The Average American Spends This Much Driving to the Grocery Store

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I’d rather have my groceries delivered.


Key points

  • Shoppers spend time and money driving to and shopping at the grocery store.
  • The average shopper spent more than $83.20 on round-trip grocery runs this year.
  • Shoppers can save time and money by ordering online and shopping with a housemate, among other things.

It’s that time of year again. As the New Year has come and gone, millions of Americans open their dusty budgeting apps and take a fraught glance at their annual expenditures. Holiday spending, car insurance fees, how much they spent on dining out — all exposed.

Thanks to research from The Ascent, we know how much the average American spends on groceries per month — $438. But how much does it cost them to drive to the grocery store?

Let’s assume the following:

  • The average shopper gets groceries 1.6 times per week, per Statista.
  • The average shopper drives four miles to their favorite grocery store, per the USDA)
  • The average gas price as of this writing is $3,329 per gallon, per AAA.
  • The vehicle gets a respectable 30 miles per gallon of gas.

Based on these assumptions, it costs $0.33 to drive to the grocery store. In 2022, the average shopper spent more than $83.20 on driving to the grocery store round-trip. This calculation only factors in travel costs for drivers who own gas-powered vehicles.

That’s less than I expected, but actually shopping for groceries costs more in time. According to the Time Use Institute, the average person spends 41 minutes in the grocery store per shopping trip.

Thankfully, there is an alternative to brick-and-mortar shopping that can save buyers time and money.

Online shopping isn’t cheap — grocery delivery services like Instacart and GoPuff charge plenty of fees. For example, an Instacart membership costs shoppers $99 per year for free delivery. Shoppers still pay for tips and reduced service fees.

However, by ordering online, you pay zero gas fees. And you can transform time spent grocery shopping into time spent earning income. That’s a good trade-off.

For example, if you subtract the annual driving fees ($83) from the cost of an annual Instacart membership ($99), you’re left with only $15 in membership fees. Folks who make $20 an hour can earn that money back in the time it takes to make a single 45-minute grocery run.

Consider giving Instacart a try and judge its usefulness for yourself. There’s a free 14-day trial for people who are interested. Tip: Order at least $35 worth of groceries per trip.

You don’t need to shop online to save — there are other ways:

And these three tips are my personal favourites:

  • Buy in bulk at Costco.
  • Shop with a housemate to save on gas or delivery.
  • Set a budget using an app. Add up how much you spend on grocery shopping and dining out — it might convince you to eat out less!

Consider how you might lower the cost of grocery shopping in 2023. You could save time and money over the next 12 months. That’s not a bad way to wrap up the holiday season and start off a fresh year.

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