Not-So-Smart Spending

grocery shopping, snack foods

You’d think that between all of the diet foods, weight-loss endorsements, cycling enthusiasts and aspiring yogis, our country is well on our way to healthy. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

In a recent study by Planet Money’s Graphing America on NPR , Americans today are spending a majority — nearly 23% — of their grocery bill on processed foods and sweets. And while the term ‘processed’ may sound foreign, an increasing amount of Americans are incorporating these ‘fake’ foods –frozen dinners, canned soups and sugary snacks—into their diets.

The analysis compares the spending tendencies of today to our habits nearly thirty years ago, in 1982. Then, meats made up 31.3% of the grocery bill followed by fruits and veggies. In the time before Splenda, however, processed foods ranked fifth (11.6%) in terms of spending.

grocery statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Photo: Lam Thuy Vo/NPR

Today, sweets have taken precedent as more and more shoppers head straight for the center aisles. Ironically, the study also suggests that not only are Americans making less healthy choices, but they’re also spending less on groceries than they did three decades ago—thirteen percent versus eight percent today.

Proponents of processed food can argue that their fake fare is more affordable; but the time-tested numbers reveal that spending decreases while waistlines soar. A simple solution for great food and an even better health? Researchers say it’s simple: stick to the perimeter. Choose foods from the meat counter, vegetable stand and dairy section. Not only will you acquaint yourself with new foods and recipes, but chances are you won’t find Oreos next to the turkey burgers.

Tell us, what do you shop for?