Living alone has its advantages but also some downsides. Budgeting groceries for one person might be trickier as many stores target households with multiple consumers with buy-one-get-one-free deals rather than individual shopper requirements.
It can be hard to buy groceries when the portion sizes in supermarkets go beyond the needs of one person. This causes unnecessary waste as you often overbuy the amount needed, and hence, overspending on food.
There are a few ways to work around this problem. These methods will result in more savings, less food waste, and ensure variety in your diet. Budgeting groceries for one doesn’t have to be a challenge and can help to reach your financial goals faster with money saved in the process.
How Much Does One Person Spend on Groceries a Month?
According to USDA, (U.S. Department of Agriculture), the average American spends anywhere between $300-$540 on groceries monthly. This figure will vary depending on the age, gender, and type of cost plan one assumes to use for grocery shopping.
Interestingly, the reported figures show that the average cost of groceries decreases as we add more people to the grocery budget. This indicates that budgeting groceries for one person is, on average, more expensive compared to when budgeting for two people or more.
What Is The Average Cost of Groceries per Month?
Depending on individual budget sizes, food usually ranks in the top five of monthly spending; thus, it is a category worth paying attention to. Of course, how much one person spends on groceries a month will vary by different factors, particularly the income we earn, household size, age, or location.
The average spending on food for those who earn below $15,000 per year is estimated at around $352 a month, which makes up a considerable proportion of their earnings. However, for someone earning $70,000 and $90,000, this figure is nearly doubled to $623 a month.
The difference is usually caused by the products' quality and the number of fresh items the higher earners buy.
By Size of Household
A one-person household can expect to spend anything between $300-$540 a month on their food spending, while a two-person family will look at the cost of around $550-$990 a month. The average cost per person is slightly lower than a single-person household.
When looking at a family of four, defined as two adults between 20 and 50 years old and two children aged 6 to 8 and 9 to 11, will be looking at a cost of around $998-$1,613. A family budget can change depending on the size of your family.
A male between 19-50 years old will be expected to spend on average between $295 and $450 on food which compares to $278-$417 for males between 51-70 years of age and $274-$417 for those aged over 70.
For females aged between 19-50 years old, an average monthly food spend is $255-$399, which compares to $249-$372 for those aged between 51-70 and $247-$367 for those over the age of 70.
States across the US will have different food prices, caused by various factors, including standard of living, average wage, or access to local resources.
The most expensive include New York, Hawaii, California, Alaska, and Washington. Prices of certain products can be double or even triple what you would expect to pay for them elsewhere in the country. On average, you would look to spend over $4,000 a year on food in those states.
The cheapest states include Texas, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. The food budget in those places can be nearly half compared to the most expensive states, with the lower band of a budget being $2,400 and the upper one being $2,800 a year.
How To Make a Food Budget?
To ensure you are budgeting your food correctly, you need to start a budget, check how much money you spend on groceries monthly, plan all your meals, keep a fridge grocery list, and shop smartly.
Start a Budget
When budgeting groceries for one person, it is easy to go off track as we do not have another person watching over us. Therefore, starting a budget is essential to achieve our financial goals. How you budget will depend on your needs, wants, and financial goals.
There are a lot of budgeting methods you can look to adopt into your life which can be tailored to your situation based on what you consume during the week. Budgeting will involve planning and estimating your spending going forward but acting as a disciplined approach to your spending.
Check How Much Money You Spend on Groceries Monthly
An excellent point to start when budgeting is to check historical spending to ensure you set realistic expectations and act as a good reference point in the future. It is essential to check the most recent months to get a better picture, like the last three months.
Plan Your Meals
Planning meals will ensure you know exactly what you need to buy on your grocery shopping trip. When planning your meals, look for meals where you can use up your ingredients where small quantities are not available, which will minimize your waste.
Keep a Fridge Grocery List
Making sure you know what is in your fridge is crucial, as it will avoid unnecessary purchases, reduce wasted food, and help plan the meals as you advance. It also simplifies weekly and monthly budget planning as you know precisely what you have and need in your fridge.
Smart shopping means having as much information as possible before deciding on the products we want to buy. This will include gathering information about historical spending and planning for our future food consumption, capturing all wants and needs.
Tips on Budgeting Groceries for One Person
The best tips when it comes to budget food for one person is that you should know the best places to grocery shop on a budget, the best foods to buy on a budget, to eat before you go shopping for groceries, buy in bulk, purchase white labels, bring lunch to work and eat leftovers.
Discover The Best Places to Grocery Shop on a Budget
Everyone's got to eat. This makes groceries one of the most important categories in our budget. So many budgeters get why where you do your groceries counts.
Prices for the same product can vary drastically depending on your choice's store. Some of the best places to shop on a budget include Aldi, Lidl, Costco, Walmart, and many others.
Learn The Best Foods To Buy on a Budget
While budgeting groceries for one person, you can save money if you pay attention to what you buy. You want to pay attention to the best foods to buy on a budget and save every dollar you can, especially if you live paycheck to paycheck.
Canned items like canned tuna or beans are a great way to get high-quality cheap protein, while rice, pasta, and noodles deliver carbs. Also, don't forget fruits and vegetables, but you should check the frozen section and avoid buying off-season for the best savings.
Eat Before You Go Shop for Groceries
Shopping on an empty stomach is a nightmare, especially when treats and promotions easily tempt you; it is easy to overspend and forget your shopping list. I usually overspend when hungry, no matter the price tag.
Have a meal beforehand and stick to your shopping list.
Buy In Bulk
Buying items in larger quantities can save you money as it is usually much cheaper to do so. Plus, when there is a promo, you can stock up your cupboard. However, remember to think about the storage and usability of the product, as when grocery shopping for one person, you might struggle to buy more perishable items in bulk.
Purchase White Labels
Opting for own-brand products, also known as white labels, can be a great way to save money while having the same product on the plate. Those products will often be made in the same place, and there is little to no difference in the quality offered.
I tend to purchase white labels for some products like chickpeas, beans, pet accessories, phone accessories, mugs, and some others because you can't tell the difference in quality, saving more money each week.
Bring Lunch To Work
Prepping your own work lunches can help you cut back on food spending. It is usually much cheaper than buying your lunch daily. By doing so, you also have full control of what you will be eating, avoid lost time in long queues and eating something you might not even enjoy.
Eat The Leftovers
With shops usually selling packages of two or portion sizes too big for one person, it is essential to reduce waste and use up the extras. You can do that by either initially planning to use the extras in your next meal or simply by freezing leftovers to use later. Pro tip: remember to label frozen food in sealed packaging with a freezing date on them.
Budgeting groceries for one person is difficult, but by taking the proper steps, you can make it work.
Having personally experienced many problems listed above, I learned that planning my meals, keeping a list of my items in my fridge, and being conscious of what I purchase and where are key to success. For example, I was always questioning how much should a single person spend on groceries – until I found my optimum.
Budgeting my groceries helped me save a significant amount of money each month and reduce the food waste I produced. I also learned that I skipped buying chocolate and cookies each time I went to the shop with a full stomach, which was also brilliant for my weight loss!
Michael launched Wealth of Geeks to make personal finance fun. He has worked in personal finance for over 20 years, helping families reduce taxes, increase their income, and save for retirement. Michael is passionate about personal finance, side hustles, and all things geeky.