Real-Life Grocery Expenses, Revealed!

As a mom of three, I'm in a constant race against the grocery list. Even as I'm hauling in the bags, I'm already writing down things I need on the next trip. Regardless of shape, size or lifestyle, we can all commiserate over this never-ending, often burdensome, task of stocking our kitchens—all while keeping our families happy and healthy, striking the right balance between nutritious and delicious, and staying within budget. Easier said than done.
 
I often wonder if I'm doing this whole grocery thing right: Am I spending too much money? Are all the food groups represented? Could I be shopping more efficiently? And for goodness sakes, how long until the drones start delivering my groceries?
 
To help demystify the grocery shopping process, we asked some of our SparkPeople members, office staff, trainers and nutritionists about their restocking routines. There's no magic dollar amount or grocery list that works for everyone, but sometimes it helps to know you're not alone in your supermarket struggles. You'll also find some tips for tackling your list in less time, and maybe even save a little cash, too.
 
Lisa Andrews, Registered Dietitian with Sound Bites Nutrition – Cincinnati, OH
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults, 2 children

Amount Spent Per Week:

$80

Must-Have Essentials:

Organic milk, whole wheat bread, fruit and veggies (fresh and frozen), Greek yogurt, eggs, cheese, black beans, kidney beans, romaine lettuce/spinach, bagged spinach, whole chickens (organic), ground beef (lean/grass fed), turkey breast, natural peanut butter, seltzer water, whole grain crackers, lentils, brown rice, nuts, whole wheat pasta, tomato sauce/paste, pesto, spices, tortillas, pretzels, popcorn, yeast, bread flour, coffee.

Health Consciousness:

"We are fairly active and health-conscious, but don't buy sports drinks, gels or bars. I don't think you have to spend a lot of money to eat healthy."

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"Buy seasonal produce and less meat. Vegetarian meals like beans and rice are cheap and quick to prepare. When fruit is in season, I purchase a lot each week and freeze them so we can enjoy them year-round. To save money or time, shop in stores with smaller footprints like Aldi or Trader Joes. They both have high quality food (including some organics) at much cheaper prices. I am in and out of the store in 20-30 minutes!"


Cheryl Russo, Nutritionist – New York City, NY
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults, 2 teens

Amount Spent Per Week:

$150

Must-Have Essentials:

Spices (pepper, cayenne, Himalayan sea salt, Mrs. Dash, organic powdered onion, organic powdered garlic), organic maple syrup, low sodium tamarind sauce, Greek yogurt, quinoa, faro, barley, wild rice, raw cashews, almonds, raisins, lower sugar dried cranberries, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Health Consciousness:

"I usually have boneless chicken breast and ground turkey each week, and some type of fish. I try to keep responsibly caught wild shrimp and flounder in the freezer as go-to meals. There are always carrots, broccoli, string beans, onions and garlic in the fridge. [Also], there is always fruit, depending on the season."

Grocery Shopping Tip(s):

"I am a coupon cutter and digital coupon downloader. I plan my meals around what is on sale, and then check for coupons."

 
Jen Mueller, Fitness Coach & Community Leader for SparkPeople – Cincinnati, OH
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults, 4 children

Amount Spent Per Week:

Not Disclosed

Must-Have Essentials:

Fruit, vegetables, yogurt, granola bars, bread, milk, cheese, hummus, cottage cheese, pretzels, some small amounts of meat.

Health Consciousness:

"I’m very health-conscious about the foods I buy. I buy organic when I feel it’s important (certain produce, but not all) and I try to limit the amount of processed foods I purchase. I’m not perfect, so my kids do have some processed stuff, but I keep it to a minimum."

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"I usually go to the store twice a week, always with at least one or more kids in tow, so I try to make the experience as quick and efficient as possible. I plan at least three to four dinners at a time, and make a list of everything I need, organized by row. That way I can just roll through the list as I go through the aisles, without having to go back and forth across the store."

 
SparkPeople Member MACKENZIESAGE
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults, 2 teens

Amount Spent Per Week:

$200

Must-Have Essentials:

Olive oil, spices, veggies (stock up on frozen when they're on sale), eggs, beans, nuts and seeds, tomato sauce, meat, fruit, milk, yogurt, cheese, coffee, tea.

Health Consciousness:

"We're moderately active. The kids ride bikes and play with friends, and hubby does physical work. I work out at the gym. We've gotten healthier, but could be even healthier."

Cooking Style:

"Our cooking style is eclectic. We like to experiment, but we have some favorites."

Grocery Shopping Tip(s):

"I like to save money by buying bulk or stocking up during big sales, but then portion things off into correct serving sizes to avoid eating too much at once.
Buy local produce in season at farmers' markets and work with that, but keep a stash of frozen veggies and fruits to supplement when the fresh produce runs low or prices go up."

 
SparkPeople Member KKAREN
 

Number of people in household:

1 adult

Amount Spent Per Week:

$30-$40

Must-Have Essentials:

Milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt (I make my own), fresh veggies in season, beans, avocados, fruit, very little meat.

Health Consciousness:

"I eat healthy, but tend to snack badly on high sugar items. I balance my sugar by only eating sugar products that I make homemade, such as cookies, cakes, pies, etc. It makes it harder when I get a snack attack when I have to make it myself."

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"I eat very little processed foods and generally only shop the perimeter of the store. I get all the store sales flyers online and check for sales and/or coupons when I buy."


SparkPeople Member JENNYWREN93
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults, 2 teens

Amount Spent Per Week:

$150

Must-Have Essentials:

"We make three stops on Sunday morning: Walmart for markdown meats, coconut flour as needed and block cheese; Aldi for markdown meats, veggies (fresh and frozen), sunflower seeds/macadamia nuts, eggs and coconut oil; Dollar General market for markdown meats, veggies (frozen/fresh), olives, chips, crackers, desserts for the girls' lunches, sour cream, cream cheese and Nathan's hot dogs."

Cooking Style:

"We like our old standards (whole baked chicken, a salad and potatoes for the girlies), but we love to try new recipes too."

Grocery Shopping Tip(s):

"Buy markdown meats and freeze. Put them in individual portions if you have to. Cook a whole chicken, then make broth with the bones for veggie/chicken soup, or just freeze the broth to use instead of store-bought chicken broth. Don't stick to box stores: Shop at Aldi or Dollar General Market. You can't get everything there, but the stuff you can is MUCH cheaper than other places (especially if you are going for veggies)."

 
Maurice Williams, Owner of MoveWell Fitness – Washington, D.C.
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults, 3 children

Amount Spent Per Week:

$100-$125

Must-Have Essentials:

Fruit (bananas, oranges), fresh veggies, ground beef and chicken, eggs, yogurt, potatoes, plantains, oatmeal, olive and coconut oil.

Health Consciousness:

"I’m very health-conscious."

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"Shop the grocery stores like Aldi or Trader Joes, where you save money from having to bag your own groceries or you get their own labeling. These stores have organic and grass fed products, too. I also recommend shopping at farmers' markets and buying in bulk."

 
Mandy Unanski Enright, Registered Dietitian with Nutrition Nuptials – Red Bank, NJ
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults

Amount Spent Per Week:

$100-$125

Must-Have Essentials:

Breakfast: English muffins or whole grain cereal, eggs, seasonal fruit, milk
Lunch: Whole grain bread, roasted chicken or turkey for sandwiches
Snacks: Yogurt, nuts, Babybell cheese
Dinner: Items to make salad (prewashed greens and veggies to put on top), veggie and whole grains to have as sides.

Health Consciousness:

"I’m very health-conscious."

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"Plan your meals for the week and write them on a calendar, then determine what ingredients you need to purchase and make a shopping list. Organize your shopping list by department. The planning will eliminate food waste and extra spending on unnecessary items, while organizing your shopping list by department will cut down on backtracking in the grocery store."

 
SparkPeople Member TIRZAHLOU
 

Number of people in household:

1 adult

Amount Spent Per Week:

$65

Must-Have Essentials:

Olive oil, Diet Mountain Dew, shrimp, meat (chicken or ground hamburger), bag of apples, FitWorks microwave dinners for work, crackers, peanut butter, collard greens, small white potatoes, ketchup, bottles of water, tortillas (for homemade pizza), Kroger pizza sauce, 1 bag mozzarella, turkey pepperoni, pinto beans.

Health Consciousness:

"I'm sedentary, but becoming more active. I could be healthier."

Cooking Style:

"Simple: I grill or bake mostly, with a touch of pepper or a bit of sea salt."

Grocery Shopping Tip(s):

"Keep an eye on sales, especially on meat. [Dried] beans are a great staple: Cheap, easy and store forever. If you buy something basic like chicken, you can change the flavor with seasoning."

 
Meghan Wilkinson, Clinical Dietitian at Bronson Battle Creek Hospital – Battle Creek, MI
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults

Amount Spent Per Week:

$50-$75

Must-Have Essentials:

Canned or frozen green beans, bananas, apples, romaine lettuce or spinach, carrots, brown rice, chicken, Greek yogurt, eggs.

Cooking Style:

"A lot of our meals are quick and simple, as we both work two jobs. We occasionally buy snack foods or processed foods. I usually make a similar menu each month, but add in a few surprises or new recipes into the mix to keep it interesting."

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"To save money, shop the perimeter of the store [as it] tends to have less processed foods like meats, fresh produce, eggs, dairy and breads. Also, make a plan: Use the weekly ads and what’s in season to guide your purchases. Apples are much cheaper in the fall than in the beginning of spring. Look for the sales and use those to help you plan meals."


Joe Robb
, Marketing Manager for SparkPeople – Cincinnati, OH
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults, 2 children

Amount Spent Per Week:

$250

Must-Have Essentials:

Eggs, milk, butter, olive oil, salad greens, muesli, more eggs, dried beans, yogurt, celery, carrots, onions, garlic, pasta, flours (whole wheat, white whole wheat, all purpose, buckwheat, rye), rice, hot and sweet peppers.

Health Consciousness:

"We are active and health-conscious."

Cooking Style:

“We’re very adventurous when it comes to cooking.”

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"Shop for 'ethnic' foods in the 'ethnic' aisle, rather than in the rest of the store. The tortillas are cheaper in the Hispanic section and the artichokes are cheaper in the Italian section than if you were to get them elsewhere in the store."


SparkPeople Member GRATISHORE
 

Number of people in household:

1 adult

Amount Spent Per Week:

$60

Must-Have Essentials:

"I buy mostly simple, few/single-ingredients foods. I eat almost anything, and rotate between a wide variety within each food group. I do my main shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables twice a week, but will buy more/other foods as needed."

Health Consciousness:

"I'm not very active. I am calorie conscious, but I don't worry so much anymore, as I seem to maintain my new lower weight almost effortlessly just with a few easy tweaks."

Cooking Style:

"I'd classify my cooking style as lazy, simple, fresh, tasty, nutritious, varied, balanced, traditional and eclectic."

Grocery Shopping Tip(s):

"Look at what you get for your dollar, considering both price (objectively; per pound) and value (personal; taste, ethics, nutrients).

Avoid ‘high-end’ products and name brands. Remember that every bit of ‘processing’ usually adds to the price tag.

Don't overbuy; plan to use up everything before it goes bad; make sure you have the proper storage facilities. If applicable, combine recipes to use everything. If that isn't possible, consider skipping/substituting that ingredient, or not using that recipe at all.

Don't shop when hungry or tired. Don't bring kids or partner (or if you do, engage them). Bring the shopping list, and follow it.

Only buy foods you like and have concrete plans to eat. But don't buy foods or amounts of foods (even on sale) that will encourage you to overeat; and conversely, don't buy so much that you get tired of it before it's eaten."


SparkPeople Member SLASALLE
 

Number of people in household:

1 adult

Amount Spent Per Week:

$75

Must-Have Essentials:

"I buy organic a lot, but use the dirty dozen/clean 15 lists. Must-haves are: bananas, skim milk, eight-grain sprouted bread, nonfat organic Greek yogurt, fresh/frozen berries, apples, oranges (seasonally), raw almonds, eggs, spinach, broccoli, carrots, onions, boneless/skinless chicken breasts, avocados and low-fat string cheese."

Health Consciousness:

"I'm active and healthy, but could always be healthier!"

Grocery Shopping Tip(s):

"When things you know you will use are on sale (i.e., frozen berries or veggies), stock up."

 
Jeremy Martin, VP of Product Management for SparkPeople – Cincinnati, OH
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults, 3 children

Amount Spent Per Week:

$150

Must-Have Essentials:

Fresh fruit, veggies, milk, bread.

Health Consciousness:

"We try to be health conscious. We do better with healthy snacks (lots of fresh fruit and veggies) than meals."

Cooking Style:

"We are not that adventurous. We both work, so finding the time and finding different things our kids will eat is a challenge."

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"We don’t walk through the grocery store anymore. We use Kroger’s ClickList–order your groceries online and then go pick them up at a designated time. It saves time by not walking through the grocery store with three kids, and it saves money by eliminating impulse purchases."

 
Elizabeth Lowry, Editor at SparkPeople – Cincinnati, OH
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults, 2 children

Amount Spent Per Week:

$200

Must-Have Essentials:

"Salad items (romaine/green leaf lettuce, spinach, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta), carrots, nuts, bread, lunchmeat, cheese, turkey, chicken, milk, yogurt, assorted fruits, hummus."

Health Consciousness:

"We're very health conscious, but that’s not to say there’s no room for pizza or desserts, which we have on occasion."

Cooking Style:

"We like to cook, and although we make some staple meals weekly, we do like to mix it up a little. We try to make a home-cooked meal and sit down for dinner together as a family whenever possible."

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"To save time, I use Kroger’s ClickList. I shop Thursday night from my couch and pick up on Saturday without leaving my car. This saves money because, even though there is a charge for using this service, it saves me from impulse buys. I'm more focused on ordering only what I need, and the odds of me going back to the grocery because pepperoncini chips would taste good in the moment are slim. Also, I use digital coupons from the Kroger app. Much easier than clipping coupons."

 
Toby Amidor, Clinical Dietitian – New York City, NY
 

Number of people in household:

1 adult, 3 kids

Amount Spent Per Week:

$125

Must-Have Essentials:

Milk, cream cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables (especially strawberries, pears and grapes), avocado, whole grain bread, beef, chicken, eggs, peanut butter, ice cream, Greek yogurt, whole grain cereal, canned beans.

Health Consciousness:

"I am health conscious, but also realistic. I'm okay with having a little ice cream for dessert, but the most important thing I stress with my kids is sitting down as a family to eat. We sit down together at breakfast and before bedtime snacks."

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"I make a grocery list and hang it on the fridge so I only buy what I need. I also get my meats from the butcher counter so I can tell the butcher exactly how much meat I need for each meal. I calculate about four ounces per person for meats and poultry and five ounces per person for fish."

 
Treva Brandon Scharf, Fitness Expert – Los Angeles, CA
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults

Amount Spent Per Week:

$150

Must-Have Essentials:

Fresh produce, cheese, half & half, cereal, tortillas, crackers, fresh salmon, canned tuna, paper products, coffee, garlic, onions, mushrooms, wine.

Health Consciousness:

"We have a very health conscious household with exceptions: I'm a fitness professional, but I still buy chips, cookies and plenty of wine."

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"Try to get your shopping done mid-week, around 3 p.m., when the stores are really empty. To save time and money, come prepared with a grocery list. Your shopping will be much more efficient and targeted, plus it will stop you from browsing aisles and buying stuff you don't really need."

 
SparkPeople Member SPINNER86
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults

Amount Spent Per Week:

$80-$100

Must-Have Essentials:

"Fresh fruits and vegetables, garlic, pasta, broccoli."

Health Consciousness:

"I would say we're healthy, but could be healthier."

Cooking Style:

"We're fairly traditional when it comes to cooking, but I do like to try new recipes when time permits."

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"I keep or start a shopping list whenever I run out or low on something. That way I don't have to remember or think about what I need when I'm at the store. I then add to my list with circulars from the three store where I shop. If two of the stores have the same special on bananas or broccoli, for instance, I may only have to go to one of the stores. I don't necessarily shop at all three."

 
SparkPeople Member KMACCARLSON
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults, 1 child

Amount Spent Per Week:

$50-$75

Must-Have Essentials:

Produce, frozen produce, meat, flour, rice and any other baking items.

Health Consciousness:

"We're calorie-conscious, but not as active or healthy as we should be."

Cooking Style:

"Basic/traditional. I make most of our breads, soups, sauces, etc. from scratch, so I run low on time to try lots of new things and be adventurous, but I try to add a new recipe every once in awhile."

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"A huge money saver is making breads, sauces, soups and bases ourselves. We also save by having a potted garden. For a time saver, I make sauces and bases in large batches."

 
Rachel von Nida, Accounting Director for SparkPeople – Cincinnati, OH
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults, 2 children

Amount Spent Per Week:

$100

Must-Have Essentials:

Fruits and veggies, meat, fish, milk, eggs, yogurt, cereal, bread, snacks, baking items, convenience foods/drinks.

Health Consciousness:

"I would say we're health-conscious: We concentrate on cooking and whole foods, but we definitely have snacks and treats. Not too much organic–if buying organic, it is meat and eggs."

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"I prefer to go to the same store location. I know where everything is and don’t get too distracted by stumbling upon stuff we don’t need."

 
Ashley Pitt, Personal Trainer – San Francisco, CA
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults

Amount Spent Per Week:

$150

Must-Have Essentials:

Avocados, bananas, broccoli, sweet potatoes, eggs, green tea, almond milk, organic chicken, Greek yogurt.

Health Consciousness:

"We're pretty healthy when it comes to the foods we cook at home. I always meal prep my lunches for the week, and we eat at home during the week most days as well."

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"To save time shopping, I make a list and always go to the same store and do the same path around the aisles to be as efficient as possible. That takes some of the work out of the decision making."

 
SparkPeople Member MISSSVJS
 

Number of people in household:

2 adults

Amount Spent Per Week:

$100

Must-Have Essentials:

Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, grass-fed butter, organic chicken, whole milk yogurt, organic coffee, frozen fruit and vegetables (when fresh isn't available or it's more expensive), uncured bacon/ham, organic salsa, organic corn chips.

Health Consciousness:

"We are very active and healthy, but could always be healthier."

Cooking Style:

"We're pretty traditional in the kitchen, but I do enjoy trying new recipes when I have the time."

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"I don't buy the same things every week—I watch to see what's on sale and plan around that."

 
SparkPeople Member BOOKISH
 

Number of people in household:

1 adult senior (widow)

Amount Spent Per Week:

$30-$60

Must-Have Essentials:

"Fresh vegetables for salads and fresh fruit: interesting lettuces, tomatoes, avocados, apples, mandarin oranges. I freeze lemons to make lemon water for the refrigerator."

Health Consciousness:

"I walk and practice yoga, so I guess I am somewhat active. I am very healthy for my age."

Cooking Style:

"My cooking style is basic: I use the microwave, crock pot and regular oven for foods I have always cooked for a family. I enjoy baking bread and roasting vegetables and meats. I make food for four to six people and freeze single serve portions. Sometimes my daughter takes food home for herself and her husband."

Grocery Shopping Tip:

"To save time shopping, I make a list and always go to the same store and do the same path around the aisles to be as efficient as possible. That takes some of the work out of the decision making."

 
How much do you spend at the grocery? What essentials always make their way into your cart?

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Member Comments

Thanks for the article Report
2 adults and 2 kids, 4 dogs, 4 cats and chickens our food bill is a bit weird to calculate. We make one big purchase a month for meats and 25lb bag of flour then weekly renewal of milk, butter and fresh veg and fruit. Our chickens basically get what we have left over or starts to go bad. Can't wait to get garden going so we can cut back even further. Report
I eat only healthy items and fresh fruits and vegetables, I live alone and my food bill averages 125.00 a week. I will have to look into this, thank-you. Report
Found this very interesting. Report
Thanks for the info. Report
T is nice to be able to compare and see what others are working with as far as making organic work in their lives as well as the price of fish and fowl. Thank you, Sparkies for sharing! Report
ROCKS8ROX
Really interesting numbers! Report
interesting to see how much people pay for food

2 adults we spend about 100 dollars Report
I think it's fine to spend more on groceries if it means better vegetables, fruits, and ingredients. Less expensive than a restaurant and *much* less expensive than a trip to the doctor's! Report
We are a family of 8 (sometimes 9) & we spend less than these families per person. We all eat super healthy. Most of our meals are about .50 cents to maybe a dollar per person. We are vegetarians/vegan
s so the majority of of grocery bill is fresh fruits & veggies. We rarely buy anything that is super processed. We make everything from scratch which really isn't that hard once you get the hang of it. We save money by planning our menu off of what is on sale that week & by eating seasonally. We buy dry beans, lentils and other legumes. We also rarely buy name brand food but stick with the store brand. I also shop online for a lot of our dry goods especially the less common grains we eat. Not only do I get them cheaper that way but I also get free shipping. It is a huge time saver. We also don't waste money on restaurant food, junk food, unnecessary processed kid snacks, or convenience foods (precut fruit & veggies, etc). Report
I noted that only one family had coffee listed as an essential ... is that possible? Just kidding. I really enjoyed this article. Really interesting & educational. Report
I noted that only one family had coffee listed as an essential ... is that possible? Just kidding. I really enjoyed this article. Really interesting & educational. Report
This article was very sad to me. There are 3 adults in my family (I had to move back in with my parents after a housing issue) and I easily spend double what the average person said and that's not counting what my mom buys, generally bi-weekly and our Amazon orders for staples such as oats and kind bars. I'd say I sit right at between $200-$250 a week. I have food allergies/intoler
ances coming out of my ears so I knew my bill was higher than average, but wow!

I have to buy my meat from a local butcher since every time I try to buy from the grocery, 'organic' and non, it all makes me extremely sick, so that means I spend about $150/month on meat ($38/week). During the summer and fall I get the majority of my produce through a CSA ($32.50/week). On a good week I spend about $150 at the actual grocery store (generally Meijer or Kroger, staples like nuts and oils are Trader Joes all the way). I try very hard to eat healthy, my parents not so much. I have to sneak green things into their diets.

My actual grocery runs generally consist of the usual; more fruit and veggies, lettuce, hummus (my go to lunch), beans, rice, cheese, coffee, gf bread, Greek yogurt, nuts, almond butter, and frozen veggies and foods, such as the new steamable quinoa which is awesome!

It's kind of sickening when I look at my receipts because it doesn't seem like I should be spending that much but it never seems to go down. Report
I spend about $50 weekly, for myself. However, living in the DC area means that prices are significantly higher. I eat in restaurants maybe twice monthly. Report
Okay, 2 adults, 1 teenager and 2 cats
about $100 a week split between Sprouts for produce, Safeway for odds and ends, Target for Dairy and some basics, Walmart occasionally, drug stores occasionally.

We eat out about once a week around $40 to $50.

I cook mostly from scratch and eat a lot of fresh produce. Report


 

About The Author

Melissa Rudy
Melissa Rudy
A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into online writing in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.