The Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has conducted a series of studies on the food expenditures of Americans during the 1990s, and the data reveal some interesting trends.


  • Food spending in the United States rose 4.9 percent between 1998 and 1999, to $788.6 billion.
  • Total expenditures for eating away from home rose from $352.6 billion in 1998 to $374.7 billion in 1999. This 6.3 percent increase is the largest yearly increase in spending on food away from home since 1990.
  • Retail food expenditures for home consumption increased by 3.8 percent, from $398.9 billion in 1998 to $413.9 in 1999.
  • The average U.S. household spent about $2,037 per person on food in 1998, up 17 percent from the average expenditure in 1990.
  • Per-household expenditures for food purchased at supermarkets and other food stores rose 18 percent from 1990 to 1998, with the largest increases in spending for cereal and bakery products, up 22 percent, fruits and vegetables, up 22 percent, sugar and sweets, up 34 percent and miscellaneous foods, up 25 percent.
  • The amount of money the average family spent for food away from home rose 15 percent between 1990 and 1998.
  • Total foodservice sales grew by 49 percent, from $228 billion in 1990 to $339 billion in 1999.