Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More thoughts on the cost of food

One excuse for not having any stored food on hand, is the cost. If you feel like you are struggling to provide food for your family, you are not likely to be receptive to the idea of buying extra food to begin a storage program. It is helpful to get a realistic idea of the true cost of food in America. The United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service is a great source for information on food consumption in the United States. I will refer to a the USDA Website:


Americans spent over $583 billion dollars on food in 2007. Although this figure is stagering, the percentage Americans spent on food as a share of their disposable income has dropped from over 20% in 1929 to 9.8 percent (including food purchased away from home) in 2007. Americans annually spent $2,242 per capita on food in 2007, including, once again, food purchased away from home. In other countries for the same year, people spent as much as 50% of their disposable income on food. Some countries, such as India, have an annual per capita spending on food of only $174.

I admit, it is difficult to believe that Americans only spend about $2,200 a year per capita on food when you are following someone pushing two huge carts of food out of Walmart or Costco,,, , but from these figures, it appears that as of 2007 the daily average food cost per person, has now risen to just over $6. Americans have a long way to go before they can be considered poor, compared to other places in the world.

However, the pattern of food spending varies with income:

Food expenditures vary by income level

First number is for Income below 130 percent of the poverty line
The second number is for Income between 130 and 150% of the poverty line

At-home foods
Per person weekly
spending, 2003 dollars

Bread and baked goods 2.22 ---- 2.67
Dairy foods 2.42 ---- 3.03
Fruit 2.06 ---- 2.67
Beef 1.66 ---- 1.98
Frozen prepared foods 0.90 ---- 1.03
Vegetables 1.99 ---- 2.39

Notes: In fiscal year 2003, the poverty line was $18,660 per year for a
family of four with two related children under age 18.
All differences in expenditures between the two income groups are
statistically significant at the 10-percent level.
Source: Analysis by USDA, Economic Research Service, of the Bureau
of Labor Statistics’ 2003 Consumer Expenditure Survey.

A comprehensive study entitled "Household Food Security in the United States, 2002" examines the prevalence of hunger in the United States.

See http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/fanrr35/

To get an idea of what the U.S. Government considers to be the standard for food costs, you need to understand the USDA's Thrifty Food Plan. To quote:

"The Thrifty Food Plan—developed by USDA—serves as a national standard for a nutritious diet at low cost. It represents a set of “market baskets” of food that people of specific age and gender could consume at home to maintain a healthful diet that meets current dietary standards, taking into account the food consumption patterns of U.S. households. The cost of the meal plan for each age/gender category is calculated based on average national food prices adjusted for inflation. The cost of the market basket for a household is further adjusted by household size to account for economies of scale."

"For example, the weekly Thrifty Food Plan cost for a household composed of a married couple with no children, ages 29 (husband) and 30 (wife), is given by adding the individual Thrifty Food
Plan costs for the husband ($30.50) and wife ($27.50) and adjusting the total upward by 10 percent. The adjusted total ($63.80) represents the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan for this type of household. "

The cost for the Thrifty Food Plan for a family of two adults and two young children is $92.70 per week.

More later.

1 comment:

Quantumleap42 said...

I guess we're doing pretty good. We're spending about $60 per week on food (and other related expenses like soap etc.) So maybe I can break down and buy that candy bar (I better not).