However, in the back-and-forth about grocery stores and prices, I found myself pondering the often-quoted statistic that says Americans spend less of their incomes than nearly anybody on groceries--somewhere around 10%, say most sources. But when you go to track that statistic down, you find debates about the usefulness of it, based on these and other grounds:
- families of below-average income spend proportionately more on the basics, and are thus more impacted by rising costs;
- the statistic seems to be costs of food per person, not per family;
- Americans, especially those in two-income families, eat out frequently--are these costs counted as "grocery expenses" or not?
Just for fun, I considered our family's grocery costs as percent of income. I used net income rather than gross for the purpose of this exercise--because as an interested party in family budgeting I can tell you that the "gross" figure is not very useful, and if we made our spending decisions based on money we never actually see we'd just be broke all the time. But I'm open to discussion about whether it would be better to recalculate these figures based on gross pay instead of net.
We are a one-income family of five. Estimating our net income and our ordinary grocery expenditures, and subtracting a certain amount for non-food items (though frankly since these are also regular expenses I'm not sure we should subtract them!), I end up with a grocery expense percent of between 20 and 24 percent of net income. And we're not buying extremely expensive foods; we eat no beef at all and try to keep processed foods to a minimum.
Now, this isn't a scientific example; I'd have to go through weeks worth of grocery receipts line-by-line to remove things like laundry soap and then recalculate using an exact net income instead of an estimate--but I think the 20% mark seems about right, when I look at our spending generally, and I'd be really surprised if it were a whole ten percentage points lower than that.
So here's my bleg: how about you? What percent of net income does your family spend on groceries? I'm particularly interested in these details:
- Are you a one or two income family?
- How often do you eat out in restaurants?
- Is either parent a stay-at-home parent?
- What is your best estimate of the percent of net income you spend on food items?
Again, this isn't an attempt to get a scientific result--I just have a feeling that there are plenty of exceptions to the "average Americans only spend 10% on groceries!" statistic, and would like to hear from you to see if that's true for your family.
Thanks in advance!