USDA research shows consumers are valuing efficiency and reduced costs in their food decisions.

That's according to the Food Expenditure Series from USDA's Economic Research Service, which compiles total food and beverage spending by American consumers. Spending is categorized as either food consumed at home or food consumed away from home, including restaurants and hotels.

According to an analysis of the data by the American Farm Bureau Federation, total nominal consumer spending in each category has increased since 1997. At-home spending grew from $376 billion to $1.047 trillion, a 178% increase. Away-from-home spending jumped from $336 billion to $1.343 trillion, nearly a 300% increase.

In more recent years, consumers have spent more on food outside the home than they have preparing it at home. Since 2015, Americans have spent over $100 billion per year more away from home than grocery stores, except for the 2020 anomaly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s easy to sign up for a FREE month of Agri-Pulse news! For the latest on what’s happening in Washington, D.C. and around the country in agriculture, just click here.

As efficient food service trends emerge, consumers respond favorably. Farm Bureau noted that, as quick-service restaurants and takeout options have become more efficient, consumers prefer them to preparing food at home. Last year, away-from-home food spending surpassed food-at-home spending by $300 billion. 

Within the food-at-home spending category, consumers have begun favoring the convenience and cost savings offered by bulk shopping centers. Last year, grocery stores made up 54.2% of food-at-home spending, whereas in 1997 they held a 72% share. Bulk shopping centers like Costco and Sam’s Club have grown their market share from 8% in 1997 to 25.5% in 2012.

For more news, visit