It’s not uncommon to get sticker shock when you see your total at the grocery store, but this little fact will make you feel much better: 60 years ago, we spent twice as much on food. Using the latest data from the USDA’s long-time tracking of food expenditures, we charted the information going back just over six decades. The trend is obvious. Out of our total disposable income, Americans are spending a much smaller share on food.
The data is split into two categories: food consumed ‘away from home’ and ‘at home’. Each gives us further insights into how times have changed. While food prices as a whole have dropped, the country is now eating out far more often (with the most notable rise during the ‘70s fast-food boom). Even still, eating out is cheaper today than it was in the past. That McDonald’s hamburger you find on the Dollar Menu today cost just 15 cents in the 1950s. But the relative value in today’s dollars? $1.47.
Written by Benjamin Starr, Graphics By Visage