3 Ways Your Income Impacts Your Grocery Shopping Habits

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Food Choice

The BLS consumer expenditures survey breaks up consumer units into nine distinctive income categories, ranging from those who earn under $5,000 during a twelve-month period to those who earn in excess of $70,000. Within the lowest three income categories — those who earn less than $5,000, those who earn between $5,000 and $9,999, and those who earn between $10,000 and $14,999 — the overall food budget was within the same range of between $3,150 and $3,500, but food spending was highest within the lowest income group.

Within the lower income groups, spending on the various meats — beef, poultry, fish, pork, and other meats — is more evenly spread across each type. For instance, within the second lowest income group, around 23 percent of spending on meat was for beef products, around 23 percent went to pork products, about 22 percent went to poultry, 10 percent went to fish, and about 15 percent of spending was on other meats. The higher income groups spent a larger portion of their meat budget on beef and in some cases, fish. This may result from a tendency within lower income groups to shop based on sale prices, where higher income groups stick with their favorites, regardless of price.

Spending on fats, oils, and sweets was relatively similar across the various income levels, ranging from around 6 to 8 percent of grocery spending. Although some of the lower income groups spent a higher percentage of their total grocery budget on these items, the differences was not as marked as you may expect.

Surprisingly, those in the under $5,000 category had higher spending on fresh fruits and vegetables than some of the other income groups, however, those in the above $70,000 category had the highest spending on fresh fruits and veggies (as a percentage of their grocery bill.) In all income categories, spending on fresh produce exceeded spending on processed fruits and vegetables, however, certain income groups — particularly the middle earners — bought fewer of these processed goods.