So, feeding a family of five in Nauvoo, 1844. How much would it cost you? Here is a very rough approximation, assuming you could buy this stuff at market prices, and assuming these were fairly uniform (both false economies).
Butcher: 2lbs per day at 10 cents per pound: $1.40
Barrel of flour, $5.00, lasts about 8 weeks: 0.63
Butter, 2lbs, 31.5 cents per pound: 0.63
Potatoes, .5 bushel: 0.50
Sugar, 4 lbs at 8 cents a pound: 0.32
Coffee and Tea (yes they did use it): 0.25
Milk, 2 cents per day: 0.14
Salt, pepper, vinegar, starch, soap, soda
yeast, cheese, eggs 0.40
Total for the week: abt. $4.27.
Most in Nauvoo had gardens and these would supplement vegetable intake, though mainly the poor ate vegetables. Many had milk cows so milk and butter came at the price of effort and feed stock.
In a city, other living expenses (clothes, housing and other similar expenses) might total about $6.00. So for the week, cost of living was roughly $10.00.
Let’s say you’re a day laborer. What percentage of wages went to retail food in a week: about 80%. By 1860 this was about 75%. By 1900, about 45%. By 1930, 15%. Food got cheaper.