In spite of recent spikes in food prices, the average American’s spending on groceries continues to decline in proportion to total spending.
A report from NPR this week, using figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, compares prices and spending on individual foods and groceries overall, between 1982 and 2012. In 1982, about 14 percent of an average American’s spending went toward groceries. By 2012, that percentage dropped to below 9 percent.
Back in 1982, meat accounted for the largest share of grocery spending at 31.3 percent. Today, spending on meat has declined to 21.5 percent of the total, with processed foods and sweets moving into the top spot at 22.9 percent.
One might think the changes in overall grocery spending is due to people eating more meals away from home, or that the reduction in spending on meat reflects a drop-off in meat consumption, but the figures suggest the real reason is that prices simply are lower.