Spending on food reaches historical low in US!
 

07/20/09 7:27 AM

Wow, there's nothing like a little perspective to make us rethink our bitching and moaning about the economy, the price of everything, and our current times in general. grinning smiley

posted:
Spending on Food Reaches A New Historical Low; And It's Nothing At All Like The Great Depression
[mjperry.blogspot.com]

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_otfwl2zc6Qc/Sl91V2N0NRI/AAAAAAAAKoc/1XjOfOwAOSQ/s400/food.jpg

The chart above is based on data from the USDA showing "Food expenditures by families and individuals as a share of disposable personal income," from 1929 to 2008 (total spending for both "food at home" and "food away from home" ).

In the entire history of the U.S., it's only been in the last eight years that the percent of income spent on food for Americans was in single digits - since 2000 it's been below 10%. In all previous years, spending on food was in double-digits, and in most years from 1929 to 1952 it was above 20%. Consider that in 1932, spending on food at home took almost 22% of disposable income, compared to the record low of only 5.6% in 2008. Food has never been more affordable than today, as a share of income.

In 2008, despite the "Great Recession," total spending on food as a share of disposable personal income fell to 9.6%, reaching the lowest level ever recorded in U.S. history. And since spending on food as a share of income is lower in the U.S. than in any other country, the 9.6% share of income spent on food in the U.S. for 2008 is probably the lowest ever in the history of the world.

This amazing trend in lower food prices as a percent of income reflects first of all the relentless and significant improvements in the production and distribution of food over time, and doesn't even take into account the significant improvements in the quantity and quality of most food products available for today's Americans compared to previous generations (whole, 2% 1%, 1/2%, and skim milk are available for today's consumers vs. whole milk only in the past as just one example).

And second of all, Americans are more than 7.7 times wealthier today compared to 1933 based on per-capita real GDP in constant 2004 dollars ($5,653 in 1933 vs. $43,716 in 2008), see chart below. With higher real incomes and lower food prices, it's not surprising that spending on food as a share of income is at an all-time low. And it also makes the comparisons of today's economic conditions and our current standard of living to the conditions during the Great Depression pretty silly, doesn't it?

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_otfwl2zc6Qc/Sl91VkuXvvI/AAAAAAAAKoU/pg1A69OwzOo/s400/gdp.jpg

Although I've never tallied up the percentage it consumes of my income, I personally spend much higher than average on food. It's because most of what is purchased is organic, and then on top of that I buy specialty "health" foods such as green superfood powders and things like resveratrol supplements. I don't think I'd have even had the option to afford this increased investment in my health back in the first half of the 20th century. Yay for progress.

The only thing that concerns me is: are food prices really reflecting the cost of production or not? Are they artificially low? I know farmers - at least the non conglomerates - aren't exactly known to be filthy rich and I regularly hear stories of farmers continually being in a break-even state financially or crying for money. The organic farmers tend to do a little better. These are just incomplete subjective observations though.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/20/2009 07:32AM by pragmatica.

 

07/20/09 7:54 AM

Wow, thanks again pragmatica for another informative post.

Yeah I shop at Aldies, me and my sister always spend around $60 there and get well over 2 weeks of food. And that includes meat. Compare that to what we were spending at walmart, a good $120. Yeah we don't always shop name brand but shes a damn good cook so I don't taste the difference.

 

07/20/09 8:08 AM

wow that's crazy. We have a $150-$200/week grocery budget...and we only get a weeks worth of food for that. I think that's only in the US that food prices are going down. Here in Canada it's crazy. Maybe because I live on an Island, who knows. but it's stupid.

Heck in Nova Scotia it costs $10 for 4l of Milk! That's NOT Including the HST.

 

07/20/09 8:13 AM

Yeah, being on an island wouldn't help. Also, I agree the prices are higher here in Canada and I think it's because our market is much smaller and a lot of the US competition doesn't exist here. In any case, I don't doubt our costs have gone down too in Canada - perhaps just not to the same degree.

Everything is cheaper in the USA, whether it's electronics, food, or clothing (and yes, I'm correcting for the currency difference).

When I was in Arizona recently, I bought some clothes new for less than I pay for used clothing up here. Our telecom providers also charge twice what US telecom providers charge, in part due to their near-monopolies/lack of competition. Also, the meat deals in the US were much better. I bought a huge wild-caught salmon for $10 which would go for $45 up here.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/20/2009 08:15AM by pragmatica.

 

07/20/09 8:25 AM

pragmatica posted:
Yeah, being on an island wouldn't help. Also, I agree the prices are higher here in Canada and I think it's because our market is much smaller and a lot of the US competition doesn't exist here. In any case, I don't doubt our costs have gone down too in Canada - perhaps just not to the same degree.

Everything is cheaper in the USA, whether it's electronics, food, or clothing (and yes, I'm correcting for the currency difference).

When I was in Arizona recently, I bought some clothes new for less than I pay for used clothing up here. Our telecom providers also charge twice what US telecom providers charge, in part due to their near-monopolies/lack of competition. Also, the meat deals in the US were much better. I bought a huge wild-caught salmon for $10 which would go for $45 up here.

...Not here. I can get a huge wild caught salmon for about $10 here in Comox...Frozen at sea, at the Comox Fishermans Wharf. $20 pushing it. It's all about location here Prag. Milk here, is really not that expensive because there's dairy farms everywhere. Produce is dirt cheap, MEAT is expensive, seafood is not. Unfortunately my son and husband both can't eat anything from the ocean except wild caught salmon (farmed makes them ill too) tuna and other higher-food chain fish, due to allergies (and my husband finds even the smell of cooking fish turns his stomach) we're stuck with eating...land based meat.

Much of our food expense is tied into the gas prices here. More gas = more freight costs = more expense for us at the store. I find it disgusting that we happen to be one of the top oil producing nations, but get charged up the ass for gas prices, due to all the nutso taxes. BC is HORRIBLE for gas prices due to the Carbon Tax, on top of all the other taxes on gas.

We're regularly pushing $1.00 + a litre, last year it was almost $2/l here. So no wonder meat is so darned expensive here. Most of our produce is locally grown so that's not too expensive, same with the dairy. Meat is usally imported from off island, unless you know where to look.

And clothing..don't get me started on that. I have to spend over $100+ on a bra. Wonder how much a NICE 38DD would cost me south of the border...

 

07/20/09 8:30 AM

Holy Christian... O.O Damn just when I start to think Canada is the land of milk and honey... That is really ridiculous...

 

07/20/09 8:35 AM

I used to work in a fabric store during college, and half our customers were from Canada. They'd drive down on a regular basis and stock up because prices were so much less expensive.

I end up spending anywhere from $90 to $130 per week in the grocery store, even with buying store brands, and I find that I buy the same stuff each week, because most of it's too expensive. Paper products like toilet paper and paper towels, I buy the cheapest stuff out there--I figure you basically buy that stuff to throw it away, so why spend a fortune on a brand name?

Other stuff, I try to reuse as much as possible, pass on clothes that my daughter outgrows to people who have girls that they would fit. Even things like furniture and household items--I don't replace unless it's broken beyond repair; I'll give it new life by painting it and making it look new. I've done that with chairs, tables, picture frames, and it's a great way to recycle what you already have.

Clothing--I only shop the clearance racks, and if it's something that's out of season and can't be worn for a few months, then spending $5 for a summer shirt in late fall, is more worth it to me than spending full price at the start of the season. Holding onto it and knowing that in a few months I'll be able to wear it, outweighs having to have it immediately.

 

07/20/09 8:39 AM

Coma79 posted:
Holy Christian... O.O Damn just when I start to think Canada is the land of milk and honey... That is really ridiculous...

Meh. I don't really mind. I like my social safety nets. I just think it's stupid we have to pay THAT much in gas, and a good chunk of it IS taxes, which don't go to the social saftey nets here, but road maintanance (salting in the winter, plowing the snow, fixing the potholes) and stupid make work projects like road widening, and redundant traffic circles.

I understand the reason for the taxes, I don't understand why we're stuck paying OPEC's Cost Per Barrel when we can produce our own gas.

 

07/20/09 4:35 PM

pandora114: Lucky you, living right in the middle of salmon country. I loved the salmon burgers they sell on the West Coast. They never sell those over here at all that I've seen.

LisaM: I also buy clothing out of season. It makes no difference at the thrift/used stores, but when I do buy deeply discounted clothes at regular retailers it's because the season has passed. If it isn't 50% off or better, I'm not buying it! grinning smiley

The way I cope with high costs in Canada is by buying most material goods used, on substantial sale, or open box. I've gotten plenty of perfectly good wood furniture garbage picking too. If I do buy items new I wait until it's gone through at least one major price drop (such as when the latest and greatest version of a phone or computer comes out which has made the version I decide to get in less demand, and much cheaper).

Of course none of those cost savings measures work on my food bill. What I do there is put in bulk orders for supplements four times a year since then I don't have to pay shipping since most places ship for free when the total is over $100, AND I get a discounted price per bottle when I buy three or more at once. The savings add up.

Meat is very expensive, at least if you get quality meats from flax-fed or pastured animals that don't contain as much saturated fat. I haven't really found any way to save on that yet, though thankfully meat is more of a stir-fry garnish for me rather than the center of a meal.

I'm not even going to bother mentioning how much I spend on healthy foods since it's very high. I consider a lot of the excess cost to be almost like natural health insurance though. winking smiley Those resveratrol supplements, for instance, should reduce my likelihood of disease by at least 70% and extend my life by about 30%. Back when I spent $50 a month on food 15 years ago, I was very unhealthy with heart arrhythmias from all the cholesterol (I lived on hot dogs, Mr. Noodles, and peas) and ribs showing. I'm not living like that any more, thank goodness.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/20/2009 04:39PM by pragmatica.

 

07/20/09 6:37 PM

Interesting article!

What I'd like to see is a comparison of healthy, quality food prices over the years. I have a feeling a lot of the cost savings comes from corn syrup and factory farming.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/20/2009 05:38PM by wendyology.

 

07/20/09 5:44 PM

There is no question that it is much more expensive to eat healthy. You can grab a fast food meal for less than $3 and these places advertise to this fact. Fatty, unhealthy foods are cheaper in the grocery store. I recently switched my diet dramatically and while I am eating less volume wise I am spending more to eat smart. It sucks, but as someone mentioned it's better to invest now in good health vs. spending later when you develop problems.

Interesting thread.

 

07/20/09 9:38 PM

While it is more expensive to buy healthy foods than junk foods, Americans would spend even less if they'd stop consuming such huge quantities of everything. Eating 1500-2000 calories a day of junk food certainly isn't as good as eating healthy foods, but it's better than eating 3000-4000 calories of junk food a day.

 

07/21/09 11:33 AM

jayetheartist posted:
While it is more expensive to buy healthy foods than junk foods, Americans would spend even less if they'd stop consuming such huge quantities of everything. Eating 1500-2000 calories a day of junk food certainly isn't as good as eating healthy foods, but it's better than eating 3000-4000 calories of junk food a day.

Right, and people have to understand the vast complex network of preferences internal to the U.S. that have wrought economies of scale in the direction of cheap unhealthy foodstuffs. It takes a little while for production to facilitate the consumer bias, I think we'll see (baring any other economic cataclysm) healthy foods start to fall in price; well, we already have as the rise of Whole Foods et al.

 

07/21/09 12:48 PM

I've noticed the prices on many foods coming down but not produce. I live in Michigan. We grow everything here but citrus fruits yet it costs $1.68 a pound for apples. On sale.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/21/2009 12:50PM by shakeitangel.

 

07/22/09 1:51 AM

I've noticed in the South produce is dropping too. I'm assuming the difference is to longer growing seasons even when you account for part of the summer being too hot to grow anything but you get a second growing season that can last in some places through December.

 

07/22/09 7:59 AM

jayetheartist posted:
While it is more expensive to buy healthy foods than junk foods, Americans would spend even less if they'd stop consuming such huge quantities of everything. Eating 1500-2000 calories a day of junk food certainly isn't as good as eating healthy foods, but it's better than eating 3000-4000 calories of junk food a day.

Yes indeed. I find one of the main problems with the food and restaurant industry is the default serving sizes are way too huge considering the calorie content.

It's worse in the USA, but even up here most restaurants serve more than an appropriate size of serving. People can easily and unknowingly get an entire day's worth of (mostly empty) calories in one fast food or restaurant meal.

I've seen some progress in the area of serving sizes in junk food. Sugary regular chocolate is now being replaced with more nutritious dark chocolate containing fibre, antioxidants, and iron, and correctly sized servings are being offered in ice cream fingers or chocolate bars - but the vast majority out there is still too big. One ice cream finger bar might contain 150 calories while a regular sized square one contains 450. It makes a huge difference for those who consume these things regularly.

One serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards. People shouldn't be getting served huge slabs of meat that provide two days worth of meat servings and fat unless they specifically ask for it.

Setting the default serving size to small would help a lot as then the onus in on the consumer to actively ask for more or to come back for more.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/22/2009 08:03AM by pragmatica.

 

07/22/09 8:26 AM

pragmatica posted:
jayetheartist posted:
While it is more expensive to buy healthy foods than junk foods, Americans would spend even less if they'd stop consuming such huge quantities of everything. Eating 1500-2000 calories a day of junk food certainly isn't as good as eating healthy foods, but it's better than eating 3000-4000 calories of junk food a day.

Yes indeed. I find one of the main problems with the food and restaurant industry is the default serving sizes are way too huge considering the calorie content.

It's worse in the USA, but even up here most restaurants serve more than an appropriate size of serving. People can easily and unknowingly get an entire day's worth of (mostly empty) calories in one fast food or restaurant meal.

I've seen some progress in the area of serving sizes in junk food. Sugary regular chocolate is now being replaced with more nutritious dark chocolate containing fibre, antioxidants, and iron, and correctly sized servings are being offered in ice cream fingers or chocolate bars - but the vast majority out there is still too big. One ice cream finger bar might contain 150 calories while a regular sized square one contains 450. It makes a huge difference for those who consume these things regularly.

One serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards. People shouldn't be getting served huge slabs of meat that provide two days worth of meat servings and fat unless they specifically ask for it.

Setting the default serving size to small would help a lot as then the onus in on the consumer to actively ask for more or to come back for more.

I do doggie bags. Bring it home eat it for lunch the next day. I can't eat a full restraunt meal. Some times I just don't bother ordering anything for my son and let him eat off my plate.

Nothing helps a diet more when you have a 2yo going through a growth spurt picking off your plate lol.

We did that when we went to a Teppan steak house *not to mention it was too costly to order for him too lol* HUGE servings of low fat, high veggie, med carb foods. My son ate at least half of my order and 1/4 of my husband's order easy. *unfortunately my daughter freaks out if we try to share food with her...*

 

07/23/09 10:24 PM

We(My girlfriend & I) spend approx $150-200 a week on food however all of our meat & veg is bought fresh from markets and we go weekly so we can eat fresh as much as possible. We enjoy good food so we generally spend more on quality produce rather than just buying sub-par food. I think due to families having to tighten their belts they are trying to economise in their food budget which causes people to generally buy lower quality produce.

I eat a lot of Kangaroo(LOL) and it is amazing! It's cheaper than steak much leaner and in my opinion tastes better. You just need to get past the fact you are eating skippy the bush kangaroo. Generally the serving is almost exactly what Prag said above about the size of a deck of cards so the portions work well too....

I don't know though is it that people place less emphasis on eating the right kind of food and the food they do eat is low quality and therefore cheaper or is it just to the tough financial times that people are economising on their food budget instead of in other areas?

 

07/24/09 2:34 AM

I rarely eat out any more and luckily I have the 99 cent store down the street. Can you believe I can pick up many veggies there? I've cut out eating much meat. I buy canned tuna or canned chicken. If I need protein I eat peanut butter sandwiches or peanuts. I don't snack on potato chips, I snack on popped corn. Not that bagged stuff you stick in the microwave either. I pop it myself so I know what goes into it. No chemicals.

It's crazy how the spending on food has decreased yet the obesity problem doesn't decline. Hmmm, wonder why? If you gotta eat fast food, eat smart fast food.

 

07/27/09 3:43 PM

pandora114 posted:

...Not here. I can get a huge wild caught salmon for about $10 here in Comox...Frozen at sea, at the Comox Fishermans Wharf. $20 pushing it.

Wait- there are people in Canada who don't catch their own salmon weekly in that giant stream behind their house? You mean all those images of Canada we see on TV are wrong??? O.o

And as cheap food goes, well, we have to have it that way today. How else could every man, woman, and child in the US afford to each have an iPhone, iPod, Nintendo DS, 2 computers, 3 tvs, wireless interwebs, and daily 4$ caramel lattes if we had to spend 24% of our disposable income on FOOD? Sheesh. Get with the times. These are daily necessities, just like milk and bread, right? And its not like the Chinese are just giving these things away to us, ya know.

 
nin forums : Current Events & Politics : Spending on food reaches hi...
Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum. Please log in at the top of the page.
 
terms of use | privacy policy