September 6, 2010

Household Income and Food Expenditure

Before I take you down the rat hole of macro-economic gobbledy-gook, it is important to remind everyone that statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, what they conceal is vital. At first blush, I found these numbers very difficult to believe but after triangulating the information with Census Bureau data, I have come to accept the dismal truth of our macro-economic conundrum.

To get at how much people actually spend on food, I looked at average expenditure data by households. Here is a good illustration to help visualize where our household incomes go:

Unfortunately, this graphic shows a “before tax income” of $63,091 so technically these folks are already in the hole at their current rate of spendingof $49,638 per year – a fact we know to be true in this country based on our negative savings rates.

The graph suggests that consumers spend an average of $6,133 per year on the physical necessity of food. An average of 56% ($3,465) of the total is spent on food consumed at home, while 44% ($2,668) of it is spent on food consumed away from home. Combined, food expenditure constitutes 12.4 percent of the entire yearly household budget.

If we used this data to establish our daily spending budget, we’d find ourselves in a real pickle. I’m using the 3 whole people in my family while the chart report 2.5 people in this fractional family.

$6,133 / 52 weeks = $117.94 per week = $16.84 per day = $5.61 per person/per day!

Wow! Maybe this will be a good challenge for an upcoming week but, based on my experience so far, I don’t think Eating in 3D is viable at $5.61 per person per day. Or, if it is, it would be so limiting that sustaining the practice would be difficult.

So, for the purposes of this experiment, we have chosen a more manageable $10/per person/per day. Preliminary findings indicate that we can be successful at this expenditure but not without significant changes to our food habits.

Please note, however, that $10/person/day is not remoately viable for many, many families. On a state level, Maryland tops the income chart with $70,545/year while Mississippi trails behind at just $37,790/year. (Link: Imagine - that gives a Mississippi family less than $13 per day to spend on food. Is it a coincidence that Mississippi earned the distinction of most obese State in 2010 with nearly 34% of the population qualifying. (

Do you know what you are spending on food per week? per month? annually?

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