Average Cost of Food per Month for One Person (From Government Data)

Knowing the average cost of food per month for one person can be really helpful when considering your own budget, especially if you want to decrease costs. Many other resources tend to talk about grocery budgets or meal planning in relation to families of four, but this article breaks down the average grocery bill for one.

The average cost of food per month for one is about $250.

Grocery prices fluctuate little across the country. But, an individual may consume more or less food than average (or food of different types) based on their height, weight, age, gender, eating habits, and dietary needs, and this may impact the cost of the food they need to purchase and consume in one month. This article contains more information about the necessary food budget for one based on federal data.

Average Cost of Food per Month for One According to the USDA

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) releases official food plans every month. The charts get complicated quickly, so we’ve broken down the averages for easy reference. The USDA assumes that all meals are made at home.

These meals are broken down into four different types of plans: the thrifty plan, the low-cost plan, the moderate-cost plan, and the liberal plan. The name of each plan implies the level of cost, with the thrifty plan being the cheapest and the liberal plan being the most expensive, but all plans are based on nutritional guidelines. The plans are also based on time to prepare and resources, so the thrifty plan assumes that an individual has little time and few kitchen resources to prepare meals.

In December 2019, the USDA reported that the average cost of food per month for men between the ages of 19 to 50 ranged from $185 on the thrifty plan to $369 on the liberal plan. For women of the same age, it ranged from $165 to $328 per month.

Average Cost of Food per Month for One According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) takes a different approach to breaking down the average cost of food per person. The BLS administers the Consumer Expenditure Surveys every other year, asking people in the United States to report their average costs on a wide variety of items.

Looking at 2015 data, the average respondent was 50 years old with 2-3 people in their household and earned $69,627 in income before taxes for the year. This average respondent spent $7,023 on food for the year ($585 per month) for their household. The BLS breaks that down further into food at home ($335 per month) and food away from home ($251 per month). If you wanted to take it even another step further, you can see in Table A how much the average respondent spent on multiple categories: cereals and bakery products, meats, poultry, fish, and eggs, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, and other.

What if your average income is less or more than the average respondent? Go to the Statistical Tables later in the document to find your income bracket and the relevant breakdowns. For example, respondents who earned an average yearly income of $28,343 spent approximately $419 per month on food. Respondents who earned an average yearly income of $177,851 spent approximately $1,029 per month on food. Again, these are averages across the United States, so you may find that spending more or less depends on where you live.

How Can I Calculate My Monthly Grocery Budget for One?

Calculating your own average cost of food per month can seem complicated since many food items you purchase will be used in multiple meals. For example, the cost of a bag of rice on your grocery receipt will probably cover multiple meals and perhaps even last multiple months.

Budget Bytes is an excellent resource for figuring out what individual elements of a meal cost. Budget Bytes provides recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks and lists the costs of every single item. For example, if you want to make Slow Cooker Carnitas, you’ll learn that the overall cost of the meal is $7.80, the cost per serving is $0.98, and the meal serves 8 people. The cost of each item in the recipe is further broken down; for example, one yellow onion will cost you around $0.32 (on average). The method of determining costs for these simple recipes is outlined on the Budget Bytes prices and portions page. The best way to determine your own costs is to use a similar resource and track your spending.

If you’re looking for a simple way to track your grocery spending, try Mint. Mint is free, acclaimed, secure, and helps people like you keep grocery costs down. You can link your credit and debit cards (and any other accounts) to Mint and then see what you’ve spent in different categories like groceries. Over time, you can see how much you spend on average and reallocate your budget accordingly.

In addition, eating outside your home is almost always more expensive than making food at home, especially if you sit down at a restaurant with service. Track your restaurant receipts to calculate your monthly average of eating out.

Related Article: Where Do You Rank? Determine Your Average Net Worth by Age Group

In Summary

As you can see, the average cost of food per month for one person varies depending on your location, where you shop, and what kinds of foods you eat. If you kept track of your food costs for a month, would you be near these averages?

We hope these comparisons have helped you learn something new about your food habits and maybe even inspired you to try some new cost saving strategies for next month.