Generations of Americans who gathered around a kitchen table for home-cooked meals would be puzzled by the way we eat today: As of last year, we now spend more on food at restaurants than we do on supermarket groceries—a reversal of a decades-old pattern.
Spending on food in both categories is up in recent years. But retail sales at eating establishments have grown much faster.
The fact that we’re spending more on restaurants than on groceries, Quartz.com points out, reflects the growing number of women in the workforce.
Another factor is the low rate of inflation on food, which not only dampens the total amount spent on groceries, but also leaves us with more cash to take to the pizza parlor, steakhouse, or fast food drive-thru. Recent spikes in meat and dairy prices have eased, and competition between traditional supermarkets and Walmart have resulted in lower prices for shoppers.
Meanwhile, the amount we spend on food outside the home has risen from about 26% in 1970 to 43% in 2012, and there’s no indication this “new normal” will reverse anytime soon.