Hand of Bananas - © bimbingan.org

Survey Reveals Shocking Differences In U.S. Food Prices

A new private-sector survey reveals Americans pay shockingly different prices for basic food in different parts of the country. And, though food price inflation is easing off a little, they’re still spending an inordinate amount of their incomes on food…

Family of 4 - © 2023 - extension orgThe average American family of 4 faces total estimated monthly bills of $3,981.20,
excluding rent/mortgage. The average monthly income for that family
is $4,245.52. Food costs are ‘the elephant in the budget’…

The survey, by fitness and nutrition brand Total Shape, reveals that the cost of some foods can be more than double in some places than in others. The upshot is, some Americans will pay over 70 percent more for groceries this year than last.

The Top 10 high-food-price cities

  • New York
  • Honolulu
  • Oakland
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Boston
  • Sacramento
  • San Jose
  • Portland, and
  • San Diego

Note that 5 of the ten are in California. This seems odd, since Cali grows much of the produce that feeds the rest of the country with enough left over to export.

Of the Top 10 most expensive cities, 7 are on the West Coast. What is it about the West Coast that causes such high food prices?

One can understand why New York is at the top of the list. Everything is more expensive in New York.

Likewise, Honolulu, which, as the largest city in Hawaii, has to import most of what it eats. And transportation costs are a major component of all food costs these days.

An exasperating range of prices

Private sector cost of living monitor Numbeo complied the following detailed list of average prices for common supermarket grocery products, and the range of prices found across the 58 major cities they surveyed:

June US Food Prices - © 2023 Numbeo

The brutal truth

According to Numbeo, the overall coat of living in the U.S. is currently very high; all but unmanageable for the average family…

  • A family of four average estimated total monthly costs are (C)$5,282. / (US)$3,979.) excluding rent.
  • A single person average estimated total monthly costs are (C)$1,482. / (US)$1,116. excluding rent.
  • Cost of living in United States is, on average, 9.5 percent higher than in Canada.
  • Rent in United States is, on average, 37.6 percent higher than in Canada.

No wonder folks are eating more crap

Given the figures noted above, it’s no wonder many people are eating more relatively cheap processed food and spending less overall on groceries. Not to mention, skipping meals and visiting food banks at record rates.

Canadian marketing boards a blessing?

When they first came in, produce marketing boards were met with skepticism, and even downright disdain by consumers. The idea was to set up a system of supply-side controls imposing a quota system on farmers. This ensured that there was always enough milk (for instance) to supply the needs of Canadian consumers and food processors. But it also ensured there would be no overproduction. This could have triggered discounting and even price wars that depressed prices paid to farmers. The core purpose of marketing boards was to protect the farmers.

So, the difference in Canadian and U.S. may be due at least in part to our system of agricultural market controls. The system, now, appears more a blessing for Canadian consumers than a curse.

My take

It seems ridiculous that the price of a 1 kg packet of rice should vary in price by $7 between the highest- and lowest-cost food cities. A simple bottle of water ranges from $1.00 to $3.25. A 1 kg packet of chicken ranges from $5.00 to $20.59. A loaf of plain, white sliced bread varies from $1.86 to $6.60.

So… If you live in the U.S., the solution to high food prices may be simply to move. I know. It’s a great idea for folks who are self-employed and/or work from home. But for the masses it’s just not feasible.

~ Maggie J.