A nearly 20% decline in spending on eating out occasions contributed to a 5% decline in food spending in 2020, according to the USDA.
In a report on food expenditures, the USDA said 2020 U.S. spending on food totaled about $1.56 trillion, 5.3% lower than the $1.65 trillion spent on food in the U.S. in 2019. Last year was only the second time annual total food expenditures decreased over the last 25 years.
The only other time spending decreased, notes the USDA, was in 2009 during the Great Recession.
The 2020 decrease in total food spending was driven by an 18.3% drop in spending at restaurants, cafeterias, and other eating-out places.
Because of the additional cost of eating away from home, that decrease outweighed an 8.5% jump in food-at-home (FAH) spending.
For the past 25 years, U.S. food annual total expenditures and the share of food-away-from-home showed steady increases, with the highest share of food away from home spending occurring during the summer months.
The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic limited mobility of U.S. consumers and led to an economic recession for most of 2020, disrupting historical trends in food spending,” the USDA report said.
In April 2020, U.S. consumers spent about two-thirds of their food dollars at food at home retailers (grocery outlets), the highest value on record.
The last quarter of 2020 saw monthly increases in food at home spending, an expected outcome of colder weather and holiday meal preparation, which resulted in record-high food at home spending in December.
On the other hand, food away from home spending decreased in November by 10% and showed a slight increase in December but remained well below 2019 levels.
“While COVID-19 vaccine distribution for select groups began in the United States in December 2020, the post-pandemic landscape of the food economy remains unclear,” the USDA said.