USDA Food Plan Challenge – $174 Grocery Budget at ALDI

Sharing is caring!

For a few years, I’ve been obsessed with the USDA Food Plan the US releases every month. Did you know about this government made grocery budget? Well, it’s a suggested amount the government says the average family spends on groceries weekly and monthly.

USDA Food Plan Challenge - $174 Grocery Budget at ALDI fridge

You calculate your own family’s grocery budget by looking up the ages of your family members and adding it together. For our family, the weekly grocery budget is $174. Yes, you read that right.

USDA Food Plan – 174 Dollar Grocery Budget at ALDI

According to the USDA Food Plan, our family of 5 should have a $174 grocery budget per week. If you’re new to our website, you may not know that our family spends $64 a week on groceries, so that $174 total shocked us.

But, we decided to take on this USDA Food Plan Challenge, and try it at our favorite grocery store, ALDI.

USDA Food Plan Challenge - $174 Grocery Budget at ALDI 1

2 hours and $165 later, I was so overwhelmed with the amount of food I had in my cart. I couldn’t even spend the whole 174 grocery budget.

We stuck to our regular grocery budget, and decided to double (or triple) the amount we usually bought at ALDI. Below is the long list of grocery items we purchased for the USDA Food Plan Challenge:

USDA Food Plan Challenge - $174 Grocery Budget at ALDI hero

Grocery List for 174 Dollar Grocery Budget

3 Rising crust frozen pizzas
3 bags steamed mixed vegetables
1 value pack frozen salmon
Family pack chicken drumsticks
3 half gallons almond milk
1 large canister quick oats
1 block Colby cheese
2 blocks sharp cheddar cheese
2 blocks extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 whole chicken
2 pounds unsalted butter
2 boxes fudge brownie mix
2 pork tenderloins
3 pounds 73% ground beef
1 bag slice pepperoni
1 bag long grain rice
1 can canola oil spray
2 pounds dried pinto beans
1 bottle pure vanilla
1 large jar unsweetened applesauce
2 cans pineapple chunks
1 can crushed pineapple
2 pound box elbow macaroni
2 pound box spaghetti
2 jars mild salsa
5 cans chunk light tuna in water
2 boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix
2 jars all natural creamy peanut butter
1 jar grape jelly
5 pound bag russet baking potatoes
4 jars spaghetti sauce
6 pints strawberries
2 two-pound bags of peaches
3 packages of smoked beef kielbasa
1 pack of green peppers
1 pack tri-colored peppers
2 bags of dried cranberries
2 packages of baby portabella mushrooms
5.5 pounds of bananas
4 avocados
1 seedless watermelon
2 boxes vegetable wheat crackers
2 boxes buttery crackers
3 bags Italian mix salad
2 bags white tortilla chips
3 bags flat leaf spinach
5 dozen large eggs
4 loaves 100% whole wheat bread

Total: $165.18

The Actual ALDI Grocery Haul

As you can see in the list above, we didn’t spend the whole 174 dollar grocery budget for the week. My head was spinning trying to spend that amount of money, and I pretty much gave up.

I figured most of these items wouldn’t be eaten within the week, and I didn’t want to add on to the list of items that would go to waste, so I stopped at 165 dollars. To see my shock at how much food I ended up bringing home, watch this Facebook Live:

If you just want to see the ALDI grocery haul without all the shock and commentary (ha!), watch this YouTube video:

USDA Food Plan Challenge - $174 Grocery Budget at ALDI-2

What We Ate Daily

On our Facebook page, I gave realtime updates on the food we actually ate from the USDA Food Plan Challenge. I wanted to show what a 174 dollar grocery budget looks like, as we ate the food each day.

I have to admit, this was the most frustrating part of the challenge. Having to figure out how to eat all of this food became stressful for not only my husband and I, but for our kids too.

Knowing that this amount of food is meant to be eaten within a week, and not frozen or saved for future weeks, made us pretty sad. While this may be the average for US families of our size and age, this is not normal for us.

Our Meal Plan For The Week

We had breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack each day. We tried to stick to our usual meal plan, which consists of:

Monday – Stovetop Mac and Cheese with sautéed spinach

Tuesday – Spaghetti night

Wednesday – Baked or Instant pot chicken dish

Thursday – A fish dish made in the Instant Pot

Friday – Pizza night

Saturday – Leftovers turned into another meal

Sunday – A roast of some kind, made in the oven or slow cooker

In order to have most of these meals, we had to double what we would usually make, which meant we were going to have a lot more leftovers than we usually do.

It also meant leftovers would be the mainstay for our lunches, which is something we aren’t used to. We have actual lunches planned for each day, although we do pick two lunches and alternate them throughout the week.

USDA Food Plan Challenge - $174 Grocery Budget at ALDI 2

Lunch Was Leftover after Leftover

For this week, leftovers were the only lunch option, which means we were overrun by bread at the end of the week (PB&J with fruit is our favorite lunch to have each week).

The kids loved having nachos for lunch, though. Nachos are my go-to meal when I need to use leftovers.

Our frozen salmon fillets were never used. Since we had to cook all the fresh items first, the salmon ended up staying in the freezer. We had ground beef twice that week, once for spaghetti, and the second time for Hamburger Steak.

USDA Food Plan Challenge - $174 Grocery Budget at ALDI-2

We had pork tenderloin, so Slow Cooker Pineapple Pork ended up being our slow cooker meal of the week.

USDA Food Plan Challenge - $174 Grocery Budget at ALDI

Breakfasts were the same ones we usually have: oatmeal and eggs of some sort. This was a great way to use up some of the fruit without it going bad.

{Related: 20 Cheap & Easy Weeknight Meals}

What We Learned

There was so much we learned from this experiment. The biggest lesson is that our current grocery budget of $64 a week is perfect for our family. We never feel overwhelmed with the amount of food in our house.

We always have a few things to stretch our meals to 10 days or so, if something comes up and I can’t get to the store.

WE DON’T WASTE FOOD. The wasting of food just about killed me. It reminded me of certain things that are associated with Americans that I don’t want associated with our family.

The Plan Is Only A Guide

The USDA Food Plan is, in essence, a guide for our families. Many people made a point of saying that to us as we took on this challenge.

Guide or not, this is what the average family supposedly eats and spends on groceries. I guess what we really learned is that we’re not average or normal, and that’s OK.

Here’s the video I did showing all the food we had left at the end of the challenge, and my real time feelings about how this challenge can help other families.

What do you think about the USDA Food Plan? Would you ever try this challenge for your family?

About Amiyrah

My name is Amiyrah and I'm an an African American fashion & lifestyle blogger based in Ohio.

Plan Your Year Now!


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. 8.31.18
    Jaime said:

    I just looked at what the thrifty plan is for my family ($136) and that seems to be about what we spend when we don’t budget well. When I look at the other levels – the moderate level even – my mind is a little blown. That’s a lot of money!

  2. 8.31.18

    I wish it wasn’t so difficult to go to my local Aldi’s. We spend way too much on groceries a month for only 2 people!

    • 8.31.18
      Katherine Shorter said:

      Right Gina! We’re a family of 2 and are terrible at food budgeting. We eat out a lot. Our is $89 a week but I’m aiming for $50!

  3. 9.2.18
    Gina said:

    I think it was hard to spend that much at Aldi because you get so much for your money there! If you had gone to a big chain store, you probably would have 2/3 as much for the same price. That’s why I stopped shopping at Giant and now shop at Aldi. We save so much!