How Your Food Spending Compares With the Rest of the U.S.

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What do you spend on groceries every week? How often do you go out to eat? What about booze? All that money on sustenance is probably adding up to more than you think.

The editors at Mother Jones were contemplating these and other questions recently and decided to do something about it. Using data from Bundle.com, which tracks spending by analyzing credit card transactions of 20 million U.S. households every year, they created an online food calculator to help readers (and themselves) determine not only how much they spend every week on things like groceries, alcohol and restaurants, but how that spending compares to folks in the rest of the country.

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You start by entering in some basic information like annual income after taxes and where you live. Then the calculator asks how much you spend eating at home and dining out each week, as well as your estimated spending on booze at home and while you’re out and about. If you have no idea how much cash you’re dropping each week on food and beverages, the calculations will wind up being meaningless. Also, if you can’t enter the requested info, that’s a pretty good sign it’s time to get on a budget, or at least start keeping better track of your spending.

Once the data is entered, the calculator spits out a whole trove of information. A pie chart breaks down how much you spend on food vs. alcohol (you may want to take a good hard look at that one). Also, you can see how your spending compares with different households (like single female vs. married with kids) and Americans of different ages and income levels.

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When your numbers are tallied up and compared to the masses, it may be surprising just how much you fork over week in and week out. (This writer, for instance, is realizing he should probably be spending a lot more on groceries, and a lot less on some other things.)

Budget calculators have been around for a while; we regularly link to CNN Money’s retirement calculator and debt-reduction planner, as a couple examples. But Mother Jones’ calculator is a neat twist, offering a helpful, at-a-glance picture of your weekly spending on food and beverages.

Some of the stats are pretty fascinating. Consumers in Austin, Texas, for instance, spend almost twice the national average dining out, and $850 overall each week on food. That’s five times the amount spent in Detroit.

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