I spend less than the average American on food, buying almost nothing they do

November 25, 2020 by Joshua
in Entrepreneurship, Fitness

Thanksgiving means eating, often to excess, even if not with family during the pandemic. How about a post on food? I stumbled on a site with the Average Household Cost of Food, categorizing purchases, citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013. Out of 30 categories, I buy from only 4!

Here’s the average American budget. I put mine below. Before looking at mine, can you tell which 4 categories I buy? Most categories are doof and meat, neither of which I eat.

The average American seems privileged to buy so much they don’t need. No one has to buy any of the main category—nonalcoholic beverages. Come to think of it, if they buy alcoholic beverages on top, and of course the average spend is above zero, they spend even more.

These categories don’t include what I probably buy more by weight than anything else—among the healthiest and cheapest foods you can buy. I list that category below my table. Before looking, can you tell what I buy most of by weight that’s cheaper and healthier than anything like it, but that they don’t list?

Household Budget: Food at HomeAverage Annual Amount
Nonalcoholic beverages$384
Fresh fruits270
Other canned and prepared foods255
Fresh vegetables236
Other bakery products165
Milk and cream152
Sugar and sweets143
Condiments and seasonings138
Processed vegetables130
Frozen prepared foods130
Other meats119
Fish and seafood122
Fats and oils117
Potato chips and other snacks115
Processed fruits115
Cereals, ready to eat and cooked94
Other cereal products (including rice, pasta, flour and cornmeal)91
Ice cream and related products59
Misc. dairy products54
Canned and packaged soups45
Subtotal for Food at Home3,935
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013

Note their numbers are for a family of 2.5 people, so the average per person spends $1574 at home. The page cites that eating out adds another $2667 per household, which gives $2641 per person per year.

My budget

I got out my 2019 credit card totals. My 2019 food budget:

Coop: $1290
Summer/fall CSA: $695
Restaurants: $161
Other CSA: $240
Winter/spring CSA: $370
Farmers market: ~$200

Total: $2956

Presumably one of the 2.5 people in the average household is a woman with lower caloric needs and the 0.5 left over is a child, also with lower needs.

My caloric needs as 49 year old active male: 2,600 (health.gov)

Average caloric need for American: 2,400

Scaling the average American up by the ratio of caloric need: $2861, or 3 percent different than mine. Oh wait, I looked up the inflation rate between 2013 and 2019. It’s 10 percent, raising the American average man’s budget to $3147 in 2019 dollars. So I spent less. By a greater margin if we include alcohol.

I asked my friends how many meals I hosted for others and we estimated at least 50, so I fed more than me on my budget.

As always, accessibility is important to me. How I eat is accessible in food deserts with small adjustments.

My budget categorized

Have you guessed the four categories I bought from?

Household Budget: Food at HomeAverage Annual Amount
Nonalcoholic beverages$0
Fresh fruits400
Other canned and prepared foods0
Fresh vegetables1000
Other bakery products0
Milk and cream0
Sugar and sweets0
Condiments and seasonings200
Processed vegetables0
Frozen prepared foods0
Other meats0
Fish and seafood0
Fats and oils0
Potato chips and other snacks0
Processed fruits0
Cereals, ready to eat and cooked0
Other cereal products (including rice, pasta, flour and cornmeal)0
Ice cream and related products0
Misc. dairy products0
Canned and packaged soups0
Subtotal for Food at Home2604

Missing Category

Have you guessed the missing item?

Dried beans! I’d guess I spend probably around $800 a year on them since they’re most of what I get at the co-op. They’re around $2 to $4 per pound.

Where a lot of my food comes from

Here’s the actual farm where a lot of my food comes from. I may have eaten one of those kale plants, in which case, it became me. I can tell you it was delicious and affordable.

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3 responses on “I spend less than the average American on food, buying almost nothing they do

  1. Pingback: I’m not in great shape. I just spent nearly no time or money reaching the shape I want. » Joshua Spodek

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