Food Prices and Spending

Retail food prices partially reflect farm-level commodity prices, but packaging, processing, transportation, and other marketing costs, along with competitive factors, have a greater role in determining prices on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus. Monthly price swings in grocery stores for individual food categories, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), tend to smooth out into modest yearly increases for food in general. In 2019, U.S. consumers, businesses, and government entities spent $1.77 trillion on food and beverages in grocery stores and other retailers and on away-from-home meals and snacks.

Over a third of the U.S. food dollar is spent on eating-out services

For a typical dollar spent in 2019 by U.S. consumers on domestically produced food, including both grocery store and eating-out purchases, 38.5 cents went to services provided by food service establishments, such as restaurants and other eating places. Of the remaining food dollar, 14.7 cents went to food processors, and 12.1 cents to food retailers. At 2.3 cents, packaging costs per food dollar were the lowest ever reported by the current series, which provides statistics back to 1993. These data are prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. food-away-from-home spending continued to outpace food-at-home spending in 2019

In 2019, food spending by U.S. consumers, businesses, and government entities totaled $1.77 trillion. Food away-from-home accounted for 54.8 percent of total food expenditures, up from 50.1 percent in 2009.

Americans’ budget share for total food was at a historical low of 9.5 percent in 2019

In 2019, Americans spent an average of 9.5 percent of their disposable personal incomes on food—divided between food at home (4.9 percent) and food away from home (4.6 percent). Between 1960 and 1998, the average share of disposable personal income spent on total food by Americans, on average, fell from 17.0 to 10.1 percent, driven by a declining share of income spent on food at home.

Food spending as a share of income declines as income rises

As their incomes rise, households spend more money on food, but it represents a smaller overall budget share. In 2019, households in the lowest income quintile spent an average of $4,400 on food (representing 36.0 percent of income), while households in the highest income quintile spent an average of $13,987 on food (representing 8.0 percent of income).