How are American Consumers Handling Rising Food Costs?

Consumers are coping with rising food prices in various ways. A recent poll shows people are clipping coupons, buying fewer name brand items, and shopping at discount/warehouse stores in an effort to keep the household budget in the black. Results of the poll are as follows:

How are you coping with rising food prices?

Additionally, several consumers left comments in response to the question about how they are coping with food prices that are increasing. Here are some of their comments:

  • “I still go to the same stores, but I definitely buy more store brands. A person has only so much money to work with and you gotta eat!”
  • “I’ve always clipped coupons bought generic brands. I also grow veggies in pots or in the garden.”
  • “I think it’s a shame hard working citizens have to work twice as hard to keep the same shirt on their backs.”
  • “Here in the U.S. we spend only 10% of our income on food compared to other countries that are as high as 90 percent. As a farmer, we strive to grow safe, high quality food. The cost of processing and transportation has the biggest effect on the prices we pay as consumers. I urge you to buy fresh products and local products. 82 percent of U.S. agricultural products are produced on farms owned by individuals, family partnerships, and family corporations. Non-family corporations account for only 18 percent of U.S. ag product sales.”
  • “If a product does not say ‘Made in the USA’ we do not purchase. We use coupons and mostly shop at warehouse stores. We eat fresh fruit and vegetables grown in the USA.”
  • “I am a dairy farmer and small egg producer and our income has risen very slightly and is not covering our feed costs. Farmers are not to blame for rising food costs. If people truly knew how we raise our animals to ensure the most safe, affordable food in the world they wouldn’t think we were so evil.”
  • “We are older and try to eat as healthy as we can but it is hard to pay the high cost of fresh fruit and vegetables. We try to use coupons or buy generic brands.”
  • “I grow my own vegetables and can them. I will soon look into buying from local ranchers as well.”
  • “I don’t have to do anything differently because I’ve always clipped coupons, shopped sales, and bought off-brands. I think most Americans could probably go with eating less food anyway.”
  • “Something has to be done about raising corn for ethanol. It doesn’t lower the cost of gas but food prices are rising.”“We ain’t seen nothing yet. Wait until the cost of the new ‘food safety’ bill takes hold.”

We asked Dr. Helen Jensen, an economics professor at Iowa State University, about the survey results and her thoughts on how American families are dealing with the higher cost of food. Click below to hear her comments.


In addition to the options listed in the survey, Jensen suspects people are also cutting back on food eaten or prepared away from home. Budget-minded consumers are opting for lower priced restaurants or buying takeout meals from grocery stores.

Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows the share of income spent on food is up slightly to around 13 percent – still low compared to other countries. Rising fuel prices and health care costs also are eating away at household budgets forcing many consumers to search for less expensive foods.

2010 Dietary guidelines emphasize more fruits and vegetables which in the consumer’s mind are more expensive. USDA data shows an adult can satisfy recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption for $2.50 daily.

Healthful, inexpensive foods are readily available in the U.S. marketplace but variety might be lacking. It is a challenge to eat a healthy diet and do so economically. As food prices continue to rise it will become increasingly difficult for families to meet federal dietary recommendations.

Image: “Dollars on a plate” by Tax Credits is licensed under CC BY 2.0.