23: Percent of Grocery Money Americans Spend on Processed Foods

New graphs from NPR on Americans' grocery-shopping habits are telling.

I love a good bar graph. It’s the latent math nerd in me, I think.

NPR posted a set of good (if depressing) ones online today comparing Americans’ grocery-shopping and spending habits today versus 30 years ago. Ready for this? Overall, less of our total spending (about 8 percent) goes to groceries than three decades ago, when grocery shopping ate up about 13 percent of our budgets. Since we’re clearly not eating less, I’m going to go ahead and say that probably speaks to our dining out habits more than anything else.

How we spend our money at the grocery store has also changed. Today, 22.9 percent of our grocery money goes to processed foods and sweets (chips, snacks, frozen dinners, candy); our 1982 counterparts spent about half that, just 11.6 percent on those low-nutrient foods. Interestingly, our fruits-and-vegetables spending is nearly identical—about 14.5 percent both now and 30 years ago. Meat spending is less now than then, but NPR says that’s because meat is cheaper now than it was three decades ago. Meat spending sucked up over 30 percent of grocery budgets in 1982; today it’s about 21 percent.

Check out all the graphs and charts over here.