Purpose. This study investigates the food expenditure path segmented by staples and non-staples in Nigeria. Methodology / approach. A multi-stage sampling procedure was used to sample a cross sectional data of 438 urban households from two randomly selected urbanising states in South West, Nigeria. The study used descriptive statistics such as percentages and means to determine households’ food budget shares and their per capita food expenditure Results. From the expenditure estimates, a differential effect in budget share of food was found with an increase in staples diet of Low Urban Area (LUA) households (33 %). However, consumption of non-staple foods was more pronounced among households residing in high urban areas (HUA) (35 %). Per capita food expenditure was higher for LUA households (N1377.52), while their food shares for processed cereals were equal with those of HUA. Findings suggest a more diverse diets, thus revealing a quality-quantity nexus within urban locations. Originality / scientific novelty. This is the very study that explains urban differential beyond staple food consumption and nutritional outcome. The household food expenditure pattern brought to fore location-specific variations in urban diet in the study area. Practical value / implications. The switch away from consumption of staples was beyond income responsiveness, but, towards changes in level of urbanization. The differential path in per capita expenditures on staple and non-staples are shown to have implications on nutrition within urban areas.