Grocery Costs Around the U.S.
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, but that isn’t as easily comparable as not everyone is comfortable sharing that information with the world. But we all know 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, Kayla at Shoeaholic No More in Kansas, Mrs. FW at Frugalwoods in Cambridge, MA, and myself in Brooklyn, NY put together our price lists for comparison. Here is what we found in January 2015:
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 difference 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.
Budget and the Bees’ Grocery Savings Tips
- Shop the sales. Browse the weekly ad for your grocery store, and build your shopping list from what is on sale. Not everything you need may be on sale, but you could buy extras of your staple items when they do go on sale to last you through the weeks at full price.
- Compare stores. You probably don’t have time to run all over town buying a few things from each place, but get to know the prices and selection of two different grocery stores, like one close to work and one close to home. Compare their weekly sale ads before your shopping trip to see if you can save some money at one over the other.
- Take advantage of store loyalty cards. Some stores offer better perks than others (so you could choose a primary store based on its loyalty program), but always remember to use the card. That low price on flour above is because of the store card discount.
- Use coupons. Clip them from the Sunday paper or use digital coupons. I posted about this very topic and talked about my own use of digital coupons to cut my grocery bill.
- Plan your meals for the week. Planning meals can help you eat better and make conscious decisions about purchasing meal ingredients rather than a hodgepodge of ingredients that you aren’t sure how to combine later. Know the feeling of a stocked pantry with nothing to eat?
- Take inventory of your cupboards. As you’re meal planning and writing down the items you need to buy, check to see what you already have so you don’t double up. Better yet, plan some meals around what you already have so fewer items can be purchased at the store. This will also help keep your pantry fresh.
- Don’t go grocery shopping without a grocery list. Impulse decisions can lead to buying more. Put thought into what you really want and need to pick up.
- Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re starving. You’re almost guaranteed to buy things you weren’t planning on.
- Don’t make meat the primary meal component every night or don’t have meat in every meal. Meat, especially of good quality, can be pricey. Cutting back on it can help your wallet and your health. There are great vegetarian blogs and cookbooks out there for inspiration.
- Take those end of receipt surveys! If you’re offered compensation for giving feedback, take the time to do it because somebody has to win and it might as well be you. I recently won a gift card to my grocery store for filling out their survey, so I’m proof they really do give awards for feedback.
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 saves money on groceries.
Femme Frugality’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 DodgertonSkillhause.
That’s awesome that you won the gift card! I’ll have to be more religious about my attempts!
Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says
Great post, Natalie! We take advantage of ad-match programs too, which prevents us from having to run from store to store. Excited to be doing this series with you guys!
That’s nice! I’ve heard about ad match programs, but haven’t had the opportunity to use one.
Kara @ The Daily Whisk says
These are great tips, and the timing is perfect because I need to make saving on groceries a focus for February!
Thanks, Kara! To be honest, I have room for improvement, too. It’s a constant process, you know?
Mrs. Maroon says
I share the same opinions as most of your list. I do plan our meals around what is on sale though instead of shopping based on my meal plan. I also love loyalty cards. We recent moved away from a store with a loyalty card. But I was religious about using it back then. We earned gas rewards on top of sale prices saved for card holders. I was tickled when I cashed in my discount for an entire $1.00 off each gallon of gas!!!
The gas perks are wonderful! At my previous store each point earned was equivalent to an amount of money (like a cent or something). You could save up points and take a total chunk off your bill whenever you wanted to redeem them. All the different programs seem to be a little different, and some are definitely better than others.
I’ve been reading all the related posts from this group doing the comparison, and everyone has great tips. It’s a super interesting comparison too.
Alicia at Financial Diffraction is doing a “Eat through your cupboard” challenge that I am going to join in with in an effort to decrease my food “clutter” and my grocery budget. I guess that goes along with your tip #6.
It is interesting, isn’t it? I’d like to see a comparison that encompasses a bigger group all the way across the country. I wish you luck with that challenge. It sounds like a great idea. It should help keep things from expiring before being eaten and save on groceries until you’ve depleted your stock.
Shannon @ Financially Blonde says
We made saving money on groceries a challenge in our household last year and gave ourselves a weekly goal of $100. I used meal planning and Pinterest to get us there every week, but then pushed myself even more (because I’m an overachiever and love a good challenge). Now, if we spend more than $65 a week, it’s unusual and since we are a family of 4 in NY, I think that’s pretty good.
It’s more than pretty good! I’ve heard (read) you say that before, and I’m still really impressed! That’s definitely commendable.
Mrs. Frugalwoods says
I’m a huge fan of doing the pantry inventory method while list-making. We always seem to overestimate how much we need to buy, so it’s safest for us to make our grocery list in the kitchen, while opening cupboards :). It’s also our fail safe for making sure we don’t run out of coffee (the horror)!
I’d save myself the up and down if I’d stand in the kitchen to make my list. I sit with my computer instead and go back and forth between the computer and the kitchen.
Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore says
Ad matching is a great way to save and one that I don’t always take full advantage of. I should try to remember to do that more often. Thanks for the reminder!
These are some great tips for saving on groceries. I love store loyalty programs. Not only do I save at the store, but I also get coupons in the mail for items I frequently buy. I always try to plan my list around what’s one sale, but I sometimes fail at planning what to do with those items. I’m working on that, along with using up the items in my pantry to help save money.
I know some stores print coupons at the end of your receipt based on what you buy frequently, but mine does not. I wish it did! My list is always based on what I plan to make. Fruit is one of the only things I buy without a plan for it. On the rare occasion I go into the store without knowing what I’m making, I feel lost! It’s like I can’t think on my feet with all these ingredients around me for some reason. I do think Pinterest can be super helpful at creating dishes based on ingredients. For example, say bok choy is on sale for you. Search just that on Pinterest and I’m sure you’ll return many results.
Melanie @ Dear Debt says
Love these tips! Food is always my number 1 budget buster. I am buying more in bulk, and I hardly ever eat meat. Batch cooking is also saving my budget!
Nancy Williams says
Very helpful tips! Thank you so much for sharing your practical tips to save money on groceries. I’ll take note of these, Natalie!
Thank you very much, Nancy!
Interesting stats! I had no idea groceries cost such different prices all over. Thanks for the savings tips though!