Unexpectedly Intriguing!
21 October 2021

How does your household compare to the average American household when it comes to spending for food at home?

Answering questions like that takes data, and for that, the Consumer Expenditure Survey has detailed the average amount of money spent by American household "consumer units" in each year from 1984 through 2020. In the following chart, we've extracted the survey's data for expenditures by food category, showing the data for each year to show the trends for each.

Average Annual Expenditures for Food at Home by Major Food Categories, 1984-2020

In 2020, the average total amount of food-at-home expenditures for American households was $4,942. Here's how that breaks down into major food categories:

  • Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs: $1,075
  • Fruits and vegetables: $977
  • Miscellaneous foods: $973
  • Cereals and bakery products: $640
  • Dairy products: $474
  • Nonalcoholic beverages: $455
  • Other food at home: $348

This list brings up a good question: what's the difference between "Miscellaneous foods" and "Other food at home". Here's how the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines both of them (we've added the additional examples in parentheses):

Miscellaneous foods includes frozen prepared meals and other foods; canned and packaged soups; potato chips, nuts and other snacks; condiments and seasonings, such as olives, pickles, relishes, sauces and gravies, baking needs and other specified condiments; and other canned and packaged prepared foods, such as salads, desserts, baby foods, and vitamin supplements. Other food at home primarily represents sugar and other sweets (such as sugar, candy and chewing gum; artificial sweeteners; and jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butters, syrup, fudge mixes, icings, and other sweets), and also fats and oils (including margarine, shortening, and salad dressings, vegetable oils, nondairy cream substitutes and imitation milk, and peanut butter).

Since food prices have been rising, you can use these average 2020 expenditures to benchmark how much more money you're having to spend on these items in 2021.

References

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer Expenditure Survey. Multiyear Tables. [PDF Documents: 1984-1991, 1992-1999, 2000-2005, 2006-2012, 2013-2020]. Accessed 9 September 2021. 

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