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Average Cost of Food and Groceries Per Year

written by: Nicky LaMarco•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 5/26/2010

With everyone watching their budgets closely, the question of the amount of money spent on groceries often comes up. Calculating the average cost of groceries per year for the average family is not always as easy as it might sound. This is because the average cost food budget of a household varies.

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    Government Statistics

    photo 16157 20100505 If you look to government statistics for help, you'll find that you can indeed find statistics on the cost of food. However, the reports that are available are long, involved, and usually out of date by the time they are released. So, finding actual national averages for the average cost of groceries per year based on government surveys and results is somewhat problematic. Additionally, even when you do find averages, you have to take into account that these averages do vary depending on many variables.

    For example, in many cases, budgeting experts allot an average of 15% of a family's income toward food, including what is spent at home and when eating out. If you take this percentage and compare it to the 2007 median annual household income of $50,233, this would mean that budgeting experts would expect a family living on that income to have spent approximately $7,500 per year on food. However, in reality this percentage would probably vary depending on the family's overall income, which would affect the average cost food budget per household.

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    USDA Guidelines

    The USDA does offer some very helpful guidelines for what the average cost groceries per year of a household should be, based on several different calculated food plans. They offer tables that show the weekly and monthly cost of food, based on a thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost, or liberal food plan. This table is very complete, allowing you to choose the gender and ages of the individuals, which can be a great way of calculating what the cost of food should be for your family.

    As an example, the chart for March 2010 shows that for an average family of four, with one child between the ages of six and eight and a second child between the ages of nine and eleven, could expect to spend $954.50 per month on groceries. That adds up to $11,454.00 for the average of cost groceries per year. One advantage of using this USDA chart is that it is updated on a monthly basis, reflecting the current costs. Of course, this number might not be representative of the average American family, since it assumes that all meals and snacks consumed are prepared at home. However, it probably does take income into consideration somewhat, as low income families are probably following a thrifty plan, while more affluent families might be following a liberal food plan.

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    Because of the many variables that need to be taken into account, it can be very difficult to calculate the average cost groceries per year, especially when considering the average cost of food per budget per household. However, by using the USDA food plan averages chart, you can come pretty close to finding out what the average would be for your own family. The average food budget, following a moderate food plan, can be roughly calculated per year by allowing:

    • $3,120 for an adult male
    • $2,760 for an adult female
    • $2,100 for a child under age 12
    • $3,000 for a child between the ages of 12 and 18

    This should provide a fairly standard base to which other specialized adjustments can be made, based on an individual family's income, preferences and practices.

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    • Personal Finance Analyst:
    • USDA:
    • Kiplinger:

    Image Credit:

    • Carlos Porto /