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SNAP households spend more time preparing food and cleaning up afterward

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

It takes time to shop for groceries, cook meals, eat and drink, and then clean up. On average, Americans age 18 and older spent just over 2 hours per day on these major food-related activities in 2016. Eighty-one minutes were spent eating—as either the primary activity or as a secondary activity while doing something else like watching TV or working—and 43 minutes were spent buying groceries, preparing food, and cleaning up. Individuals age 18 and older who either received benefits from USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or lived with someone who did, spent less time eating as a primary activity and more time preparing food and cleaning up compared with the national averages. This greater time spent in the kitchen may reflect more cooking from scratch to stretch food budgets. Individuals in SNAP households spent about the same amount of time grocery shopping and eating as a secondary activity as the average American. The data for this chart and other time-use information can be found in ERS’s Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product.

SNAP participants spend less on restaurant foods than eligible nonparticipants

Thursday, August 23, 2018

In a recent study, ERS researchers used data from USDA’s 2012-13 National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to look at the factors that affect demand for convenience foods, including participation in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP provides low-income households with monthly benefits to purchase food at authorized food stores. Estimates from the ERS study show that SNAP participants spend less on restaurant foods and more on foods from grocery stores relative to non-SNAP households that qualify for the program. SNAP participation was associated with a 26-percent higher level of ready-to-eat grocery store food purchases and a 21-percent higher level of purchases of non-ready-to-eat grocery store food, such as raw meats, seafood, dry beans, pasta, and other foods requiring cooking and preparation time. In addition, eligible non-SNAP households purchased almost twice as much full-service restaurant foods as SNAP households. The statistics for this chart are from the ERS report, Consumers Balance Time and Money in Purchasing Convenience Foods, June 2018.

Watching TV and working are the top activities that accompany secondary eating

Friday, August 17, 2018

On an average day in 2016, Americans age 15 and older spent 63.6 minutes eating and drinking as a primary—or main—activity, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey (ATUS). In addition, they spent 17.2 minutes eating as a secondary activity—that is, eating while engaged in another activity considered primary by the individual, such as watching television, driving, preparing meals, or working. Five activities accounted for 57.4 percent of all the activities that Americans reported engaging in while eating as a secondary activity. Of these top five activities, watching television (22.7 percent of all accompanying activities) and working one’s main job (22.6 percent) just about tied for the most common activity. The remaining three activities each accounted for less than 5 percent of responses: socializing and communicating with others (4.9 percent), food and drink preparation (4.6 percent), and reading for personal interest (2.6 percent). The data for this chart and other time-use information can be found in ERS’s Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product.

Households with children make tradeoffs between time and money in their purchases of restaurant meals

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Childcare requires a lot of time, and some households respond to this constraint by cutting back on time spent shopping for food, cooking, and cleaning up afterwards. ERS researchers used data from USDA’s 2012-13 National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to look at the factors that affect demand for convenience and found that households with two children spent 48 percent of their food budgets on restaurant food, while households without children spent only 41 percent. Longer waiting times for food and less child-friendly settings and menu offerings may be among the reasons that households with children spent less on full-service restaurant meals than those without children, regardless of the number of children. As the number of children increases, the monetary cost of eating out seems to outweigh the time savings, especially for households with more than two children. Households with one child spent 37 percent of their food budget on fast food, while households with two children spent 40 percent. The share spent on fast food did not increase after two children. A version of this chart appears in the June 2018 Amber Waves article “Higher Incomes and Greater Time Constraints Lead to Purchasing More Convenience Foods."

Time constraints due to employment are associated with greater preference for convenience foods

Thursday, June 28, 2018

When consumers are pressed for time because of employment demands, many respond by spending less time on food shopping, preparation, and clean up. In a recent study, ERS researchers used data from USDA’s 2012-13 National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to look at the factors that affect demand for convenience food. The researchers found that households that are time constrained by employment spent more on restaurant food and less on grocery store food. Households where all adults were employed spent about half of their food budgets at restaurants, whereas households where a primary shopper was unemployed spend only 36 percent. The share of the food budget spent on non-ready-to-eat foods, such as raw meats, seafood, dry beans, pasta, and other foods requiring cooking and preparation time, also presents a picture of households making a tradeoff between time and money. Households where all adults were employed spent 10 percentage points less of their food budgets on non-ready-to-eat foods compared to households where a primary shopper was not employed. The statistics for this chart are from the ERS report Consumers Balance Time and Money in Purchasing Convenience Foods, released on June 27, 2018.

Potatoes and tomatoes are America’s top vegetable choices

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans consumed an average of 156.3 pounds of fresh and processed vegetables per person in 2015. The loss-adjusted food availability data series takes per capita supplies of food available for human consumption and adjusts for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in restaurants, grocery stores, and the home to more closely approximate consumption. Potatoes claimed the #1 spot at 48.3 pounds per person, including both fresh potatoes and processed products (frozen, canned, and dehydrated potatoes and potato chips and shoestrings). Canned tomatoes are the leading canned vegetable, and total tomato consumption—fresh and canned—came in second at 28.3 pounds per person. Americans consumed 7.7 pounds of fresh and dehydrated onions per person in 2015, almost a pound more than head lettuce consumption. Consumption of carrots, sweet corn, and romaine and leaf lettuce finished the list of America’s top seven vegetable choices. This chart appears in ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product.

As income rises, households tend to devote a larger share of their at-home food spending to vegetables

Monday, April 16, 2018

ERS researchers used household-level data from Information Resources Inc. to investigate how food spending patterns differ by household income and age of the household food shopper. The researchers found that as per person income rises, households spend a larger portion of their at-home food expenditures on vegetables. This was true for all four generations examined, though the increase for Traditionalists was small. Poorer Millennials assigned lower shares of at-home food spending to vegetables than Traditionalists and Baby Boomers with similar incomes. Millennials with higher incomes apportioned more of their food budgets to vegetables, surpassing Traditionalists when per capita household income was around $30,000. The wealthiest Millennial households (per capita income greater than $50,000) dedicated about 8 percent of their food budgets to vegetables, compared to around 6 percent for the other generation groups in the same income decile. The rise in vegetable purchases among wealthier Millennials may reflect Millennials’ preference for healthy foods. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, Food Purchase Decisions of Millennial Households Compared to Other Generations, released December 2017.

Millennials devote a higher share of their at-home food budgets to  prepared foods

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Millennials are now the largest living generation—surpassing Baby Boomers—in the United States. Their large collective buying power is only expected to expand as their earnings increase as they age. Food retailers, for example, increasingly respond to preferences for grocery store foods that are ready-to-eat or just need to be heated before consuming—preferences that Millennials clearly display. A recent ERS study found that across almost all income ranges, Millennials assigned more of their food-at-home budgets to prepared foods, such as canned soup or deli rotisserie chicken, when compared to older generations. With the exception of households with incomes of $20,000 to $28,332 per household member, the share of food-at-home expenditures devoted to prepared foods stayed relatively constant for Millennial-headed households at 7.5 to 8 percent. In contrast, Traditionalists, the oldest generation represented, generally allocated the least amount of their food budgets to prepared foods, with a small decline in the share for households with higher per capita incomes. This chart appears in "Millennials Devote Larger Shares of Their Grocery Spending to Prepared Foods, Pasta, and Sugar and Sweets Than Other Generations," in the December 2017 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Millennials spend less per person than other generations on grocery store foods

Friday, January 19, 2018

A recent ERS analysis of 2014 grocery store data found that compared to older generations, Millennial-headed households spent the least per person on food at home. However, like the other generations analyzed, Millennial households with higher incomes tended to spend more on grocery store foods than Millennial households with lower incomes. This is likely because poorer households have less income to spend on food at home. Even with this lower spending, lower income households still spend a higher share of their total food budgets in grocery stores. Traditionalists and Baby Boomers spent more per person on food at home in each of 10 income groups than Millennials and Gen X’ers. For example, of households earning between $14,000 and $20,000 per household member annually, Millennials spent just under $80 per month per person on food at home and Gen X’ers spent $85, whereas Baby Boomers in that income group spent $135 and Traditionalists spent $154. Differences in food-at-home spending between the generations may reflect the younger generations’ stronger preference for eating out, which may change as they age. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, Food Purchase Decisions of Millennial Households Compared to Other Generations, released on December 29, 2017.

Thanksgiving is a day for food, and Black Friday is a day for non-food shopping

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Do people really spend that much time preparing food, eating, drinking, and cleaning up the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day and on holiday shopping on Black Friday? The answer to both questions is, “Yes!” Over a survey period of 2003-16, Americans spent an average of 88 minutes eating and drinking on Thanksgiving. This was about 15 minutes greater than the time Americans spent eating and drinking on average for 6 other major holidays. Similarly, compared with the average for these non-Thanksgiving holidays, Americans spent much more time engaged in meal preparation and cleanup (127 minutes versus 46 minutes). Now, when it comes to the day after Thanksgiving, relative to other days, Americans tend to spend more of their time shopping for items other than food. Americans spent 46 minutes shopping for non-food items on an average Black Friday, which is about 250 percent higher than an average non-Thanksgiving holiday. More information on ERS’s Eating and Health Module of the American Time Use Survey can be found in ERS’s Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product.

Survey data point to Americans eating out less often in 2013-14 compared with 2007-08

Thursday, October 26, 2017

ERS developed the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey (FCBS) module, which, starting in 2007, has been part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The FCBS questions are designed to collect data on U.S. consumers’ dietary knowledge, attitudes, and habits, including their eating out habits. ERS researchers used FCBS data to get a sense of how often Americans purchase or acquire meals prepared away from home in places such as restaurants, fast-food places, food stands, grocery stores, and vending machines. In 2013-14, adults age 20 and older reported that they purchased or acquired an average of 3.6 away-from-home meals in the past 7 days—down from 4.0 meals in 2007-08. This decline in eating out could potentially reflect tighter food budgets due to the Great Recession (December 2007 to June 2009) and the slow economic recovery afterwards. The number and share of away-from-home meals reported as coming from a fast-food or pizza place was about the same in both periods. Data for this chart are from the Food Consumption & Demand topic page on the ERS Web site, updated on September 18, 2017.

Oranges and apples are America’s top fruit and fruit juice choices

Monday, October 23, 2017

Americans consumed an average of 115.4 pounds of fresh and processed fruit per person in 2015, according to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data. This data series takes per capita supplies of food available for human consumption and adjusts for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in eating places, grocery stores, and the home to more closely approximate consumption. Apple juice consumption at 14 pounds (1.6 gallons) per person in 2015, combined with fresh apples at 10.7 pounds per person, and canned, dried, and frozen apples (3.3 pounds per person), puts apples in the #1 spot for total fruit consumption. While orange juice leads juice consumption at 23.7 pounds (2.7 gallons), total orange consumption—juice and fresh—came in second. Americans consumed 11.3 pounds of fresh bananas per person in 2015, almost a pound more than fresh apple consumption. Consumption of grapes reached 7.9 pounds per person, and strawberries, watermelon, and pineapple rounded out the list of America’s top fruit choices. This chart appears in ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated September 2017.

Americans’ consumption of vegetables and legumes has moved closer to recommendations

Friday, September 8, 2017

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people on a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet consume 2½ cup-equivalents (cup-eq) of vegetables per day. A cup-eq of vegetables is generally equal to 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens. The Guidelines include recommended amounts of five vegetable subgroups (dark green, red and orange, legumes, starchy, and other) and advise Americans to consume a variety of vegetables from each subgroup. According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data (a proxy for consumption), the average American consumed 1.72 cup-eq of vegetables and legumes per day in 2015—69 percent of the daily recommendation for a 2,000 calorie-per-day-diet—and up from 1.49 cup eq in 1970. While starchy vegetable consumption declined by 17 percent (mostly due to drops in fresh potatoes and canned corn), daily dark green vegetable consumption grew from 0.02 cup-eq in 1970 to 0.15 cup-eq in 2015. Romaine and leaf lettuce and fresh broccoli were the largest contributors, reflecting the growing demand for salads and fresh vegetables. Consumption of legumes and other vegetables increased, closing in on the Guidelines’ recommendations. Red and orange vegetable consumption grew to 0.23 cup-eq per day in 2015, but is still just 30 percent of the recommendation. The data for this chart are from ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, updated July 26, 2017.

Apples/applesauce and pineapples accounted for 56 percent of canned fruit availability in 2010-14

Thursday, January 19, 2017

According to ERS’s food availability data, 14.2 pounds per capita of canned fruit were available for consumption by U.S. consumers in 2010-14, down after averaging 21 pounds per person in 1990-94 and 25.1 pounds per person in 1970-74. Canned apple and applesauce availability was 4.1 pounds per person in 2010-14, while canned pineapple availability—the second highest—was 3.9 pounds per person. With the exception of olives, per person availability fell for all canned fruit between 1970-74 and 2010-14. For example, in 1970-74 canned peaches led canned fruit availability at 6.5 pounds per person, but dropped to 2.7 pounds per person in 2010-14—a 58-percent decline. The availability of canned pears fell from 3.8 pounds per person in 1970-74 to 2 pounds per person in 2010-14. One reason for declines in canned fruit availability is that some consumers switched to fresh fruit. Canned fruit’s share of total U.S. fruit availability decreased from 10.6 percent in 1970-74 to 5.6 percent in 2010-14, while fresh fruit availability grew by 34.5 pounds per person and boosted fresh fruit’s share from 41 percent to 52 percent. The data for this chart are from ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.

Meal preparation time varies across different U.S. demographic groups

Thursday, January 12, 2017

On an average day in 2014, Americans age 18 and over spent 37 minutes in food preparation and cleanup. However, the average time spent in “meal prep”—defined as preparing food and beverages, serving them, and cleaning up afterwards—varied considerably among different groups. Men spent an average of 22 minutes, whereas women spent an average of 51 minutes. Younger adults (age 18-24) spent an average of 21 minutes, while working-age adults (age 25-64) spent 38 minutes. Those age 65 or older spent an average of 43 minutes. Employed individuals spent less time in meal prep than those not employed, and those in households without children spent less time than those in households with children. Participants in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) had the longest average duration in meal prep time—62 minutes. Time spent preparing infant formula, breastfeeding, and pumping breast milk is included in meal prep time in the American Time Use Survey (ATUS). These time use data are from the ERS-developed 2014 Eating & Health Module—a supplement to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ ATUS. This chart appears in “Americans Spend an Average of 37 Minutes a Day Preparing and Serving Food and Cleaning Up” in ERS’s November 2016 Amber Waves magazine.

Seventy percent of U.S. calories consumed in 2010 were from plant-based foods

Friday, January 6, 2017

ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data provide estimates of the sources of calories in the U.S. diet. These data are derived from the supply of food available for consumption and adjusted for inedible peels and pits and for spoilage, plate waste, and other losses to more closely approximate actual intake. Loss-adjusted daily calories per person decreased by 2 percent between 2000 and 2010 from 2,545 to 2,481 calories. The share of calories from animal- and plant-based foods was the same in both years at 30 percent and 70 percent, respectively. In both years, grains were the primary contributor to daily calories per capita. Added plant-based fats and oils—such as salad and cooking oils, margarine, and shortening—ranked second, followed by meat, poultry, and fish. Per capita availability of calories from nuts showed the largest percentage change, posting a 25-percent increase to 72 calories per day in 2010. Calories from the vegetable and added sugar and sweeteners categories decreased by 11 percent. This chart appears in “A Look at Calorie Sources in the American Diet” in the December 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

SNAP households are less likely to think they eat the right amount of fruits and vegetables

Friday, December 9, 2016

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adult men and women eat between 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day and 1½ to 2 cups of fruit per day. To help gauge perceived dietary habits, respondents in USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) were asked a series of questions about their health and diet. When the primary respondents (the main food shopper or meal planner in the household) were asked if they think they eat the right amount of fruits and vegetables or if they should eat more, 76.1 percent of primary respondents in households receiving SNAP benefits said they should eat more. In contrast, 66.1 percent of those who reside in households not receiving SNAP felt they should eat more fruits and vegetables. By better understanding perceived health and dietary habits, food assistance programs may be modified to help Americans follow heathier diets. This chart appears in “FoodAPS Data Now Available to the General Public” in the December 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Cheese accounts for largest share of dairy cup-equivalents in U.S. diets

Thursday, December 1, 2016

According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans consumed just under 1.5 cup-equivalents of dairy products per person per day in 1974 and in 2014—half the recommended amount for a 2,000-calorie diet. While Americans are consuming the same number of cup-equivalents of dairy products, the mix has changed. Consumption of cheese has more than doubled during this time from 0.29 cup-equivalents per person in 1974 to 0.64 cup-equivalents per person in 2014, while yogurt consumption grew almost ten-fold to 0.05 cup-equivalents per person. Fluid milk consumption stood at 0.55 cup-equivalents per person in 2014, down from 0.90 cup-equivalents per person in 1974. Several factors have contributed to this decline, including competition from soft drinks, fruit juices, bottled water, and other beverages; generational differences in the frequency of milk drinking; and a more ethnically diverse population, some of whose diets do not normally include fluid milk. This chart is from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated October 11, 2016.

Yes, Thanksgiving really is a day of cooking

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

If you think Thanksgiving is a day spent cooking, eating, and socializing, you are correct. On this national holiday over a survey period of 2003-15, Americans spent an average of 128 minutes in meal preparation and cleanup—over three times the 34 minutes spent on these tasks on an average Saturday or Sunday. Time spent eating and drinking is greater as well--89 minutes on Thanksgiving versus an average of 71 minutes on a average weekend day. Socializing time is over twice the weekend average—148 minutes versus 64 minutes. All this cooking, cleaning, and socializing leaves less time for other weekend activities. The average time spent in sports and exercise is less on Thanksgiving, as is time spent on shopping, including online purchases. Less time is also spent on paid work (32 minutes versus 75 minutes) and travel (55 minutes versus 72 minutes) due to less commuting. Time spent watching television and movies, however, is about the same as the average weekend day. This chart uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey and draws from the ERS report, Americans’ Eating Patterns and Time Spent on Food: The 2014 Eating & Health Module Data.

Americans began to adjust their food spending patterns about a year before the 2007-09 recession

Friday, November 18, 2016

A recent ERS analysis found that between 1999 and 2006, the share of the average household food budget allocated to basic and complex ingredients fell steadily from around 24.7 to 20.8 percent, but then began to climb reaching 24.2 percent in 2010. Basic ingredients, such as milk and fresh meats, and complex ingredients, such as mayonnaise and bread, are grocery store foods used to prepare a meal or snack. The food budget share—defined as total expenditures at grocery stores and eating-out places—spent on ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat grocery store foods followed a somewhat similar, but muted, pattern. The upturn in food budget share devoted to ingredients and ready to eat/cook grocery foods began almost a year before the 2007-09 recession and its aftermath—a time when many consumers cut back on eating out, especially fast food meals and snacks. The share of the total food budget spent in fast-food outlets where customers order and pay at a counter grew until 2007 to 30.6 percent, then declined to 25.7 percent in 2010. This chart appears in “Purchases of Foods by Convenience Type Driven by Prices, Income, and Advertising” in the November 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

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