Food spending has evolved over the last 50 years, and as it turns out, it’s not because we’re better budgeters. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently crunched the numbers and created a chart on our food spending in proportion to income. When they compared the food spending of today to 1960 and the decades in between, economists found we have more disposable income and spend less on food than our grandparents once did.

After taking into account the overall gradual rise in income, the consistent decrease in food prices, and inflation, the USDA was able to adjust the numbers to make an accurate comparison. Let’s face it, what’s considered a low-income household today is still better than the average middle class household of the 1960s. It’s undoubtedly apparent the way we treat food today has changed tremendously since our grandparents’ generation. From a decline in home-cooked, sit-down-at-the-dinner-table meals, to the exponential increase in fast food stopovers, there’s been a shift in both mindset and appetite rituals.

According to the new data, the average person spent 17.5 percent of their income on food. In 2013, that number dropped to 9.9 percent — that’s nearly half of how much their grandparents allocated toward food. What’s even more surprising is Americans spend less money on food than any other country in the world, according to World Bank data from 2009.

"We are purchasing more food for less money, and we are purchasing our food for less of our income," one of the creators of the chart Annette Clauson, an agricultural economist with USDA's Economic Research Service, told NPR. "This is a good thing, because we have income to purchase other things."

Have Americans become thriftier, smarter shoppers? No, but to figure out why we’re spending less we have to time travel back to the 1970s, where rising food prices and technological developments gave birth to a stark evolution in the U.S. food system. At the time, there was a growing middle class to keep happy, so the Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz decided to step up his game and create the country’s agricultural subsidy program. Industrial food production advanced tremendously, and a simple supply and demand chart will tell you what happens when there’s a large supply — prices drop. And they keep dropping until we are left with a wider variety of options at different price points.

"Food is a still a good bargain for the American consumer," Clauson said. Of course, the lower your income, the more a steak will take out of your budget than it would to a person with a higher income and larger budget to dip into.

Sure, you’ll come across expensive grass-fed beef, dark chocolate bars, and boxes of clementine, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find alternative proteins, desserts, and fresh fruit at lower prices. Being smarter with a budget will increase the amount of disposable income that can be spent on other luxury items, clothing, or education expenses, which will lead to an overall improvement in society’s long-term growth. For those who steal funds out of their food budget and are unable to afford a healthy portion of salmon, but invest that into materialistic items such as a new pair of shoes, you’re only postponing health care costs down the line.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rules, such as the one-income households many single mothers are all too familiar with, or those who have fallen on hardships. But government programs are put in place to improve the selection of healthful foods available in order to help pull the lower-income folks and minorities out of the obesity epidemic hole.