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What and how much Americans spend on groceries - then (1982) versus now (2012)

Interesting compilation of what Americans spend on groceries in 1982 versus present day.

Also, be careful next time you say food prices are rising at an alarming rate.

Article here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/0...

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  1. Ah. Always the damned grapefruit, jacking prices up. ;)

    But seriously, an interesting article, thanks.

    1. No wonder I feel like I spend half my money on food - peppers are my favorites! Very interesting article and charts. The amount of money people spend on processed junk is truly alarming.

      2 Replies
      1. re: biondanonima

        I wonder if the peppers figure takes into account a shift from green bells to stoplight colors. A shift from using bells as a cooking ingredient to a colorful snacking item.

        1. re: paulj

          I haven't read the article yet, but it seems that the colorful peppers (red, yellow, orange) are 2 to 3 times more expensive than the green. That's how it is in Chile, at least.

      2. It's funny, I read the piece over the weekend and meant to go back and put it up here. It's a good one for this forum. Thank you for posting it.

        In my mind, I was wondering what people started spending more money on . . . then I realized, more dining out would mean less on groceries at home. Clearly, there's no data for it, but, doesn't it seem to make sense that part of "why" we're spending less on food to cook at home is also because of how "eating out" has become a more common, almost everyday, part of life? I mean, once upon a time, most of us viewed "goin' out to dinner" as a treat - a deserved splurge. Now, we have people writing articles, after exhaustive research, about how you can eat at home for less than going to the drive thru - they feel compelled to try and prove it!

        I also realized that one hell of a lot more of my spending goes to groceries than the average American. I guess, to paraphrase Mr. Clinton,* "it's just the 'hound in me!"

        * No, not Monica's Mr. Clinton.

        3 Replies
        1. re: MGZ

          I should add that it also does lend some support to the argument that the cheapness of food is making us fat.

          1. re: MGZ

            but the foods that have gotten cheapest are meats - and all low-carbers know that meat doesn't make you fat; it's bread (which hasn't gotten cheaper). :)

            Although the article has another plot that shows a growth in spending on processed foods, largely at the expense (as a %) of meats. On a per weight basis processed foods are not cheaper than unprocessed. It's hard to find, for example, a cracker, chip or cookie that costs less than $4/lb. On a per calorie bases they still are relatively cheap.

            If people are spending less, relatively, on food, what are they spending their income on? Health care and education costs keep rising. We have 'utilities' that we didn't 30 yrs ago - cell phone, internet, cable, etc.

            1. re: paulj

              As I posited above, it's only the amount being spent on groceries that declined. That doesn't necessarily mean a decrease in the amount spent on food, if we accept that eating out seems to have become a much more common practice.

        2. The article doesn't seem to address the fact that the items being compared then and now may in some cases be only nominally the same. Take "ground beef" produced using pink slime or ice cream produced with milk from cows treated with rBST and antibiotics, for instance.

          1. Well, the articles stats do seem convincing. However, anecdotal evidence does make me wonder. In 1982 I was a teenager dependent on my parents, so I wasn't doing much grocery shopping. However, I do remember how much more expensive groceries seem now than when I left the US in 1991. Also, my German grandparents used to be amazed how cheap food was in the US in the 70s and early 80s. By the 90s, they were commenting how they found it to be outstripping grocery prices in Germany. Today, I can say that Geman supermarkets seem (that's the key word) cheaper than the US ones--maybe not certain special goods like beef or potato chips, but vegetables, bread, cheese are all cheaper there. In the case of Germany, I'd also wager that they are cheaper in real costs when compared with 1982 due to the EU.

            1. The prices I see in my grocery stores are greater than most of what they show. What kind of steak are they referring to? I shop at several different stores, WF and a local chain of natural food stores called PCC, but even the more mainstream QFC has higher prices for many of those items. Perhaps it's a regional thing.

              2 Replies
              1. re: JuniorBalloon

                Prices in the NW are higher than the National averages, but even for our area regular QFC prices are shockingly high (although they can have some decent sales). More normal prices in our area are at Top, Safeway, Fred Meyer, Albertson's. The Times did a large rundown of chain market prices a while back and QFC was an outlier at the top of the scale (of regular markets) while these others were clustered in the middle of the average price range.

                WF, PCC, Larry's (now Met) and Central were way up in the stratospere, price-wise, for specialty markets at the top, while Grocery Oultet, Food 4 Less, Costco, Big Lots and some less-savory places were at the bottom.

                1. re: acgold7

                  I saw that article. It was very interesting. Since I mostly by raw ingredients, meats and veggies, I find that the quality scale is right there with the prices. At teh bottom is Albertsons, then Safeway, FredMeyer, QFC, WF and PCC is at the top. You get what you pay for.
                  For myself, I'm deffinitely spending more on food today than in 1982. Of course in 82 I was in college eating baked potatoes with margarine and top ramen. :o)