"How much should my family spend on groceries?"
Usually this search takes folks to my Balanced Money Formula page. Which is fine, as it's somewhat on the right track — at least on a more "macro" basis.
But I suspect that what people are really looking for are some guidelines specific to food and grocery spending, and the respective amounts that these expenses comprise for "average" American families. For instance, I could see someone hoping to answer their own concerns as to whether their family's grocery and food spending is way out of the ordinary. (My latest post on this topic is at "How Much Grocery Spending? Part 3," by the way.)
According to ICFE Director Paul Richard, "Nearly 32 cents out of every dollar spent by American families is for groceries and household items. The average is two trips per week to the grocery store, and one or more stops at a drug or discount store."
But that doesn't tell you much, does it? If it's hard data you're looking for, then as far as I know, there are only a couple of (free) places to get it:
1) IRS: Collection Financial Standards
Read that page, then follow the "National Standards" link. The data seems pretty self-explanatory to me. Note that the amounts shown are not indexed for high-cost-of-living areas (other than Hawaii and Alaska).
2) Bureau of Labor Statistics: Consumer Expenditure Tables
Right now, the latest data here is from the BLS' 2007 surveys. There's a ton of info to look at, so starting with the tables sorted by "Composition of Consumer Unit (PDF)" might be a nice idea.
Here's a U.S. Census press release with some relevant data, sorted by location:
U.S. Census: "Updating Data on Americans' Spending Habits"
Here's an article wherein site readers (who are probably more frugal than your average person) were polled about their weekly grocery spending. I'm assuming that the dollar amounts listed are "per week" expenditures, and the percentages show the number of readers who report that level of spending:
DollarStretcher.com: "Grocery Spending Survey"
Beyond that, I can only really offer my own family's recent spending. (We're two adults and one toddler, residing in the very low-cost-of-living state of Oklahoma.)
Our average monthly food and household-related spending for 2005, year-to-date:
|Other Household Items|
(cleaners, paper goods,
makeup, hygiene, etc.)
If anyone else would like to chime in on this, feel free. If you know of other sites (or books) where spending guidelines and/or related data are available, please tell me about it in a comment below. I'd like to take a look at the information, also.
2009-01: How Much Grocery Spending? Part 3