According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, American families on average spent $6,133 on food in 2007; $6,443 in 2008; and $6,372 in 2009. The survey included 121,000 homes with an average of 2.5 people living in each.
The study further revealed that most Americans spend nearly half of their food budget eating out, while a little more than half was spent preparing food at home.
Budget and Income
The average American family food budget varies according to income level. In November 2010, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported on the relationship between food expenditures and household income. Income was broken down into 5 levels, with the highest income bracket with a pretax income of $93,784 and above representing the highest 20 percent.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the highest 20 percent income level families spent an estimated $10,780 on food in 2010. The second-highest 20 percent income level spent an estimated $7,522 on food. The third-highest 20 percent income group spent $5,482 and the second highest 20 percent spent $4,568. Compared with the lowest 20 percent income, with an annual food budget of $3,501.
Families in the lowest 20 percent income level spent the most on preparing food at home, an estimated 70 percent of their food budget, whereas families in the highest income group split their food almost evenly between eating at home and eating out.
Geography and Food Prices
According to the study, Hardships in America: The Real Story of Working Families, lower income families pay more for food because of where they live. The majority of low-income families reside in urban and rural areas, which necessitate shopping at smaller grocery stores that mark up their prices 10 percent on average above the larger supermarkets. Generally, food prices in urban and rural areas are an average of 4 percent higher than in suburban areas.
As of 2000, the Food Research and Action Center estimates that 31 million people living in the United States do not have enough to eat. Many of these people experience hunger regularly.
In California, for example, 1.3 million residents experienced hunger. According to the Hardships in America study, people were short on food due to rent, mortgage, and unexpected medical bills.
Lower-income, working-class families often do not apply for federal food stamps because they falsely assume that they are ineligible, and that they have no time to apply.
To find out if you are eligible, contact your local food stamp office. You can also contact the United States Department of Agriculture -- USDA -- toll free at 800-221-5689 and leave a voice mail with your name and address to receive information about food stamp eligibility by mail.