Budgeting for Meals in the US

Analyzing Grocery Shopping Habits: Budgeting, Saving, and Seeking Affordable Alternatives

Key Takeaways

  • The average person spends $622 each month on groceries, which is 12% of their monthly income.
  • On average, people spend $733 per month on grocery delivery services.
  • Naperville, IL, Ponoma, CA, and Newport News, VA, are the top cities looking to save on groceries.
  • Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans buy groceries at Whole Foods.
  • 49% of Millennials and 40% of Gen Zers buy groceries at dollar stores.
  • 69% of parents are worried about their ability to feed themselves or their families as a result of reduction in SNAP benefits.
  • 1 in 4 people who utilize SNAP benefits have to choose between buying food and paying for other expenses on a weekly basis.

Cheap Food, Full Bellies

With inflation continuing to be a problem across the country, everyone is trying to cut any costs they can. One of the most common things impacted by inflation is the cost of groceries. Even eggs, which are traditionally inexpensive, are skyrocketing in price.

How are people cutting costs when it comes to their food expenses, and how concerned are they about being able to afford to eat? To find out, we analyzed search data to see how many people were searching for price-related grocery and food terms and where those searches were coming from. We also surveyed 500 Americans to get a sense of just what it means for them to eat more cheaply.

Grocery Spending and Saving

Grocery budgets have been hit hard over the past year, with prices rising significantly. In the first part of our study, we asked respondents how much their grocery expenses have gone up and how they’ve dealt with the higher costs.

One of the biggest takeaways from our study was that nearly everyone we surveyed (91%) said they are worried about being able to afford groceries in 2023. But curiously, fewer people (just 60%) said their grocery costs are increasing, and around 2% even said they decreased.

Perhaps some people just stick to their grocery spending budget no matter what or rely on budget-friendly store brand options at Aldi and Walmart. Respondents also reported shopping frequently at wholesalers like BJ’s and Costco. Dollar stores were another popular option for grocery shoppers, especially among millennial (49%) and Gen Z (40%) respondents.

At the time of our study, respondents spent an average of $622 per month (around $155 each week) on groceries. That’s about 12% of their monthly income. These amounts varied with age – baby boomers spent the most ($734 per month) and Gen Z the least ($503). Their spending may have to do with the number of mouths to feed in their households, with older generations likely feeding families or requiring special diets.

But with individual food item costs increasing from 11% to 40% in the past year, people of all ages are taking measures to cut their grocery bills. Nearly half have searched for coupons (47%) or hit up multiple stores (46%) to find the best prices, and some have even reduced their portion sizes (37%). While that might help those looking to lose a few pounds, many people are already struggling to afford enough to eat as it is; a staggering 84% of our respondents said they went hungry in 2022 due to grocery prices.

The Search for Solutions

Rising food prices have shoppers taking to the internet to find cost-cutting tips. In the next part of our study, we analyzed the search terms they’ve used in the process.

As the consumer price index (CPI) increased, so did searches for cheap meals and grocery coupons. Over the past year, searches for “easy cheap diabetic meals” have gone up 614%, and “emergency budget meals” searches went up 425%. Meanwhile, the CPI rose right along with them at roughly the same rate.

These searches were more common in some U.S. cities than others. San Francisco saw the highest increase in people looking for “grocery coupons” and “cheap meal ideas,” as searches for these terms rose an impressive 336% from 2021-2022. The city where the most grocery-savings searches came from was Naperville, IL; a city with a median annual household income over $100K%2C%202016%2D2020-,%24127%2C648,-Per%20capita%20income). Considering that incomes in Pomona, CA – a city that made nearly the same number of related searches – average only around $60K, it seems that people of all income levels have struggled to afford food lately.

Coupon Clipping

While couponing is a hobby that can get pretty extreme, it’s becoming more common. Let’s see how interest in coupons relates to other ways to save on food based on internet search trends.

Pomona, CA, took the top spot for grocery coupon searches over the past year, with over 1,800 online queries made on the topic per 100,000 people. As for the U.S. overall, internet searches for grocery coupons fell during 2019, then remained relatively constant through 2021. But as 2022 loomed closer, interest began to increase steadily, spiking at the beginning of the new year. Searches rose higher during the first six months or so of 2022 before falling again.

While people can find plenty of grocery coupons online, some food items are more expensive than others. Fortunately, resources to help you cook more affordable meals are just a click away. The city that made the most online searches for cheap meal ideas was St. Petersburg, FL, with over 1,900 queries per 100,000 residents.

In 2023, Congress ended the temporary Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits they had temporarily offered during the COVID-19 pandemic. With 92% of the parents we surveyed having received these benefits, that means many Americans may be about to face higher grocery costs. Fortunately, our respondents have also benefited from these financial assistance programs:

Nearly half of respondents (45%) initially weren’t aware of these programs, but later discovered that they qualified for them. Unfortunately though, 28% did know about them but didn’t qualify. That could be why 17% of the people we surveyed said they’d be willing to relocate to a different state in order to receive better SNAP benefits.

Affording a Full Fridge

People are generally concerned about the price of groceries and are going to great lengths to make the best of a tough situation. To cut costs, some have reduced portions or gone hungry. But others have researched healthier ways to save money, like finding coupons and cheap meal ideas. Luckily, there are handy browser extensions that will automatically find coupons for you while you shop. With so many solutions at your fingertips, there’s no need to go without a good meal.


CouponFollow surveyed 500 Americans about their grocery shopping habits and worries and combined that with data regarding search volume in different cities of various keywords looking for either cheap meal ideas or grocery coupons.

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Fair Use Statement

If you’re on a budget and found some helpful tips from our study, you’re welcome to share it. Please be sure your purposes are noncommerical and provide readers with a link to our study when you reference it.

about the author

Clay Cary
Senior Trends Analyst
As an e-commerce analyst at CouponFollow, Clay enjoys spending his time collaborating with brands to make helpful content for consumers and finding great deals to share on CouponFollow. As a recent college graduate, his primary focus is creating resources for consumers, especially students, to save money through online shopping and everyday life.