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Comparing Grocery Costs: Where It's Really Expensive

January 26, 2015


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I love how this blogger shares that eating healthy and buying good food doesn't have to be expensive!As personal finance bloggers, we tend to always think our area is a high cost of living area, which may not always be true when compared to other places throughout the world. To discover where the cost of living truly is high, a group of bloggers got together and compared the cost of a few different grocery store staples, things like a dozen eggs and a gallon of milk, to find out where the cost of groceries is truly highest. The full results of this study can be seen below.

Of course “high cost of living” is also relative to how much money you make too, but that isn’t as easily comparable as not everyone is comfortable sharing that information with the world. 😉  But, we all know that one of the budget areas people tend to struggle with the most is keeping grocery costs under control.

Femme Frugality in Pittsburgh, PA, Laurie at The Frugal Farmer in Minnesota, Natalie at Budget and the Bees in Brooklyn, NY , Mrs. FW at Frugalwoods in Cambridge, MA, and myself in Kansas, put together our price lists for comparison. Here is what we found:

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Overall, the price of the grocery staples we compared seems to be highest in Pittsburgh, PA and Brooklyn, NY. As one might expect, that is especially true for most meat products. In fact, only one product’s highest price was outside of these two areas.

On the low-end of things, Kansas, Minnesota, and Cambridge, MA seemed to have the lowest grocery prices out of the places we compared. This does seem to make sense as generally these areas in the Midwest (KS and MN) are lower cost of living areas. We were somewhat surprised to see that Cambridge had such low grocery prices, maybe this helps to make up for the inflated prices they see in other areas that make up the cost of living, like housing.

Bargain and sale shopping does make a different in these prices as well and can greatly affect how much you spend on groceries each month. If you decide to hop around and view each blogger’s post, you’ll see that we all have tips to help you save on groceries. Here are mine.

Make a List and Stick to It

One way I save on groceries is by limiting what items I buy and have on-hand. I do keep pantry staples on hand, but I try to limit having too many extras. I make a thorough list before I go to the store each week and I stick to it at all times. Having a list and a strict budget helps me avoid junk food temptations and eat healthier too.

Limit Number of Trips

I only go the grocery store once each week, and I go on the same day every single week. I only deviate my from normal grocery shopping day for very special occasions, like illness or being out-of-town. By going only once each week I limit the number of times I’m around the temptations at the grocery store, but I still go often enough to have fresh produce all the time. Since I only go to the store each Sunday, I must have a good list of what I need. If I forget something, I have to find a way to do without it until the next week.

Shop Sales Exclusively

I love fresh fruits and vegetables, but I only buy the ones that are on sale. Rather than buying food based on a meal plan, I meal plan based on what foods I buy (to some degree). This means my meals are always based around what produce is on sale each week. I don’t let my wants dictate what my fruit and vegetable choices are each week because I literally only buy the ones that are on sale.

I hope you enjoyed our grocery cost comparison. We really enjoyed putting it together for you and we hope you’ll take the time to learn how each of us save money on groceries.

Femme Frugality’s Money Saving Tips

Laurie’s Money Saving Tips

Natalie’s Money Saving Tips

Mrs. FW’s Money Saving Tips

How do you save money on groceries? How does your area compare price-wise with all of ours?

I love how this blogger shares that eating healthy and buying good food doesn't have to be expensive!

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27 responses to “Comparing Grocery Costs: Where It's Really Expensive

  1. What a cool experiment! I’m pretty stunned by the Cambridge prices actually. For me, saving money at the grocery store is about limiting impulse purchases, so using cash only for that part of my budget has been really helpful.

  2. We’re doing the same with shopping for fresh produce on sale only and from the local produce shop. We have several go to recipes for staple produce so we can just pick the recipes that match the sales and go from there.

    The appearance of Cambridge, MA on the low end so many times surprised me, I tended to assume prices in the state were relatively tethered to Boston’s.

  3. Fun experiment! I came across your first, and look forward to the other for tips. I agree with you aboit shopping the sales for produce. I do the same. A happy side effect is that my creativity for putting together meals has increased!

    1. Ha ha, I know what you mean. I’ve put together some good new meals and some not so good, but very interesting, new meals too. 🙂

  4. This is very interesting! Having lived in the Boston-area, I’m quite surprised to see lower prices there.

    I use a lot of the tips you mentioned. It’s such a tough time of year to buy produce. Once can only eat so many apples and oranges…

    1. It does get boring eating the same fruit each week during this time of year. But that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. Just makes me appreciate the variety in summer that much more.

    1. Farmer’s markets are great because the prices aren’t usually too expensive and the food is so fresh. 🙂

  5. I don’t have much excess in my pantry either. Sometimes that’s hard when one of us gets hungry outside the planned meals because we don’t have a ton of snacking options, however, I know this method is better for us all around. It keeps my grocery shopping on a fairly strict and consistent schedule, too. Thanks for coming up with this study! I’m glad to have participated!

  6. This is super interesting! And perfect timing. I just did a bit of a review of our budget for January (in preparation for making my second ever monthly budget for February) and I was shocked by the amount of money that we spend on food, both at the grocery store and eating out. I really need to work on getting my meal plans happening and buying things on sale. Do you read the flyers to plan based on the sales? Or do you plan on the go while in the store? I don’t know if I can do what you do with the meal planning based on what’s on sale unless I plan it before I go to the grocery store by using their flyers…

  7. Making a list is so crucial! I swear I’ll write down two things on a shopping list–I really do horribly without one. I also like your once a week shopping trip. I agree with you that removing temptation is very helpful in staying on track. Thank you so much for organizing this experiment–so cool to see the costs across the country!

    1. I’m glad you participated. I had fun doing this little “experiment” and analyzing the numbers. #pfgeek 🙂

  8. Whoa – I live right outside of Pittsburgh, PA (Jefferson Hills and work in Oakland). I don’t pay near those prices for some of those items, and I shop mostly at Costco in the Waterfont, and WalMart and Aldi’s in West Mifflin – all on bus lines. $4.09 for whole milk at Aldi’s (about the same at Wal-Mart), and $2.29 for a pound of butter at Giant Eagle – cheaper at Costco. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are 2.99/lb at Costco, not on sale (down to $1.98 or so per pound for Giant Eagle on sale). Now, Giant Eagle, the biggest grocery store chain in the area is absurdly expensive, and I *hate* shopping there, and only do it when I absolutely have to. But, even in the city, you can save a lot more than this….

    1. Hey! I don’t know what grocery store she used in Pittsburgh to gather the prices from sorry! I do understand that different stores can have wildly different prices though, so I understand where you are coming from. I didn’t want to specify to participants which grocery stores they should and shouldn’t use and make it inconvenient for them.

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