BEEF Daily

Food Is A Big Expense In Raising Children


The USDA says raising a child born in 2013 will cost $245,340 from birth until age 18, with the third-biggest expense being food.

The USDA recently released its annual report, “Expenditures on Children and Families,” which studies the cost of raising a child. According to the report, a middle-income family with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend a whopping $245,340 for food, housing, childcare, education and other child-rearing expenses from birth to age 18.

I was a little shocked at the number, having recently had a baby myself. But it seems the numbers might be a little inflated.

Blogger Johnny Moneyseed is calling B.S. on the figures, stating that people don’t have to buy a bigger house or better car to have babies. They don’t have to send their kids to private schools. They can choose in-home daycare vs. more costly daycare centers. They can make their own baby food instead of buying. And they can save on clothes by buying second-hand items.


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Inflated figures or not, as Feedstuffs points out in a recent article entitled "Food among top 3 expenses of raising kids," feeding our children is a major expense, whether we like it or not. Growing kids take a lot of groceries!

According to the article, “For middle-income families, housing costs are the single largest expenditure on a child, averaging 30% of the total cost. Child care and education was the second-largest expense at 18%, followed by food, which accounted for 16% of the total cost. The food budget shares ranged between 17-25% for a child in a two-child, husband-wife family and 25-34% for a child in a two-child, single-parent family (these shares being higher for a three-person household). Food budget shares generally increased with the age of the child and did not vary much by household income level, the report notes.”

In America, we are accustomed to spending less than 10% of our disposable income on food. Our safe and abundant food supply makes eating well affordable here in the U.S. Lately, however, you might have noticed that your dollar doesn’t go quite as far in the grocery store as it used to. Sometimes, I leave the grocery store with just a few bags and a $100 receipt and marvel at how much food seems to cost these days.

Nevertheless, America still has the most affordable and abundant food supply in the world. For example, according to The Economist, Americans spend less than 10% of total household spending on food, whereas Egyptians spend close to 45% of their household incomes on groceries.

Yet, as consumers, we whine and complain about every aspect of our food system. Consumers are demanding more transparency, more information, more regulations on farmers and ranchers, as well as reduced use of modern technologies and more grass-fed, all-natural, organic options in the grocery store.

These options are wonderful if one can afford them, but we have to ask ourselves if we can feed a growing planet this way and still spend less than 10% on food? My guess is today’s consumers also value their big homes, late-model cars and fun vacations -- all luxuries that could become out of reach for many families if 45% of household income was going toward food. At the end of the day, America's food supply is safe and still affordable; for that, I think we can all be grateful.

This is just some food for thought (pun intended) this morning, and I would love to hear your opinions on this. Do you think raising kids really costs a quarter-of-a-million dollars? Do you think we are headed for higher-priced food in America? How high is too high before U.S. citizens balk? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or the Penton Farm Progress Group.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 1

BG (not verified)
on Aug 26, 2014

I think a lot of people have fallen into the state of mind that kids "NEED" to eat fast convenient type foods which consequently cost a lot more than buying raw ingredients and breaking out the pot and pan set you got for a wedding gift. I am not going to judge those who choose to pack their freezers with chicken nuggets, fish sticks, pizza bites, etc because that is the beauty of America, we CAN choose how we want to eat and feed our family. I am a full time mother (18 mo old son), full time farmer's wife, full time farmer, and a full time in town employee. I have however found that you CAN feed a child and not increase the family weekly food bill by more than $10-25. When I cook meals I freeze a few small portions, so that on those nights I get home and the toddler is clinging to my leg begging for supper, it is 2.5 minutes in the microwave on defrost and a nutritious home cooked meal in on the high chair tray. I don't have a freezer full of expensive processed, quick heat up meals. You will find some frozen veggies, a half of beef (a perk of owning a cattle ranch), some venison (another perk of owing a ranch, low fat protein, grown on our pastures and crops), and a little store bought fish, chicken and pork (purchased in large quantities on sale, vacuum sealed in meal portions). My point is that I am as busy as any mother no matter if she is living in a suburb or on the back country road but even as busy as I am I have found a way to carve out enough time in my life to prepare low cost, healthy meals for my son and hubby. It isn't always easy but it works and we don't spend much on groceries. I do believe that there is going to be an increase in food cost, there are many developing countries that are willing to buy food products from the US and have them shipped in becasue they are safe, cheaper, and nutritious. They will soon be competing for the bounty that US Farmers and Rancher provide, and it is a market place driven industry. I think that if there are people willing to buy organic, free range, NHTC, CAB and any other branded product then I sure hope there is a farmer willing and able to produce that product. However it is going to take conventional farming practices and technology to help fill the gap in providing enough food to feed the world.

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What's BEEF Daily?

BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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