Thursday, June 5, 2014

Are We Expecting Too Much?

You know how it is after you go out of town for a week or so? You come home to a cavernous fridge and pantry and have to go and buy what feels like, the entire grocery store! You have stock up. I did that last week and as I was checking out, felt the pain that comes with seeing your grocery bill get higher and higher with every “beep” of the register. It is extra torturous when they turn the register screen so you can watch as money flies out of your wallet. 

I have been watching the egg prices go up recently and it makes me nervous. Not too long ago I was paying less than a dollar for a dozen eggs, but just last week those same eggs were $2.09 a dozen. Ouch. It got me thinking about food prices and how much we spend on groceries. Any time I talk with students (or anyone for that matter) about eating healthy, they say they would like to eat healthy, but do not do so because it is so expensive. Budgets I understand, my husband and I lived off $20.00 a week for groceries for many years when we were first married.  BUT overall, maybe our expectations for what eating healthy should cost, are unrealistic?

Let’s do a little global comparison on how much people spend on food around the world. If we take a look at spending statistics we will see that Americans spend by far the least amount of their income of food. Check out this map - particularly the developed countries – This chart shows that according the USDA (2010) Americans spend less than 7 percent of their income on food and also have the highest rates of obesity (over 30%).  England spends only 8.8 percent of their income on food and ranks 3rd in obesity rates (23%) worldwide. Conversely, Koreans spend about 15% of their income (double the US) on food and have very low obesity rates (about 3%). It could be inferred that the more money someone spends on their food, the healthier the food they are able to buy and thus they experience a lower rate/risk of obesity.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011), Americans are spending the least (percentage wise) than ever on food. In the 1960’s Americans were spending just over 16% of their income on food. Now, we are spending less than 7%. It appears there is an inverse relationship between how much we spend and how much we weigh… If we want to have a healthy diet and healthy body perhaps it is more of an issue of re-prioritizing what we spend on money on...

What do you all think?

Dr. Emily Boldrin PhD, RD

United States Department of Agriculture. (2010). Euromonitor data [Data file]. Retrieved from

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2011). Consumer expenditure survey [Data file]. Retrieved from


Megan M. H. said...

This post made me curious so I did some calculating to figure out that I spend about 18% of my monthly income on food! A large majority of the foods I purchase are whole foods, mostly fresh fruits and vegetables. I feel like I am a pretty savvy shopper...I shop around for deals, buy things that are in season, and rather than going by a set list I look for items that are on special and plan meals around them. I have heard many times that buying healthy food is much more expensive than the junk food, but to be honest I don't find it that challenging at all. Not to mention when you look at it from a quality stand point, both in taste and nutritional status, you certainly get the most bang for your buck!

Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness said...

You do spend a good portion of your income on food and you bring up a great point about the quality of food. My feelings are that you are either going to pay for it now or pay for it later. Might as well pay now so you can enjoy it instead of suffer through medical problems. Were you always diligent in spending so much of your income on food?

Leslie Young said...

Emily- This was an eye opening article/ blog post.
Very interesting topic. It really made me think about things. I did a rough estimate of what we spend on food (groceries/ eating out) and then did a rough estimate of our BRING HOME income (I am assuming that is what they based the study on---money that is actually brought home after taxes and everything else is taken out)??? Well, guess where we fall.........around 8.5% I am sure I could stand to buy a few healthier foods we will end up saving money in the LONG run due to the health benefits.

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