Calculating Cost Per Meal Per Person

Calculating Cost Per Meal Per Person August 15, 2011

Recently I wrote about how my wife and I keep our grocery bill at $250 each month.  We shared our grocery saving tips and had a lot of great comments.  A few readers asked what the suggested budget should be for a large family (7 people with teen boys).  There really isn’t a hard and fast number to follow for making a family food budget, because location, jobs, family age and appetite will be significant factors to take into consideration.

It seems obvious, though, that with economies of scale, you should be able to add one more to the dinner table without spending a lot more.  I’m sure those with larger families understand this well – which is why buying in bulk can really be a great deal for large families.  The cost per unit is cheaper as you buy more, which brings the cost per person down.

Instead of suggesting an amount that you should spend each month, I’ll challenge you to calculate the per person cost of each meal and aim to lower that as you shape your budget.

For my wife and I, our per person cost for each meal averages to be $1.40.  If you’re a family of four, you can probably get the average to be a little lower – maybe even close to $1 per meal per person.  That would be a grocery budget of about $375 each month.  That might be pushing it, but you get the idea.

How to Calculate Cost Per Meal Per Person

I’ll try to keep this brief and work through an example for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Eggs, Toast, Orange Juice, banana

Eggs: $1.25 a dozen

Bread: $2.00 a loaf (approximately 20 slices)

Orange Juice: $3 a bottle (12 servings)

Banana: $0.25

Eating two eggs cost roughly $0.20.  Add a piece of toast at $0.10, a serving of juice at $0.25 and a banana at $0.25.

Total Breakfast Cost: $0.80


Turkey Sandwich, chips, apple, granola bar

Bread: $0.20 (two slices)

Meat: $0.65 (Based on Hormel Deli Meat: $2.50 – 4 servings)

Apple: $0.50

Granola Bar:  $0.35  (Nature Valley box of 6 at $2.00 each box)

Total Lunch Cost: $1.70

*These prices are retail price.  Adding a $0.50 coupon for the granola bars and $0.50 coupon for deli meat or bread can bring the meal cost down $0.10 – $0.20)


Spaghetti, carrots, garlic bread

Box of Spaghetti: $1.00

One serving: $0.25

Sauce: $1.00 (serves 8 )

One serving: $0.13

Carrots: $0.60

Total Dinner Cost: $0.98

Total Cost for 3 Meals: $3.48

This averages to just over $1.15 per meal for one person.  If you’re feeding a group, you can save in buying bulk, driving the unit cost down even more.

Have you ever calculated your cost per meal per person?  What was your average?

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