Prices in grocery stores across the USA are now 25% higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Seeing the rising prices at the supermarket checkout, many Americans feel the impact. Over the past few years, 80% of Americans have reported noticing a significant increase in food prices, and more than a quarter of them have said they sometimes skipped meals due to the rising costs.

According to the latest USDA data for 2022, Americans spent an average of 11% of their discretionary income on food both at home and in restaurants—the highest percentage since 1991.

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The rising prices can be traced back to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused severe disruptions in supply chains and labor shortages. Global conflicts, including the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, have also contributed to the price increases. Americans received grain from Eastern Europe and gasoline from the Middle East, which today has become a kind of «powder keg».

How much does the average American spend on groceries?

Americans spend an average of $550 per month on groceries according to studies citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, grocery prices can vary significantly depending on family size. It makes sense that families with working members find it easier to spend $500 per month on groceries than the unemployed. Data supports this. A study by Help Advisor showed that families with children spend 41% more than households without children.

Logically, if companies have raised grocery prices, they won’t reduce them: consumers, though shocked at first, get used to the new high prices. However, the latest consumer price report, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Wednesday, showed that grocery prices have not risen since January. Major retailers have also recently announced their intention to lower prices as Americans struggle to cope with high costs. In May, Walmart announced it would lower prices on more than 7,000 items. Soon after, Target stated it would lower prices on more than 5,000 regular items, including milk, meat, bread, fruits, and vegetables, as well as household items such as paper towels and diapers.

What is a reasonable budget for grocery shopping?

Grocery prices can differ depending on where you live—Californians and Nevadans tend to spend more on groceries, while Midwestern states report lower costs, according to a Help Advisor study. A Drive Research study showed that while most shoppers spent an average of $174 per grocery trip in 2024, this amount varies significantly depending on the number of people to feed: one person might expect to spend around $131 per trip, while a family of five might face a bill of $262.

Experts recommend spending an average of $125 to $130 per person per month—including children. This figure has risen from the $100 budget they recommended last summer and does not include household items like detergents or toilet paper.

How to stick to this budget?

“Always check your pantry first,” advises Theresa Gentile, a representative of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. To avoid unnecessary waste, experts recommend following the “first in, first out” rule, keeping items with closer expiration dates at the front of your pantry, where you’re more likely to see and use them.

Having an action plan when visiting the grocery store can also help cut costs. Experts have developed the 6-to-1 method to help people stay on track in the grocery store, suggesting shoppers buy six vegetables, five fruits, four proteins, three starches, two sauces, and one fun item.

Specialist suggests avoiding processed foods. “They are much more expensive, and you can’t use them more than once,” he says. Instead, focus on items that are in season, as they tend to be cheaper than those out of season. Experts recommend buying items that can be used throughout the week and in various recipes. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

What is the best day to shop for groceries?

Experts say that the best day to shop for groceries can depend on your local grocery stores—some of them have sales cycles that start and end on specific days of the week. Most sales cycles start on Wednesday and end on Tuesday—these days are optimal for shopping at reduced prices. It’s best to visit stores early in the week in the first three hours after opening.

While some people may stretch their grocery trips to two weeks or even a month, shopping once a week is an achievable goal. Stretching the process can quickly lead to overspending.

“Frequent trips can lead to more impulse purchases. You might say, ‘I only need milk,’ and then walk out with $30 worth of items because [you think] ‘I might as well get other things,'” says Theresa Gentile.

Some items may be cheaper when bought in bulk, so it’s helpful to watch the unit price to know if you’re getting a good deal. The unit price, usually shown in the corner of the label, tells you the cost per weight.

Expiration dates usually refer to quality, not safety, according to the USDA. Many foods are safe to eat after their listed expiration date, but you should always inspect the food for quality before consuming it.

What cheap foods last the longest?

“Canned goods sometimes get a bad reputation,” says Gentile, but canned fruits and vegetables are often picked at their peak, making them more flavorful than fresh options for a fraction of the price. Items like lentils, beans, rice, pasta, and potatoes are also affordable and stable pantry solutions. And don’t be afraid to use your freezer. Gentile says everything from greens to breadcrumbs to extra fruit can be frozen.

Photo: open resources

Work in the Food Industry