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As Food Spending Increases Across the U.S., More Americans Report They Don’t Have Enough to Eat

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Amid today’s financial uncertainty, many Americans are tightening their belts — but they’re also loosening their food budgets. According to the latest LendingTree study, food spending has risen 28% since May 2021, when consumer prices first rose at the fastest rate since 2008 during the Great Recession.

In this study, LendingTree researchers analyzed U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey data to determine how spending on food prepared and eaten at home and food prepared elsewhere (including eating out and delivery) has changed compared to last year.

In addition to looking at the states where food spending has risen most, we’ll highlight how much more consumers rely on credit to pay for it. Finally, with debt from food-related expenses becoming an increasing concern for consumers, stick around for expert tips on managing food budgets.

Key findings

  • U.S. households are spending 28.0% more on food now than in May 2021 — when inflation first rose at the fastest pace since summer 2008. Households report spending an average of $407.78 a week on food in June and July 2022, up from $318.69 in May 2021.
  • Spending on food prepared and eaten at home is up 30.8%, while food prepared elsewhere — including eating out and delivery — rose 21.6%. Most noteworthy, households spent $288.19 a week, on average, on food prepared at home in June and July 2022, up from $220.31 in May 2021.
  • The largest increase was in Delaware, where weekly food spending increased 44.9% to an average of $416.95 in June and July 2022, from $287.85 in May 2021. After Delaware are Montana and Vermont (both 42.3%). Arizona and Wyoming saw the smallest increases in weekly food spending despite still being high at 12.0% and 12.3%, respectively.
  • The percentage of Americans reporting food insufficiency — meaning they sometimes or often don’t have enough to eat in the previous week — is on the rise. From May 2021 to June and July 2022, food insufficiency increased from 9.1% to 11.9% — a jump of 30.8%.
  • Louisiana saw the largest increase in food insufficiency. From May 2021 to June and July 2022, food insufficiency rose from 8.9% to 19.0% in Louisiana — an increase of 10.1 percentage points. Following that, food insufficiency increased the most in Georgia (7.5 percentage points) and Oklahoma (7.2 percentage points).
Why we compared data from May 2021 to June and July 2022

To estimate where food spending rose the most in the U.S., LendingTree analysts compared self-reported weekly food budgets for two equal periods from the U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey.

Specifically, analysts looked at:

  • Survey Week 30: covering May 12 to 24, 2021
  • Survey Week 47: covering June 29 to July 11, 2022

We chose May 2021 because consumer prices rose 5% year over year that month, representing the largest rise since summer 2008.

Food spending is on the rise

U.S. households are now spending an average of $407.78 a week on food prepared and eaten at home or elsewhere, up 28.0% since May 2021. Comparatively, consumers were spending $318.69 in May 2021.

Those figures aren’t ordinary, either. May 2021 had seen the price of consumer goods rise by 5% year over year. At that point, prices hadn’t risen at a similarly fast rate since August 2008, when prices rose 5.4%. Notably, the 2008 rise in food prices occurred amid the Great Recession of 2007-09.

This rise in spending comes as Americans increasingly rely on credit cards or loans (including personal loans) to pay for their groceries. Consumers paid for an average of $308.10 in groceries on their credit cards or via loans during June and July 2022 — up from $232.42 in May 2021. At an increase of 32.6%, that makes these products the forms of payment with the largest jump. Similarly, consumers are using credit cards or loans to spend 23.1% more when dining out, ranking it third among those tracked during both periods.

Here’s a closer look:

Percentage increase in what consumers used in the past 7 days to meet spending needs

Payment typeSpending for food prepared and eaten at home — May 2021Spending for food prepared and eaten at home — June/July 2022% increaseSpending for food prepared and eaten elsewhere — May 2021Spending for food prepared and eaten elsewhere — June/July 2022% increase
Regular income sources$216.16$278.1928.7%$99.15$119.6220.7%
Credit cards or loans$232.42$308.1032.6%$103.35$127.1823.1%
Money from savings or selling assets or possessions$230.55$301.3430.7%$97.72$116.9719.7%
Borrowing from friends or family$250.19$323.9129.5%$103.99$119.6015.0%
Unemployment insurance (UI) benefit payments$245.03$318.9030.2%$96.72$123.1827.4%
Stimulus (economic impact) payment$242.37$309.6127.7%$98.83$136.7338.4%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey data

The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates four times in 2022 — most recently on July 27 — leaving consumers who use credit cards to pay for groceries more likely to take on debt.

According to LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz, this may not be the last rate hike consumers experience, either.

“The main weapon that the government uses to control inflation is interest rate hikes, and those aren’t likely to stop anytime soon,” he says.

Though difficult to predict how food prices may change, Schulz is cautiously optimistic.

“I’m hopeful that food prices will start to fall before too long,” Schulz says. “However, given ongoing supply chain issues and the possibility that some businesses may be raising prices on their own to reap a little bit of extra profit, nothing is guaranteed. The wisest course of action for people is to assume that prices are going to remain high for some time.”

Groceries vs. dining out: Where spending is rising the most

Spending on food prepared and eaten at home is up 30.8%, from an average of $220.31 in May 2021 to $288.19 in June and July 2022. Meanwhile, food prepared elsewhere rose 21.6% in the same period.

Inflation plays a role, but supply chain shortages likely also account for the skyrocketing prices of food prepared at home. In addition to the ongoing shortages caused by COVID-19, strong weather events, contentious world politics and a greater demand have also squeezed food supplies globally.

Still, despite the across-the-board rise in food prices, not every American is equally impacted. Let’s look at how food spending has changed by household groups.

Household income: Middle-class Americans spending more

For food prepared at home, spending rose the most for households making between $75,000 and $99,999 annually. Food spending for this group jumped from an average of $208.57 to $286.42 — an increase of 37.3%. Meanwhile, food spending increased the least for six-figure earners, as there was an increase of only 12.4% for those with household incomes of $200,000 or more.

Increase in food spending, by household income

Household incomeSpending for food prepared and eaten at home — May 2021Spending for food prepared and eaten at home — June/July 2022% increaseSpending for food prepared and eaten elsewhere — May 2021Spending for food prepared and eaten elsewhere — June/July 2022% increase
Less than $25,000$201.98$266.4331.9%$76.44$95.5325.0%
$25,000 to $34,999$201.61$271.4834.7%$82.48$97.2817.9%
$35,000 to $49,999$200.65$270.6334.9%$79.78$97.6522.4%
$50,000 to $74,999$204.46$272.2833.2%$83.06$101.4622.2%
$75,000 to $99,999$208.57$286.4237.3%$91.50$114.4125.0%
$100,000 to $149,999$221.40$292.3932.1%$103.54$128.8424.4%
$150,000 to $199,999$242.54$298.3223.0%$124.73$141.2513.2%
$200,000 and above$280.81$315.6812.4%$155.11$181.4917.0%
Didn’t report$249.86$324.8830.0%$121.35$143.7118.4%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey data

Those with household incomes between $75,000 and $99,999 also increased spending for food prepared outside of the home by a quarter (25.0%) — tying with households making less than $25,000. Meanwhile, those making between $150,000 to $199,999 saw the lowest increase at 13.2%.

Although middle-class Americans are more likely to increase their food spending the most, low-income households are likely more impacted by the rise in flood prices. Middle-class families typically have more discretionary spending in their food budgets throughout the year, meaning a large portion of their increasing food budgets may be because it’s more convenient to spend extra rather than seek cheaper alternatives.

Meanwhile, access to food may be one explanation for why those with lower incomes have experienced higher increases in food prices than high-income households. On average, low-income households are less likely to have access to supermarkets, which typically offer lower prices and a greater range of brands, package sizes and quality choices.

Household size: Single Americans most impacted by rising food prices

By household size, spending increased the most for Americans living independently. Between May 2021 and June and July 2022, spending on food prepared in the home rose from an average of $122.60 to $167.34 — an increase of 36.5% — for single-person homes. Meanwhile, spending increased the least for households with five people, rising from $297.60 to $361.01— an increase of 21.3%.

Here’s how grocery spending rose for other household sizes:

  • 2-person households: $174.76 to $232.36 (33.0% increase)
  • 3-person households: $219.69 to $297.75 (35.5% increase)
  • 4-person households: $251.40 to $334.04 (32.9% increase)
  • 6-person households: $311.53 to $414.30 (33.0% increase)
  • Households with 7 or more people: $326.78 to $413.85 (26.6% increase)

Those living on their own also saw the largest increase in spending for food prepared outside the home. Spending rose 37.4% in the same time frame, from an average of $54.62 to $75.03. On the other hand, spending increased the least for households of seven or more people, going from $135.35 to $153.04 — an increase of 13.1%. The percentage for households of five people wasn’t that much higher, at an increase of 13.5%.

That compares with:

  • 2-person households: $80.50 to $101.85 (26.5% increase)
  • 3-person households: $101.05 to $122.07 (20.8% increase)
  • 4-person households: $115.95 to $141.18 (21.8% increase)
  • 6-person households: $125.11 to $160.11 (28.0% increase)

Living alone is generally more expensive, particularly compared to larger households. This is particularly true for groceries — the per-unit price for many items goes down when consumers buy in bulk, as many large families often do. While there are some items a single-person household can buy in bulk, such as cleaning products or other household necessities, many can’t reasonably purchase food products in bulk without much of it going bad before it’s eaten.

Delaware saw the largest increase in food spending

Not all U.S. states are equally impacted by rising food costs, either. By state, consumers in Delaware saw the largest increase in overall food spending (including food prepared at home and elsewhere), rising from an average of $287.85 to $416.95 — that’s an increase of almost 45%. Following that, Montana and Vermont saw the second-largest increase in food spending, at 42.3% each.

Percentage increase in food spending, by state

RankStateTotal food spending — May 2021Total food spending — June and July 2022% change
1Delaware$287.85$416.9544.9%
2Montana$280.18$398.7342.3%
2Vermont$240.77$342.5742.3%
4South Dakota$281.56$392.4239.4%
5Kansas$262.15$361.6838.0%
6Maine$259.72$356.7037.3%
7Massachusetts$303.52$415.9037.0%
8District of Columbia$317.96$434.2236.6%
9Connecticut$307.08$419.0136.4%
10Michigan$290.25$395.6436.3%
11Pennsylvania$277.68$377.8136.1%
12North Dakota$290.56$390.6434.4%
13North Carolina$288.28$387.2034.3%
14Mississippi$302.02$405.3234.2%
15Illinois$305.90$408.9133.7%
16New York$343.68$454.0132.1%
17Texas$332.25$438.2331.9%
18Ohio$272.53$358.3731.5%
19Arkansas$281.61$370.0631.4%
20Wisconsin$252.14$327.8930.0%
21Oklahoma$300.06$387.7329.2%
22Alabama$320.94$413.3628.8%
22Georgia$312.33$402.2528.8%
24California$369.41$475.5328.7%
25New Jersey$336.24$431.2028.2%
26Nebraska$285.26$364.9327.9%
26New Mexico$313.97$401.4427.9%
28Louisiana$347.48$442.4427.3%
29South Carolina$306.01$389.0727.1%
30Iowa$276.72$349.6926.4%
31Virginia$314.50$397.3126.3%
32Nevada$341.60$429.5825.8%
33Oregon$300.25$377.1625.6%
34Colorado$309.37$385.0224.5%
35Indiana$279.18$346.3224.0%
35Rhode Island$299.70$371.5524.0%
37Minnesota$277.17$343.1123.8%
38Idaho$297.07$364.3822.7%
39Kentucky$286.46$349.6422.1%
40Florida$349.19$425.5421.9%
41Washington$340.96$413.5021.3%
42Utah$317.35$384.7221.2%
43New Hampshire$294.07$352.7219.9%
44West Virginia$294.27$345.5817.4%
45Tennessee$327.63$383.4017.0%
46Missouri$300.99$350.5216.5%
47Maryland$327.33$379.1515.8%
47Hawaii$422.59$489.4315.8%
49Alaska$387.53$437.7112.9%
50Wyoming$312.10$350.4812.3%
51Arizona$336.45$376.9212.0%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey data

Meanwhile, Arizona saw the smallest increase in food spending, rising from an average of $336.45 to $376.92 — an increase of 12.0%. Following that, Wyoming saw a 12.3% rise in food spending, while Alaska saw a 12.9% increase.

Food insufficiency is also on the rise

Food insufficiency is also increasing across the U.S. The percentage of Americans who sometimes or often don’t have enough to eat in a week increased from 9.1% in May 2021 to 11.9% in June and July 2022 — a jump of 30.8%.

By state, Louisiana saw the largest increase in food insufficiency by percentage point change. In May 2021, 8.9% of residents in Louisiana reported they sometimes or often don’t have enough to eat, which rose to 19.0% in June and July 2022. That’s an increase of 10.1 percentage points. Following that, food insufficiency increased the most in Georgia and Oklahoma, rising by 7.5 percentage points and 7.2 percentage points, respectively.

The three states with the largest jumps in food scarcity all have median annual incomes below the national average. While the median annual income across the U.S. is $64,994, the median annual income in Louisiana is $50,800 — the lowest of the three. In Georgia and Oklahoma, the median annual incomes are $61,224 and $53,840, respectively.

Percentage increase in food scarcity, by state

RankStateFood scarcity rates — May 2021Food scarcity rates — June and July 2022Percentage point change
1Louisiana19.0%8.9%10.1
2Georgia16.5%9.0%7.5
3Oklahoma17.0%9.8%7.2
4Kentucky15.9%8.8%7.1
5Arkansas14.5%7.9%6.6
6North Dakota13.2%7.2%6.0
7New Jersey14.1%8.2%5.9
8Montana15.3%9.5%5.8
9Indiana12.7%7.0%5.7
10Colorado10.5%5.2%5.3
10Wyoming11.3%6.0%5.3
12Utah10.8%5.6%5.2
13Michigan14.2%9.2%5.0
13South Dakota9.9%4.9%5.0
15New Mexico12.8%8.0%4.8
15Hawaii10.5%5.7%4.8
17Rhode Island13.2%8.5%4.7
18Nebraska12.2%7.6%4.6
19Delaware7.9%3.8%4.1
20Mississippi18.7%14.7%4.0
21Missouri10.7%6.9%3.8
21Maryland12.0%8.2%3.8
21Alabama18.3%14.5%3.8
24Illinois10.3%6.6%3.7
24Pennsylvania11.0%7.3%3.7
24Iowa14.2%10.5%3.7
24West Virginia11.8%8.1%3.7
28Texas14.6%11.4%3.2
28Massachusetts8.6%5.4%3.2
30New Hampshire7.4%4.4%3.0
31Oregon11.4%8.7%2.7
32Florida14.7%12.1%2.6
33Tennessee11.8%9.3%2.5
34Idaho10.8%8.4%2.4
34Nevada11.3%8.9%2.4
34Kansas8.5%6.1%2.4
37North Carolina9.0%6.7%2.3
38Minnesota7.2%5.0%2.2
39Connecticut11.0%9.0%2.0
40Maine7.8%6.6%1.2
41Arizona8.9%7.8%1.1
42Ohio11.8%11.0%0.8
43South Carolina11.3%10.7%0.6
44District of Columbia12.9%12.5%0.4
44Vermont5.8%5.4%0.4
46Wisconsin6.7%6.7%0.0
47New York11.5%11.6%-0.1
48California10.2%10.6%-0.4
49Washington5.3%6.2%-0.9
50Virginia8.3%9.3%-1.0
51Alaska7.4%9.0%-1.6

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey data

Meanwhile, five states saw a decrease in food insufficiency. In Alaska, food insufficiency decreased by 1.6 percentage points. Virginia, the only other state that recorded a decrease of at least 1 percentage point, saw food insufficiency drop by 1.0 percentage points. Following that, Washington state saw the third-largest decline at 0.9 percentage points.

The three states that saw the largest decreases in food scarcity have annual median incomes above the national median. Alaska’s median income — $77,790 — is the highest among the three states. Meanwhile, the annual median incomes in Virginia and Washington are $76,398 and $77,006, respectively.

3 tips to budget for food amid inflation

With food spending on the rise, Americans feel the financial burden of food prices.

“Rising food prices have a profound effect on consumers,” Schulz says. “When grocery bills jump significantly in a relatively short period, it can be really unnerving, especially if you’re already living paycheck to paycheck on a tight budget. You can’t just cancel your food bill like a gym membership. You have to find a way to reduce your food costs by shopping around, making sacrifices elsewhere in your budget or both. That’s the situation lots of Americans are facing right now.”

Rising food prices may have an uncontrollable impact on consumers, but Schulz notes that there are ways to ease the financial burden. Particularly, he offers these three tips:

  • Shop around. Schulz advises that comparing prices at the grocery stores in your area can be the best way to control costs, although it can be tough because your options may be limited where you live. Still, if you’re struggling to make ends meet and have other grocery options, it may be worth considering what’s available.
  • Consider switching to generic or store brands. While your options may also be limited here, switching to lower-priced generic or store brands can help you stay within your budget.
  • The right credit card can extend your budget. However, Schulz warns that credit cards can make it easier to overspend. “It’s vital that you use the card wisely, but a little bit of cash back on a credit card can be helpful,” Schulz says. “It may only be 1% or 2% back, which doesn’t seem like much when prices are rising by 5% or 10%, but every little bit helps.”

Methodology

To estimate where food spending rose the most in the U.S., LendingTree analysts compared weekly food budgets for two periods.

Specifically, analysts compared self-reported weekly food spending from Week 30 of the U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey — covering May 12-24, 2021 — to the same figures in Week 47 of the survey — covering June 29-July 11, 2022. We chose May 2021 because consumer prices rose 5% year over year that month, representing the largest rise since summer 2008. States were ranked based on the largest percentage change between these periods.

Researchers also analyzed Household Pulse Survey data on food insufficiency, meaning respondents reported sometimes or often not having enough to eat in the previous week. States were ranked based on the largest percentage point changes between these periods.

 

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