
There are actually two questions that need to be considered. First there is the obvious question of “how much does the average family spend on groceries each week”, but there there is another, possibly more important question of “how much should the average family spend on groceries each week”?
In reality, if you are asking this question you are probably either wondering if you are spending too much, or you’re attempting to cut your grocery bill. While what you do spend is important information, it is at least equally as important to know what you realistically could be spending.
I recently surveyed over 200 Australian families and asked them a series of questions about their grocery shopping habits. These questions were:
- How often do you go grocery shopping?
- How much do you spend on groceries?
- How many adults and children in your family?
As you can imagine, there was a huge variety of responses. The range of weekly shopping bills were from under $100 up to over $500 per week. Interestingly the size of family wasn’t related to the size of the bill, with the larger families not necessarily having the largest grocery bills.
The mean grocery spend was $240 a week with the majority of people spending between $150 and $300. The average family size of those surveyed was 4.5 people.
(If you aren’t familiar with maths terms, the mean is the middle value in a set of numbers, which is often more useful than the average if there is large variation.)
What I found interesting (although not surprising) was that the frequency of grocery shopping was closely related to how much people spent on groceries each week. Those who shopped multiple times per week spent, on average, much more than those who shopped fortnightly. I’ve certainly found that to be true for our family. It doesn’t seem to matter what I go to the supermarket for, it always ends up costing at least $25 a visit. Even if I only plan to buy milk and bananas, I still somehow manage to come home with five other items.
Given the numbers above, and the fact that most of these families weren’t necessarily planning their grocery spending or attempting to limit it, we could probably say that the average Australian family spends around $240 a week on groceries.
In reality, I have found that almost all families can get their grocery expenses down to $200 or less with a bit of planning and not much effort.
We personally budget $150 a week for groceries and I am regularly able to keep it under $120. We don’t eat much packaged food, so almost all of this is spent on fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, milk, bread and some other staples. $150 is an ambitions target for most families and my kids are little so don’t need as much food as hungry teenagers, but $200 is achievable for almost all families with two or even three children.
If you do want to try cutting your grocery bill, my main tips would be:
This is honestly the easiest and most effective way to cut your grocery spending. I have seen families halve their grocery budget just by meal planning. It not only cuts down on expenses, it also reduces waste.
Buy in season
Plan meals around fresh fruit and vegetables in season. Also consider frozen vegetables as they are just as high (sometimes higher) in nutrients and are often much more economical.
Don’t buy packaged foods
Instead of buying muesli bars and yoghurt tubs make your own snacks and treats or buy in bulk and separate them out into containers yourself. Packaged foods are extremely expensive compared to making a batch of things yourself. The same goes for packet sauces and mixes. It’s actually super easy to make a curry, casserole or pasta bake from scratch rather than buying a pre-packaged sauce. It’s also heaps healthier!
If you are after some more tips you might also like my article on Keep Calm Get Organised on how I cut my grocery budget to under $150 a week.
How much do you spend on groceries? Any hints or tips? Share them in the comments below.