'Counting On': The Duggars Used to Spend $4,000 a Month on Groceries

Big family = big grocery bills. That’s certainly the case for the Duggars. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar — the stars of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting had to spend thousands of dollars every month to feed their massive family. In a flashback episode of Counting On that aired July 21, members of the family reflected on the complicated logistics of grocery shopping for 21 people. 

The Duggars stock their pantry like a grocery store

Keeping an organized pantry is key when you have more than a dozen kids to feed and go through as many as 20 loaves of bread a week. 

“When it comes to food, we have to buy bulk … We have shelves like grocery store shelves,” Michelle explained in a vintage clip as she showed off a pantry containing 500 cans of food. Jim Bob — who used to work at a supermarket — even trained his kids to stock the shelves like they were in a real store, teaching them to move older items to the front so they would be eaten before they expired.

Daughter Jessa Duggar recalled monthly grocery trips where the family would fill 7 to 10 carts with food. In a single day, the family might go through three dozen eggs, five pounds of turkey bacon, 20 biscuits, three loves of bread, three pounds of green beans, two family-size bags of lettuce, and a gallon of ice cream, they told Today in 2012, in addition to four pounds of grapes, sloppy joe meat, and pasta. 

Despite the massive grocery hauls, some Duggar family critics have speculated the kids didn’t get enough food growing up. They think their parents may have been too stretched financially to feed their kids healthy food.

All those groceries cost up to $4,000 a month

Keeping all those people fed could cost $3,000 to $4,000 a month, son Joe Duggar revealed in the Counting On episode. And that was the bill after the family’s various money-saving hacks, which include shopping at discount stores like Aldi and buying in bulk.

Aldi shoppers can save 20% to 40% off the price of comparable items at Walmart, according to an analysis by Clark.com. If the Duggars were less thrifty, they might have been spending as much as $6,000 a month on food, according to an estimate in an old episode of the family’s reality show. 

High grocery bills were such a fact of life for the Duggars that some of the kids have been shocked at how little they have to spend on food after they move out on their own. Joe Duggar and his wife Kendra said they were surprised by the cost of groceries after they got married in 2017. He shared that the couple spends $400 to stock their pantry — a fraction of what his parents had to pay to keep everyone in their home fed. 

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