Statistics Canada - Statistique Canada
Skip main navigation menuSkip secondary navigation menuHomeFrançaisContact UsHelpSearch the websiteCanada Site
The DailyCanadian StatisticsCommunity ProfilesProducts and servicesHome
CensusCanadian StatisticsCommunity ProfilesProducts and servicesOther links

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

Media Room Search The Daily View or print The Daily in PDF format. Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader The Daily archives Latest release from the Labour Force Survey Latest release from the Consumer Price Index Recently released products Latest economic indicators Release dates Get a FREE subscription to The Daily Information about The Daily The Daily
Friday, February 21, 2003

Household spending on food


Canadian households spent almost the same amount on food in 2001 as in 1996, according to new data from the Food Expenditure Survey. However, growing preference for eating out during this five-year period has changed how food dollars were spent.

In 2001, households spent an average of $124 a week on food in either stores or restaurants, an amount similar to five years earlier when inflation is taken into account.

Percentage of total weekly food expenditure per household
  1982 1986 1992 1996 2001
Total food 100 100 100 100 100
Food purchased from restaurants 25 27 30 28 30
Food purchased from stores 75 73 70 72 70

For every dollar households spent on food in 2001, 30 cents went to restaurant meals, up from 28 cents five years earlier. The share spent in stores declined correspondingly, from 72 cents of every dollar in 1996 to 70 cents in 2001. In 1982, restaurant spending accounted for 25 cents out of every dollar spent on food.

In 2001, households spent an average of almost $38 a week in restaurants and $86 on food purchased in stores.

Average weekly food expenditure per household
  1982 1986 1992 1996 2001
Constant dollars
Total food 120 128 130 124 124
Food purchased from restaurants 35 39 39 34 38
Food purchased from stores 85 89 90 90 86

In 2001, almost 60% of restaurant spending took place in table-service restaurants, compared with 26% in fast-food restaurants (including take-out) and less than 10% each in cafeterias and other types of restaurants such as snack bars and chip wagons.

Note to readers

The Food Expenditure Survey was conducted monthly throughout 2001 from a sample of about 8,400 private households in urban and rural areas of the 10 provinces, as well as in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit. Respondents were asked to keep a two-week diary recording all their expenditures on food, the quantity purchased and the type of store or restaurant where the purchase was made.

Previous national surveys were conducted for 1969, 1982, 1986, 1992 and 1996. Data from 1996 in this release have been revised to reflect the current estimation method.

The primary purpose of the survey is to update the weighting of the basket of goods and services used for the Consumer Price Index.

Comparisons of expenditures are based on constant 2001 dollars. All figures have been rounded. The averages for Canada presented in this article do not include Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit.

For 2001, detailed information about income was not collected, so the analysis uses income groups and not quintiles. Because the sample size was lower than in previous surveys, provincial data are not available for individual Atlantic and Prairie provinces.

Contributing factors to increases or decreases in the average expenditure per household for a given expenditure category are changes in price, quality or amount purchased, or a combination of any or all of these.

More than 80 cents of every food dollar spent in stores in 2001 was spent in a supermarket. Specialty food stores, convenience stores and other types of stores such as department stores or drug stores were well behind, with less than 10 cents each of that dollar.

Single men prefer eating out

Men who lived alone spent the highest proportion of their food budget in restaurants. Not surprisingly, couples with children spent the highest amount each week on total food purchases.

The survey showed that a couple with at least one child spent on average $171 a week on food purchases in 2001. Of every dollar families spent on food, 28 cents went to restaurant meals and 72 cents went to stores. That compares with 25 cents and 75 cents respectively in 1996.

On the other hand, men living alone spent just under $72 a week on food in 2001. They spent 40 cents of every dollar in restaurants and 60 cents in stores, not significantly different from 1996.

Lone-parent families headed by a woman spent an average of $99 a week on food. They, too, were eating out more, spending 27 cents of every food dollar in restaurants, up from 22 cents five years earlier.

Restaurant spending covers meals in table-service, fast-food or cafeteria style establishments, and also take-out food or snacks from snack bars, vending machines and chip wagons.

Weekly food expenditure for selected types of households


  Percentage spent in restaurants Percentage spent in stores Average weekly expenditure per household
% $
All households 30 70 124
One-person 35 65 66
40 60 72
    65 and over
38 62 60
31 69 62
    65 and over
23 77 55
All couple households 29 71 153
  Couple without children
32 68 122
  Couple with children1
28 72 171
  Couple, both 65 and over
26 74 115
Lone-parent 29 71 103
27 73 99
1Children of any age who are single (never-married); includes foster children.

All income groups dined out more

Weekly spending on food ranged from an average of $66 for households with incomes less than $20,000, to $203 for households with incomes of $80,000 or more.

Well over half of households in the lowest income group consist of individuals living alone, compared with less than 10% of households in the highest income group. To improve comparisons between lowest and highest income households, expenditures can also be expressed on a per person basis.

Individuals in the lowest household income group spent an average of $39 a week per person on food, compared with $59 a week for those in the highest income group. Those in the lowest income group spent 23 cents of every food dollar on restaurant meals and 77 cents in stores; in contrast, those in the highest income group spent 36 cents in restaurants and 64 cents in stores.

Individuals in the highest income group purchased meals from restaurants on average twice a week, compared to once a week for those in the lowest income group.

The proportion of the food budget spent in stores for each food category was similar in every income group.

right click the chart to save it.

Households prefer convenience

The proportion of each household food dollar spent in stores in the "other foods, materials and food preparations" category increased from about 6 cents in 1982 to almost 10 cents in 2001. The average expenditure in this category in 2001 was an estimated $8 per week. This category includes a wide variety of items, from frozen pre-cooked dinners and baked goods, to peanut butter, potato chips, soups and baby foods.

In 2001, frozen pre-cooked dinners and baked goods accounted for 31 cents of every dollar spent on other foods, materials and food preparations, compared with 26 cents in 1996.

Households devoted an estimated 20 cents of every food dollar spent in stores to meat in 2001 ($17 a week on average), down from 22 cents in 1996 and 27 cents in 1982. Of every dollar spent on meat in 2001, 30 cents went to beef, 24 cents went to poultry and 15 cents went to pork, veal or lamb. Approximately 31 cents went to other meats and meat preparations such as cold cuts, sausages, and ready-cooked meats. Only 38% of households reported buying beef in 2001, compared with 43% of households in 1996.

In 2001, households in Canada spent an estimated average of $13 a week on dairy products and eggs. This category accounts for a smaller share of the food store budget, down from 18 cents for every dollar in 1982 to 15 cents in 2001.

More households than ever before are buying yogurt. The percentage of households that purchased yogurt jumped from 9% in 1996 to 22% in 2001.

Weekly food expenditure spent in stores
  Percentage of total weekly food expenditure Average weekly expenditure per household
1982 1996 2001
% $
Food purchased from stores 100 100 100 86
Meat 27 22 20 17
Fish and other marine products 3 3 3 3
Dairy products and eggs 18 16 15 13
Bakery and other cereal products 13 15 15 13
Fruits and nuts 10 11 11 10
Vegetables 9 9 10 9
Condiments, spices and vinegar 2 3 3 3
Sugar and sugar preparations 2 3 4 3
Coffee and tea 3 2 2 1
Fats and oils 2 1 1 1
Other foods, materials and food preparations 6 8 10 8
Non-alcoholic beverages 3 5 4 3
On trips overnight or longer 2 1 3 3

Food spending increases east to west

Across Canada, weekly food spending ranged from $109 on average in the Atlantic provinces to $132 in British Columbia.

In 2001, British Columbian households spent 33 cents of every food dollar dining out - 3 cents above the Canadian average. By contrast, households in the Atlantic provinces allocated 25 cents of every food dollar to restaurant meals. In 1996, spending in restaurants showed a similar pattern, with British Columbian households spending 32 cents of every food dollar on restaurant food compared with 23 cents for Atlantic households.

Households in Atlantic Canada devoted the highest proportion of their food expenditures in stores to meat in 2001, at 21 cents for every dollar. British Columbians allocated the provincial low of 17 cents, approximately 3 cents below the national average. In 1996, this pattern was similar.

A table presenting summary data on food spending by region is available free on the Canadian statistics module of Statistics Canada's website ().

Information on methods and data quality available in the Integrated Meta Data Base: survey number 3503.

The publication Food expenditure in Canada (62-554-XIE, $39) is now available.

Custom tabulations are also available. A public-use microdata file is planned for release later in 2003.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (1-888-297-7355; 613-951-7355;, Income Statistics Division.

Home | Search | Contact Us | Français Return to top of page
Date Modified: 2003-02-21 Important Notices