Hey friends! This post is a part of a terrific new series that Kayla from Shoeaholic No More is putting together in order to help people save money on groceries. The group involved in this series has a heart to help readers slash their grocery bills. There are many components to teaching people to lower their bills. Income is a factor, as is accessibility to stores, along with the problem of varying prices on products from area to area. Together, we’re working to teach people what they can do, given their individual situations, to cut their grocery bills while still eating healthy. Hope you enjoy the series, and that it helps you to save money on groceries.
Comparing Grocery Costs: Where it’s Really 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:
Item High Price Location Low Price Location Average Price
Gallon of Milk $4.19 Pittsburgh, PA $2.59 Cambridge, MA $3.50
Loaf of White Bread $2.19 Pittsburgh, PA $0.99 KS/Cambridge, MA $1.33
1 lb of stick butter $5.79 Pittsburgh, PA $2.49 KS/Cambridge, MA $3.79
1 lb of 90% lean hamburger $6.99 Brooklyn, NY $4.99 KS $6.01
1 box of Cheerios(per oz) $0.48 Brooklyn, NY $0.19 Cambridge, MA $0.30
5 lb bag of potatoes $3.47 MN $1.99 Cambridge, MA $2.65
1 dozen large eggs $3.79 Brooklyn, NY $1.79 Cambridge, MA $2.42
12 can pack of Dr. Pepper $5.50 Brooklyn, NY $4.98 MN $5.09
1 lb boneless, skinless chkn breasts $4.99 Pittsburgh, PA $1.99 MN $3.19
whole chicken(per lb) $1.59 Pittsburgh, PA $1.09 MN $1.33
5 lb bag of flour $ 2.79 Pittsburgh, PA $1.49 Brooklyn, NY $2.01
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, generic brand 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.
Laurie’s tips on why you can’t save money on groceries:
You Have No Plan to Save Money on Groceries
Saving money on groceries isn’t simply about buying what’s on sale. It takes a well-thought-out plan to save money on food purchases. While this may seem like a lot of work, the good news is that once your plan is in place, saving money on food is pretty painless.
A good money-saving grocery plan has GOT to start with a menu plan and a grocery list. Buying willy-nilly as you wander through the aisles is a surefire way to go broke. A good menu plan will consist of 15 or so meals that you/your family loves, and that are reasonably priced (we go for a $5 limit). Not sure what to cook? Think back to old family favorites, your fave restaurant meals, or check great Internet sites such as Food Network and All Recipes.
On your grocery list, only list the items that correlate with your menu plan. Then add in essentials like milk, butter, etc. This will ensure you aren’t putting extra fluffy stuff on your list that will drain your savings account.
You Have No Give in Your Grocery Budget
A common problem with busted grocery budgets is that they have no wiggle room. A budget that’s too strict is almost certain to induce an anarchy uprising in the house, leading to a $100 splurge on junk food goodies. Two ways to put a little wiggle room into your grocery budget:
1. Set aside a certain amount for junk foody treats that you/your family love. Not a huge amount, just enough for some treats each week. Want to maximize savings while having your treats? Make them from scratch. Cookies and cakes from scratch are dirt cheap to make, and better for you, too.
2. Have a few “fancy” meals in your monthly menu plan. Make a meal based off your fave restaurant meal each week. Or splurge on a great new recipe you’ve found. Balance this out with cheap meals, such as rice and beans, and you’ll be sure to stay on budget yet still be able to enjoy a nicer meal on occasion.
You Allow the Excuses to Set In
It’s easy to make excuses for a higher-than-necessary grocery budget. Excuses like “I deserve” or “We already spend less than most people”. While your excuses may be valid, that extra money you spend each month on food does take away from your financial goals. If you’re okay with that, that’s fine, but if early retirement means more to you than splurging on food, it’s time to kick the excuses to the curb.
You Have No Vision
Vision, or hope, can be hard to come by, especially if you have set financial goals that are lofty. It’s easy to give up on a lower grocery bill if paying off debt or early retirement still seems or is years away. It’s easy to say “Oh, what’s the use. I’ll never reach my goals. I might as well enjoy that second bottle of Chardonnay/extra steak night/ice cream splurge”. Remember that every single dime that you put toward your financial goals adds up, and that every single dime you take away from your financial goals delays your dreams. Don’t let discouragement and doubt pull you away from your dreams, instead, keep those dreams fresh in your memory. As an added boost of hope, choose to track the money you save each week on groceries, and put that money toward your financial goals. You’ll then be able to see how your grocery savings are making an impact for the better on your goals.
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
Natalie’s Money Saving Tips
Mrs. FW’s Money Saving Tips
Kayla’s Money Saving Tips
How do you save money on groceries? How does your area compare price-wise with all of ours?
*Photo courtesy of Sodanie Chea