Food for less

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While U.S. food prices have increased lately to the distress of many, the percentage of disposable income Americans spend on food continues to shrink. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, that share averaged 9.4 percent during 2010, matching the record low set in 2009.

Back in 1929, the earliest year ERS reports, Americans spent 23.4 percent of their disposable incomes on food. They spent 20.3 percent on food at home, and 3.1 percent on food away from home. The highest percentage reported took place in 1933, during the peak of the Great Depression, when Americans spent 25.2 percent of their incomes on food.

By the mid-1930s, the percentage began to generally decline each year until moving upward during the mid- to late- 1940s and World War Two, when the percentage hovered in the low 20s. Since 1948, the slope has been distinctly downward. In 2000, Americans spent less than 10 percent of their disposable income on food for the first time.

Interestingly, the percentage we spend on meals away from home hasn’t changed that much, at 3.9 percent in 2010 compared with 3.1 percent in 1929. Our spending on food at home on the other hand has dropped dramatically, from 20.3 percent of income in 1929 to 5.5 percent in 2010.

View the historical chart from ERS.



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KELLEY    
MO  |  July, 26, 2011 at 10:13 AM

WHAT BOOK DID YOU GET SUCH A LOW NUMBER FROM/ OBVIOUSLY YOUR EDITORS DON'T BUY THE GROCERIES, IT'S NOT EVEN CLOSE LET US DO THE MATH IF YOU MAKE 50000 A YR YOU MIGHT HAVE 30000 IN DISPOSAL INCOME NO LETS SAY YOU HAVE IT ALL 50000*5.5%=2750/52 WEEKS=52.88 HOW STUPID MIGHT BUY TO BAGS OF NOTHING THIS IS AS BAD AS YOU FOLKS TALKING UP THE GOVERMENTS ID PROGRAM, AND YOU DONT EVEN UNDERSTAND THE WORK AND COST BURDEN TO THE PRODUCERS.

jmcv02    
manhattan, ks.  |  July, 26, 2011 at 01:17 PM

Kelly, please learn to turn caps lock off when you TYPE! I live off $20 a week pretty easily and I have a freezer full of meat to boot. Its very possible for someone to live off $52.88 a wk!

JW    
MT  |  July, 26, 2011 at 03:22 PM

No need to shout. Writing all in caps does not prove your point. By the way, what was your point?

Ragnar the Impetuous    
North texas  |  July, 27, 2011 at 10:08 AM

I bet the food quality was better in 1929. No GM, less pesticides, more produce grown closer to home; cheaper isn't always better. If you focus simply on cost you miss some important issues. Don't get me wrong, I don't think every thing from the old days was better. We certainly don't miss swill dairies. Agricultural practices that focus too strongly on profit and ignore that food is vital to good health give bad results.

Mike    
Indiana  |  July, 28, 2011 at 12:45 PM

I'd like someone who grew up in the late 1920's and 1930's comment on the food back then. I doubt they would be critical of the technology we use today to produce food.

Kelley    
mo  |  July, 29, 2011 at 10:50 AM

I did not realize that this was an english examine, for I would fell. Please let me try and explain the numbers. The numbers from the Goverment would represent a house-hold of 2.6 folks +/- .01 the Average Family does not have 50K to spend and do not live on 5.5% for food get real ask your friends. To anwer the cost of I.D. If we conformed the cost of production would greatly increase and would not be pasted on to the consumer unless it was an add on tax and sent back to the producers for doing the service.


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