Grocery Bills Are Two Thirds Higher Than Last Year

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  • New findings reveal that food plans created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture expect Americans to spend 71% more on groceries than last year
  • A single ‘thrify’ person should be spending $325 on food each month, or $3,902 a year – over two thirds higher than the $2,280 that was spent last year
  • Some states will struggle to accommodate food price hikes more than others due to their average salary; especially Montana, Hawaii and Tennessee
  • Nutrition experts at Total Shape offer their top tips to make it easier to prioritize healthy eating without overspending on groceries each week

Americans To Spend More On Grocery Bills

New findings have revealed that the typical American is expected to be spending more than two thirds (71%) on their weekly groceries than they did last year – even if they’re ‘thrify’. 

The analysis, conducted by nutrition experts Total Shape, looked at the latest food plans released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to calculate how their recommended weekly shop compares to what Americans actually spent last year, as reported by the BLS. 

And despite the plans being intended to help individuals achieve and maintain good health whilst sticking to a budget, even the cheapest plan is a huge increase on last year’s spend.

For families with a small budget, the USDA plans suggest a monthly spend of $271 for adults aged 20-50 is sufficient – which is equivalent to $3,252 a year. 

However, these figures are based on adults within a 4-person household, whilst the guidelines state that single people will need to add an extra 20% to their grocery budget – meaning the monthly cost rises to $325, or $3,902 a year. 

Whilst this seems simple on the surface, it’s a huge 71% increase on the $2,280 that the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average American spent on groceries last year. 

Those following the liberal food plan will see an even bigger increase in their grocery bills, as they’re expected to spend $426 a month – or $511 for individuals who live alone. 

In the methodology of the latest food plans, it states that the estimates are based on 2013-16 consumption and 2015-16 price data, which has been updated to current dollars in line with the Consumer Price Index for specific food items. 

This means that it’s not a true reflection of the current cost of living; especially given that the latest guidelines are for April, so don’t account for May’s 4% increase in food prices. 

Cost Is Getting In The Way Of Health

It’s no surprise then that the typical American finds it hard to prioritize healthy eating habits, as evidenced by a recent Cleveland Clinic survey. The results showed that almost half (46%) of people cite the cost of food as the biggest obstacle to following a healthy diet. 

Across America, the average fast food combo meal costs $9.55, whilst buying the ingredients needed to make the same meal at home would set you back about $22. 

This price increase is due to the typical product portion sizes in supermarkets, meaning those debating making their own meal or grabbing one from a nearby drive-thru have to weigh up the cost of buying all the ingredients, even if they only plan to use a little of each.

If you already have the ingredients in your pantry at home – including ground beef, cheese, bread and potatoes – making your own is a little cheaper, with a per-portion price of $5.81. 

States Struggling With Grocery Prices

Some states will struggle more to prioritize grocery shopping than others, in line with the USDA’s food plans, due to differences in average salary and local grocery prices. 

For example, the states that have to spend a higher proportion of their salary to buy groceries include Iowa, Montana and Hawaii, whilst those in Minnesota will find it harder to justify buying food over a takeout, as a combo meal is much cheaper than groceries.

The ten states that have to spend more of their salary on groceries:

  1. Iowa 
  2. Montana 
  3. Hawaii
  4. Tennessee
  5. South Dakota
  6. Louisiana
  7. Florida
  8. Maine
  9. South Carolina
  10. Mississippi 

Speaking on the findings, a Total Shape spokesperson said: “The cost of groceries is an ongoing concern for consumers, and despite prices reportedly falling to a two-year low in May, many will still be struggling to prioritize buying healthy food and cooking at home over ordering takeout, or skipping meals. 

“Whilst there’s nothing wrong with fast food in moderation, it’s concerning that consumers turn to unhealthy meals to avoid the cost of buying groceries – especially as this actually ends up being more expensive in the long run when per-portion costs are considered.

“Planning is key to making healthy eating decisions less intimidating, so there are some ways to help reduce the stress of grocery shopping and ensure you’re not spending more than you can afford. That’s especially important for single-person households, as they’re less likely to budget and have less income to play with than those with partners and children.

“Even if you only end up cooking at home one or two days a week, it’s much better for you – and cheaper – than eating fast food every day, and it’ll help with long-term healthy habits.”

Some of the simple ways shoppers can monitor their grocery bills and reduce the cost are to: 

  • Check what you have at home and make a list of potential meals that you can make without buying much more ingredients. This also helps you avoid re-buying ingredients that you can’t remember whether you have in stock or not. 
  • Keep an eye out for coupons and promotions to cut costs. You might also want to switch to ordering groceries online so that it’s easier to stick to a list, as you avoid picking things off the shelf that you don’t need. 
  • Batch cook meals. Cooking meals in bulk means you can save money on groceries by buying larger portion sizes of each product, and then freeze the meals you make to preserve food quality and make healthy eating less of a hassle during the week.