According to the booklet "Farm Facts," published by the American Farm Bureau, it takes about 40 days for average Americans to earn enough disposable income to pay for food consumed at home and away from home for an entire year. By way of contrast, Tax Freedom Day is April 27. This is how long it takes average Americans to earn enough money to pay federal, state, and local taxes for the year.
Food is very affordable in the United States, compared to other nations. The percent of income spent on food consumed at home is 7.1% in the United States, compared to 10.2% in England, 14.9% in Australia, 15.9% in Japan, 19.2% in Italy, 24% in Mexico, and 48.4% in India. Countries with lower average incomes spend a higher percentage of income on food.
Even though food expenses are relatively low in the U.S., compared to items such as housing expenses, transportation, car loan payments, and health care, they are still a major item in most family budgets. Food is also a "variable" expense compared with fixed budget items such as insurance premiums, rent, and loan payments. Below is a list of ways to reduce the cost of food:
· Don't buy food on credit cards, at the supermarket or at restaurants, if you revolve a balance and will pay interest charges.
· Cut your own meat, vegetables, fruit, salads, etc. to save on packaging costs.
· Serve smaller portions. Not only does this save money, but it is also better for your health. Currently about 31% of Americans are obese, which is defined as 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight. About 65% of Americans are either obese or overweight (10 or more pounds over healthy weight). Larger portion sizes are often cited as a major cause of weight problems.
· Avoid food waste. Freeze leftovers if there is a good chance that refrigerated food could be thrown out before it can be eaten.
· Use fewer convenience foods by cooking main dishes in batches, when you have time, and freezing them.
· Control food costs when eating out. Share an entrée or dessert, eat appetizers as a main dish, take advantage of coupons or specials, and take leftovers home for another meal.
· Stock up on items when they are on sale (e.g., canned goods) or in season (e.g., New Jersey grown blueberries that are very inexpensive in July).
· Check food-dating labels to avoid buying food that will spoil quickly.
· Use store and manufacturers coupons. Also try to score a "double play" by using coupons on items that are also on sale.
· Compare the cost of national brand items with a coupon to store brand items and buy the cheapest item. Sometimes the items are even identical, except for the label and the price.
· Eat before food shopping. Hungry shoppers often buy more because everything looks and smells delicious on an empty stomach.
· Limit food shopping at convenience stores due to their higher price markups.