The pain of inflation is still very real. And it's hitting grocery hard. According to the USDA, the food at home index rose 10.2% over the last 12 months.
This year, a family of four on a tight food budget is potentially spending close to $1,000 per month on groceries ($979.40), according to the Official USDA Thrifty Food Plan for February 2023.
Two years ago, a family of four on the same budget spent about $300 less per month ($674.80). And even just last year, the expense was $887.80, or about $90 less per month.
Here’s a look at the costs for the other three monthly food budgets for a family of four for February 2023:
- Low-cost: $1,048.70
- Moderate-cost: $1,305.12
- Liberal: $1,576.10
The almost $1K per month that families on a tight budget have to spend at the grocery store is only for the thrifty food plan, which the USDA describes as a nutritious, practical and cost-effective diet.
That means frozen meals, soft drinks and processed snacks — foods many people reach for when shopping — are largely off limits. Instead, the staples of the thrifty food plan are unprocessed, healthy foods like dark-green vegetables, whole fruits, and poultry.
According to the USDA, the food-at-home index rose 0.3% over the month of February, including five of the six major grocery store food group indexes. With that consideration, here are the grocery products consumers are spending the most money on this year.
The index for non-alcoholic drinks increased 1% in February after increasing 0.4% in January. Over the past year, it increased 12.3%. According to the USDA, non-alcoholic beverages include the following:
- Carbonated soft drinks
- Bottled water
- Fruit juices
- Fruit drinks
- Sports drinks
Cereals and bakery
The index for cereals and bakery products, including cake, bagels, bread and cookies, increased 0.3% over the month of February. Over the year, the index for this category rose 14.2%.
Fruits and vegetables
The index for fruits and vegetables, both fresh and processed, saw an increase of 0.2% in February and 5.3% over the past year.
The index for dairy and related products, including milk, dry milk products, cheese, butter, ice cream, yogurt, condensed milk and whey products rose 0.1% over the month and 12.3% over the year.
Other foods at home
The index for other foods at home rose 0.8% in February and 11.6% over the year.
Other foods at home include the following, according to the USDA:
- Table fats/oils/salad dressings
- Salty snacks
- Vitamins/meal supplements
- Baby food
- Infant formula
What About Eggs?
Although the index for eggs increased 55.4% over the year, it decreased -6.7% over the month of February. And that decrease in egg prices is projected to continue.
The USDA reported that high egg prices resulted from outbreaks of the avian flu, which has killed in excess of 58 million backyard and commercial poultry species since 2022. The agency said that egg prices will fall nearly 30% during 2023 as long as there are no additional avian flu outbreaks.