Bundle Special: The Truth About Food Spending in America

by News Guy on May 20, 2010

U.S. cities have vastly different grocery and restaurant budgets — but aren’t we all eating the same stuff?

At Bundle, we have a healthy obsession with spending. How much, where, on what — and often, how to do a little less of it. In our short life, we’ve noticed something: our conversations about money keep circling back to food. Restaurant week specials. Bringing our lunches. Bottled water. Growing our own vegetables.

Our salaries are set. So is our rent. Clothes and other big-ticket items are periodic expenses. But when it comes to food, we get several chances a day to save or splurge. Brian Wansink, the director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, estimates we make 227 decisions about what to eat every day — each of which has a small financial impact. Go out for drinks after work? Buy the Hershey’s chocolate bar or spring for the Lindt? And couldn’t we just order takeout? Because after a day’s worth of food-and-spending decisions, I’m too exhausted to think about cooking.

Those tiny decisions add up. The average American household spent $3,778 on groceries in 2009, and another $2,736 in restaurants and bars. Buried in those averages are millions of individual purchases that reflect appetites, lifestyles and values. People in Denver devoted 22 percent of their daily spending to food and drink, more than any other city in the country. Residents of Atlanta spent a whopping 57 percent of their food budget on dining out — more than anyone else in the country, and about 28 percent more than the national average.

INFOGRAPHIC: Food spending in the biggest US cities

INFOGRAPHIC: Food spending by age group, income and household

For this report, we looked at food spending overall, then broke it down to grocery spending and restaurant spending. We also filtered by demographic groups and geography. If the average person needs somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 calories a day, how did people in Austin spend $12,447 on food and drink last year, while people in Miami spent half as much? What are they buying in Austin? And what aren’t they eating in Miami?…

To read the rest of this report, click HERE. A big thanks goes out for letting us feature this here!

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