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#1
Old 10-09-2010, 10:47 PM
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Groceries seem expensive in the US?

I was wandering through some American online grocery store websites, and it seemed to me that some things were quite pricy compared to the UK. So I did a slightly more systematic survey, of the following online stores: Safeway, Albertsons, Buehlers (an Ohio chain) and Tesco (UK). I chose those stores either because they were simply ones I'd heard of, or they had usable websites (not all of the big chains do). I used Tesco for the UK comparison because it is right in the middle of the UK market - not especially cheap like Aldi, nor expensive like Marks & Spencer.

I looked up a selection of mundane grocery items, and always went for the store-brand options rather than name brands, but avoiding the super-cheap economy brands, such as Tesco Value. I avoided temporary offers such as two-for-one, loyalty card bonuses etc., which all of the stores offered. I also avoided anything up-market like organic, free-range, artisan etc. In several cases I had to adjust the UK price slightly because we don't use the same standard sizes - sometimes the UK standard sizes are larger, sometimes they're smaller.

Anyway, here's what I got, which on the face of it bears out my impression that groceries are actually more expensive in the US than here (all prices in dollars):

Code:
 Saf Alb Bue Tes 
24oz sliced bread 1.40 2.99 2.00 1.01
2L orange soda 0.88 1.29 0.99 1.03
18oz cornflakes 3.29 1.99 2.37 1.52
Cheddar cheese, 8oz block 3.29 2.99 2.09 2.75
Milk 2%, half gal 2.49 2.19 1.99 1.74
Potatoes, loose, per lb 0.50 0.99 0.59 0.51
Carrots, loose, per lb 0.88 0.70 1.19 0.60
Large can peas 1.20 0.89 0.72 0.71
Pasta, dry, 16oz 1.49 1.29 1.11 1.11
Pasta sauce 26oz 2.50 1.69 1.67 2.32
Veg, mixed, frozen 32oz 2.80 3.49 2.28 1.47
Ground beef, 1lb 4.00 3.50 2.99 2.60
======
Total 25.02 24.00 19.99 17.37
#2
Old 10-09-2010, 11:42 PM
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I don't know if food is more expensive in the US than in the UK, but do have a couple of notes.

1) A few of these items would be very hard to compare without looking at the same brands. Bread for example. I can get a loaf of bread for under a dollar at my local grocery store, and I can get one for about $4. It's hard to control for this, even if picking house brands.

2) I'm not sure how prevelant this is in the UK, but in the US most grocery stores now use "Affnity" or "Membership" cards. The basic purpose of these is to track customers' usage (both individual and aggregate). In order to make the customer use them, there are a large number of things at any given time that have a special price if you use your card. For example, I went to the store today, and the bill came to $103. After I scanned my card, it went down to $74. I would guess that, in average, by bill comes out 10% to 20% lower than the "list" prices. If these cards aren't used in the UK, this might explain much of the difference.
#3
Old 10-10-2010, 12:04 AM
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I gotta think too...the US is a huuuge place compared to the UK. Every item must have a vastly different route from producer to market based on the location of the producer and the market.

Seems to me that grocery prices vary a lot across the US. Even for one chain, even for a local chain. Getting an avocado to California is much different than getting an avocado to Ohio. But getting an avocado to Manchester or London is pretty much the same. In the grand scheme of things.

I would suspect that grocery prices in the UK are more level across-the-board than in the US. You've also got different brands, different sources for fresh foods, different delivery costs...I don't know that they could really be compared.

Heck, we've done gas price, milk price and tax comparisons on this board for the US. Those things vary a lot in price by state.
#4
Old 10-10-2010, 12:15 AM
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So what 'cho doin on this fine Saturday night, Clark?

Same as me I guess...... Comparing grocery prices, and visiting the SDMB.

You may very well be right. But Ximenean makes a good point.

I live in the mountains, everything is trucked in from far away. But today I did end up buying 10 lbs of potatoes for $1.99.

Now, I did need to buy potatoes for some soup, but I sure didn't need 10 lbs. But I will put them to use.

As I was considering buying just a few bakers for the job, or the big bag, it just stunned me that these tubers could be grown, harvested and shipped for all of 2 bucks.

I bought 'em. I see potatoes in my future.
#5
Old 10-10-2010, 01:01 AM
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This isn't true in my experience. I lived in the U.K. from 1987 to 1990 and often discussed with other Americans living in the U.K. the comparative prices of food (and other things). Food in grocery stores, like other items in most stores, cost 40% more in the U.K. than in the U.S.

The following question just occurred to me: Are you sure you remembered to convert dollars to pounds (or the other way around)?

Last edited by Wendell Wagner; 10-10-2010 at 01:03 AM.
#6
Old 10-10-2010, 06:52 AM
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I live in the States and do business in the UK. My experience has been that it seems like for every dollar I spend in the US, I spend a pound in the UK. So a 2 dollar loaf of bread is 2 pounds in the UK. Which makes it more expensive to be in the UK.

But I will add this disclaimer: I never really looked that closely, this is just a perception and maybe if I wrote everything down and really compared I would be very surprised.

I'll add this as well: My business partner in the UK, who spends a much more even amount of time in both countries, often says how much cheaper it is to be here.
#7
Old 10-10-2010, 07:01 AM
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It all depends on if you're going to the store to grab a couple things, or if you've carefully planned out a shopping list and looked for the sales.
Bread here runs from $4 to $.50 a loaf. Pop can be $5-$3 per 12-pack. Today I saw buy-one-get-one free on roasts, and a sticker error got one customer over 7 pounds of roast for less than $6.
It also depends where you shop. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods is going to make your wallet cry, but places like Kroger and Save-A-Lot are a little less harsh. Kroger has a customer card that you ring up with your order and it takes some money off of items that are advertised as being on sale. Not using a card really jacks up the costs. It's believed that they intentionally jack up the prices just so you're forced to use the card (it keeps track of your purchases) to bring them back down to what used to be normal- whether this is true or not I'm not sure but the cynic in me wouldn't be surprised.
There's always coupons and deals going on. This week we've had a deal going where if you buy ten of specifically selected items (ten altogether, not ten of each) you get a bonus $5 at the end. People have really been taking advantage of that, I've seen $80 drop to $40. After work I bought 10 of the items- 5 frozen meals and 5 juices- and used a $2 off coupon. What would've cost me $18 without sales cost me just $8.
So if you're a smart shopper, it's not too bad. But if you're not, yeah, it really does add up quickly.
#8
Old 10-10-2010, 07:37 AM
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Ximenean ~~did you allow for package size?

What is the per ounce price?
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#9
Old 10-10-2010, 08:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor View Post
Ximenean ~~did you allow for package size?

What is the per ounce price?
Do the sizes and weightd he put in the OP not count as package size?

I found groceries in Florida way, way more expensive than in the UK. I was shopping with a Floridan friend who was very budget-conscious, not doing tourist shopping which would inevitably end up being more expensive.
#10
Old 10-10-2010, 08:30 AM
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I adjusted for package sizes where necessary. E.g. loaves of sliced bread come in 800g (28oz) packs in the UK, but the US stores only seemed to go up to 24oz before getting stupidly expensive. I ordered everything by price so that I could pick out the "basic, non-fancy" option in all cases. I did avoid loyalty card bonuses (which seem similar in both countries) and yes, I converted pounds to dollars. It's all in the OP.
#11
Old 10-10-2010, 08:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Khadaji View Post
a 2 dollar loaf of bread is 2 pounds in the UK.
I know it was just an example, but I checked the Tesco website and the most expensive loaf of bread they sell is £1.27 .
#12
Old 10-10-2010, 08:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by enipla View Post
As I was considering buying just a few bakers for the job, or the big bag, it just stunned me that these tubers could be grown, harvested and shipped for all of 2 bucks.
Grown, harvested, shipped and sold for $2.00. Don't forget, the place you bought them from likely paid about $1.30.
#13
Old 10-10-2010, 08:43 AM
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As a Brit in the US, I too find this: especially for basic food items like bread and fresh meats and fruit and veg, America is surprisingly expensive, at least on the East Coast.

Junk food (pop, crisps, chocolate) and eating out are extremely cheap.

One weird thing about shopping for food in America is that you either get the dirt cheap crap from walmart, or the very expensive organic hipster stuff from whole foods or a coop. There's very little middle ground -- decent stuff that tastes OK, like you get at tesco.

For comparison, a nice (not crap plastic, but not organic either) loaf of bread will cost you under $1 at tesco in the UK. If you want noncrap bread in the Chapel Hill, NC area, expect to pay $3.

pdts
#14
Old 10-10-2010, 08:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ximenean View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Khadaji View Post
a 2 dollar loaf of bread is 2 pounds in the UK.
I know it was just an example, but I checked the Tesco website and the most expensive loaf of bread they sell is £1.27 .
I don't even remember when I last bought bread. I just made up numbers and picked an item at random.
#15
Old 10-10-2010, 09:02 AM
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It really depends on where you're living... notice that put down the sabre finds groceries expensive on the east coast. Well, I also found groceries expensive when I stayed in East Kensington, compared to what I pay at home in the midwest. I also find groceries expensive in New York City.

In general they're going to cost much more at smaller markets than at bigger ones, so you're going to pay through the nose in small towns and in dense metropolitain areas that the big box stores can't sprawl in... the IGA in my small town charges almost twice as much for some items as does the Meijer ten miles away, in the city.

A few useful prices I can remember off the top off my head, at the Meijer where I do most of my shopping, are

Loaf bread: can get a spongy soft whole wheat loaf for $2 or slightly less
Gallon of milk: about $2
8oz block cheddar cheese: about $5, but Americans are expected to want shredded cheese, which is cheaper
Large-size box of breakfast cereal: about $4
#16
Old 10-10-2010, 09:39 AM
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Oops, got lost in my own post and forgot my original point: websites for store chains seem to want to charge the most expensive price they can. Drugstore.com, I know, charges way more than my local CVS, and a heck of a lot more than the Meijer ten miles down the road.

So what you're seeing are the worst case scenario prices, I'd bet.
#17
Old 10-10-2010, 09:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sattua View Post
Oops, got lost in my own post and forgot my original point: websites for store chains seem to want to charge the most expensive price they can. Drugstore.com, I know, charges way more than my local CVS, and a heck of a lot more than the Meijer ten miles down the road.

So what you're seeing are the worst case scenario prices, I'd bet.
Really? That's weird. The Tesco prices online are the same as the ones instore. Of course, we have very widespread home delivery and (according to a thread I read on here) that's not been very successful in the US; if the prices were different, there'd be an uproar.
#18
Old 10-10-2010, 09:58 AM
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Another UK doper here.

I travel a lot to the states with work and holidays and I know that the US supermarket prices certainly feel more expensive to me. With a couple of exceptions.

Standard cupboard items are pricier, pasta, rices, sauces, bread, cereal, vegetables and fruit etc.
However, raw meat and seafood are cheaper as are certain ethnic foods (mexican particularly....duh!)

Again, that is anecdotal as I don't have the figures to hand though I do have a bunch of expenses receipts that I could dig out.

I do think we are spoiled in the UK in terms of access to cheap groceries and stuff. TESCO gets a load of flack but for example, I know I can get good quality toiler paper there for the equivalent of $1.75 for 12 and dishwasher tablets $1.50 for 30. I do shop around in the US stores and can't find equivalent value.
#19
Old 10-10-2010, 10:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ximenean View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Khadaji View Post
a 2 dollar loaf of bread is 2 pounds in the UK.
I know it was just an example, but I checked the Tesco website and the most expensive loaf of bread they sell is £1.27 .
Correction: £1.34
#20
Old 10-10-2010, 10:10 AM
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Grocery prices here are also pretty volatile. Produce and meat prices have a huge range, and even staples seem to change a great deal--soda, for example, varies from $2/12 pack to $5/12 pack, and the type of bread I buy is normally $2.75 a loaf at my local Tom Thumb but goes on sale for $2/loaf every third week or so. (Of course, at my local Wal-mart it's always $1.78, so I try to buy it there.) I bet that at any given time, a third or more of the things they sell are "on sale", which means that the normal listed price is really the upper limit of how much the item ever costs.

I think this volatility comes from too much market research--there are lots of loss-leaders (or near loss leaders) in American grocery stores to get you in the door. I am wondering if that's why our junk food is cheaper--they get us in there with cheap chips and soda, and then sell us basics at a higher profit margin.

Are prices volatile like this in the UK?
#21
Old 10-10-2010, 10:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sattua View Post
8oz block cheddar cheese: about $5, but Americans are expected to want shredded cheese, which is cheaper
I suspect this may be be part of it - I tried to choose ordinary items, but a Brit's idea of "ordinary" might not match an American's. Here, shredded cheese is no cheaper than blocks of cheese. For all I know, frozen mixed vegetables, say, are not something that Americans normally buy, and hence may be priced more like a speciality item.
#22
Old 10-10-2010, 10:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by put down the sabre View Post
As a Brit in the US, I too find this: especially for basic food items like bread and fresh meats and fruit and veg, America is surprisingly expensive, at least on the East Coast.

Junk food (pop, crisps, chocolate) and eating out are extremely cheap.

One weird thing about shopping for food in America is that you either get the dirt cheap crap from walmart, or the very expensive organic hipster stuff from whole foods or a coop. There's very little middle ground -- decent stuff that tastes OK, like you get at tesco.

For comparison, a nice (not crap plastic, but not organic either) loaf of bread will cost you under $1 at tesco in the UK. If you want noncrap bread in the Chapel Hill, NC area, expect to pay $3.

pdts
all good points, but this can't be emphasized enough.
#23
Old 10-10-2010, 10:31 AM
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Just about every grocery store I've ever been in the last year or so, 8 oz. sticks of cheese have been 2 for $3 in the dairy case. (The "ye olde cheese shoppe" of course sells for vast sums more, and a mind-boggling selection from all over the world.) It has to do with the price of milk, which is very low for various reasons; I know, personally, two owners of dairy farms that have sold off their cows and went into soybeans, because they couldn't make a living at it any more.
#24
Old 10-10-2010, 10:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by put down the sabre View Post
As a Brit in the US, I too find this: especially for basic food items like bread and fresh meats and fruit and veg, America is surprisingly expensive, at least on the East Coast.

Junk food (pop, crisps, chocolate) and eating out are extremely cheap.

One weird thing about shopping for food in America is that you either get the dirt cheap crap from walmart, or the very expensive organic hipster stuff from whole foods or a coop. There's very little middle ground -- decent stuff that tastes OK, like you get at tesco.

For comparison, a nice (not crap plastic, but not organic either) loaf of bread will cost you under $1 at tesco in the UK. If you want noncrap bread in the Chapel Hill, NC area, expect to pay $3.

pdts
I repeat again you are talking about the east coast.
Fresh fruit and veggies are very cheap here in California. We grow a lot of this stuff. Meat seems cheaper, but I did not buy much meat when I traveled to the east coast, so that might just be my perception.
As far as mid range markets go, we have tons of them. In So Cal there is (in no particular order) the following chains:
Ralphs
Vons
Food for Less
Albertsons
Hows
Fresh and Easy
Jons
plus a couple of others who's names I don't recall.
We also have club stores like Sam's and Costco. Meat, dairy, and some other items are insanely cheap there.
#25
Old 10-10-2010, 11:27 AM
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I just discussed this thread with my husband as we were... you guessed it... grocery shopping. He had two things to add:

1) No 8oz blocks of cheddar DON'T cost $5. As a poster subsequent to me said. Apparently I suffer from cheese-blindness.

2) Another point a subsequent poster made--things go on insane specials occasionally, and a smart shopper will be flexible going in to the store, and get what's cheap. We just bought some pork loin for $1.99/pound, on sale, and the equivalent chops were more like $4/lb.
#26
Old 10-10-2010, 11:33 AM
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From personal experience in OH versus Dublin, Ireland. Meat, fizzy pop, booze and packaged processed goods tend to be cheaper Stateside, but fresh produce, dairy products are oftentimes way cheaper here.
#27
Old 10-10-2010, 11:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scifisam2009 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sattua View Post
Oops, got lost in my own post and forgot my original point: websites for store chains seem to want to charge the most expensive price they can. Drugstore.com, I know, charges way more than my local CVS, and a heck of a lot more than the Meijer ten miles down the road.

So what you're seeing are the worst case scenario prices, I'd bet.
Really? That's weird. The Tesco prices online are the same as the ones instore. Of course, we have very widespread home delivery and (according to a thread I read on here) that's not been very successful in the US; if the prices were different, there'd be an uproar.
I think we're just used to the fact that online prices and in store prices often don't match regardless of what sort of stores they're for. There's no point at all looking up a price of a new DVD at Wal-mart or a CD at Barnes and Noble before heading to the stores since their websites admit in small print that the prices aren't the same - usually the online prices are cheaper. None of the local grocery stores here has prices online beyond a copy of their weekly circular, so I can't speak from experience when it comes to online food prices.
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#28
Old 10-10-2010, 11:40 AM
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$43 for 2 bags full, from Kroger, in Tennessee.

And no steak, beef roasts, or lobster.
#29
Old 10-10-2010, 12:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ximenean View Post

Code:
 Saf Alb Bue Tes 
24oz sliced bread 1.40 2.99 2.00 1.01
2L orange soda 0.88 1.29 0.99 1.03
18oz cornflakes 3.29 1.99 2.37 1.52
Cheddar cheese, 8oz block 3.29 2.99 2.09 2.75
Milk 2%, half gal 2.49 2.19 1.99 1.74
Potatoes, loose, per lb 0.50 0.99 0.59 0.51
Carrots, loose, per lb 0.88 0.70 1.19 0.60
Large can peas 1.20 0.89 0.72 0.71
Pasta, dry, 16oz 1.49 1.29 1.11 1.11
Pasta sauce 26oz 2.50 1.69 1.67 2.32
Veg, mixed, frozen 32oz 2.80 3.49 2.28 1.47
Ground beef, 1lb 4.00 3.50 2.99 2.60
======
Total 25.02 24.00 19.99 17.37
I don't think Safeway and Albertson's have very competitive pricing anyway. Its been years since I stopped in Genuardi's (Safeway) or Acme (Albertsons). Giant and Wal Mart seem to have much better pricing. Not sure about "dirt cheap crap". If I buy a box of Muellers macaroni or Pringles at Wal Mart, its not much different than buying a box of macaroni at Genuardis, just cheaper. And I rarely buy stuff at regular price.

Your milk is a bit high for a half gallon. A lot of places sell at the state minimum. Right now I can get a half gallon for $1.90. And that includes the dairy price support.

Bread seems pretty cheap at the Tesco. I think we will pay $1.89 for a loaf of Stroehmans, unless my wife gets this higher end "light" crap at $3.00.

Your meat price doesn't seem too far off. Ground beef has really skyrocketed in the past few years. I seldom buy the ground beef anyway. Not when I can get a full NY strip for $6.99 at the butcher and cut it down for steaks.
#30
Old 10-10-2010, 12:59 PM
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I don't think it's a valid comparison to not use the store membership cards.

The membership card price is pretty much "the" price, almost everyone has one and if not, much of the time the checkout person will scan one they have sitting there next to the register.

I've never paid $4 for a pound of ground beef at Safeway, been shopping there for a long time.
#31
Old 10-10-2010, 01:09 PM
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Milk usually goes for $2.49 a GALLON, so that price for a half-gallon is a bit high....but then, the half-gallons are never half the price of the gallons.

Cheese is usually 2/$3-4, so that price is a bit higher than I would pay.
#32
Old 10-10-2010, 01:28 PM
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It's misleading to compare either gallons or half-gallons of milk in the U.S. and the U.K. In the U.S. it's standard to buy gallons of milk and there won't be very many half-gallons available in most stores. In the U.K. (if I remember correctly) it's standard to buy half-gallons of milk and there won't be many gallons available.

Furthermore, are you remembering to convert units? Gallons and half-gallons are different sizes in the U.S. and the U.K. Gallons (and all other non-metric measures of volume) are about 25% larger in the U.K. than in the U.S.:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallon
#33
Old 10-10-2010, 01:35 PM
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I just got back from the market. I didn't buy bread, but I saw that the cheap brand by the regional bakery was 99¢ per loaf.

Two pounds of Land-O-Frost sliced roast beef
One pound Land-O-Frost of sliced smoked turkey
Three pounds Darigold unsalted butter ($3.99 each)
Four 12 oz. bags of Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate morsels (price reduced to $2.49 each)
Two jars of Nutella
Two 3 lb. jars of Skippy creamy peanut butter ($9.99 each)
A large bag (four pounds?) of quick oats from the bin (price reduced to 57¢/lb)
The same amount of steel-cut oats from the bin (price reduced to 57¢/lb)
A small bag (maybe a pound?) farina ($2.99/lb)
One container Nestlé cocoa powder
Two boxes (20 ct.) 1 qt. zip-top bags (price reduced to $1.99 each)
One box (30 ct.) 1 gallon zip-top bags ($5.49)
Liquid hand soap
5 lb. C&H granulated sugar
750 ml Yellow Tail Shiraz ($6.99)

Total was a bit over $101. Prices quoted are from memory.
#34
Old 10-10-2010, 01:39 PM
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Quote:
are you remembering to convert units? Gallons and half-gallons are different sizes in the U.S. and the U.K. Gallons (and all other non-metric measures of volume) are about 25% larger in the U.K. than in the U.S.
Yes, I tried to adjust for units. Man, it was tedious, I have to say. Why can't you guys use metric?

Nevertheless, your point about bulk buying may be apt. I did notice during my browsing that US stores sometimes offered bigger maximum sizes that Tesco. Maybe the US market is geared more towards bulk buying, what with you having bigger houses, bigger freezers, and generally more storage space. And you have to travel further for your weekly (monthly?) shop, which means less trips and more bulk buying.
#35
Old 10-10-2010, 01:51 PM
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Of course I forgot that dairy products includes milk which generally is cheaper in the US.
#36
Old 10-10-2010, 01:54 PM
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Remember, too, that the markets are different: we eat a lot more peanut better, I believe, and I would assume pay less for it.

This US Govt website suggests that per capita food expenditures are either $1,849 or $2,143 (they have two different estimates) and that UK per capita expenditures are $2104. At the end of the day, it looks like our prices must be fairly similar.
#37
Old 10-10-2010, 02:00 PM
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I find that I can go weeks without buying any groceries at the supermarket. Places I frequently shop are:

Samsclub
Costco
Dollar Store
Big Lots

I also try to stock up on things that don't need refrigeration and combine trips. It doesn't make much sense to drive out of my way to save 50 cents on a loaf of bread.
#38
Old 10-10-2010, 02:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by An Gadaí View Post
Of course I forgot that dairy products includes milk which generally is cheaper in the US.
I tend to buy large blocks of Tillamook medium cheddar cheese. I don't know how much the one currently in the fridge weighed, because I cut it from the end with the weight. But it weighs 2.14 pounds now, and I've eaten about 1/3 of it. It cost $12.95, I think.

I like American cheese (100% real cheese, pateurised-process; not 'cheese food' or 'cheese product', which contains as little as 51% cheese), and Kraft Deli Deluxe is good. But it's cheaper to get a five-pound sliced block from Cash & Carry, so I get that. Not as good; but then, American cheese isn't good for anything but grilled cheese sandwiches and cheeseburgers.

Good cheese can be pricey. Things like gouda, havarti, brie, and whatnot tend to be more expensive in the supermarket than at smaller chains like Trader Joe's. Or maybe it's just that Trader Joe's cheese selections are so tasty that I don't notice the price. But triple-cream brie does seem to be cheaper there. There's a cheese shop at Pike Place Market where you can buy cheeses from many countries. (I've some nice double Gloucester bought there in the fridge now, and a couple of weeks ago I got some Lappi cheese from Finland.) That place is expensive, but it's worth it from time to time.
#39
Old 10-10-2010, 02:04 PM
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In my experience, groceries almost always seem more expensive in an unfamiliar area. When I go to visit relatives in Connecticut, upstate New York, or Maryland, I complain about how expensive groceries are there. When they come to visit me, they complain about how expensive groceries are here. I think it has to do with understanding the local grocery market.

When I'm here, I know which stores have the most reasonable regular prices. I know the stores that have high prices generally but good loss-leaders, and I buy only the loss leaders there. I know which stores double manufacturers' coupons and under what conditions. I know approximately how long I have to wait for a good sale, and I buy enough of the sale item to tide me over till the next sale. I know about the little store that usually has the cheapest eggs and sometimes has ridiculously cheap produce. I know about the bakery outlet that has bread, often fresher than the grocery store, and always about half the price. I belong to a local warehouse club store and buy there only the dozen or so items that are actually cheaper than elsewhere.

But when I go to visit my relatives, I don't know any of this about their local market for groceries, and unless I'm staying for months it's probably not worth learning. When I need groceries there, I just stop at the most convenient store and pay whatever they're asking. And it always seems expensive.
#40
Old 10-10-2010, 02:06 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Ontario
Posts: 2,727
I also don't think, as many previous posters have identified, that once can consider the United States as a whole. In my experience moving back and forth between (Eastern) Ontario and Florida, Florida is more expensive for groceries, but cheaper for fast food, fuel, and sundries (pop, gum, magazines, etc.)

One of my best friends moved from here to B.C., and now lives in California. His experience is different. By his estimates (and he's far more frugal than I am, he would know), his grocery budget's been drastically reduced since moving to Orange county.
#41
Old 10-10-2010, 02:15 PM
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It's got to be worse in Canada than in the US or UK, based on the number of Ontario license plates and even Toronto-based tour buses I see in the parking lots of Buffalo-area supermarkets.

Groceries in the Buffalo area aren't cheap, either, compared to the rest of the country. I found that groceries in Buffalo are about 15% to 20% higher than in Cleveland or Austin. One example: 12-packs of branded pop. In Buffalo, the normal price for a 12-pack is in the $5.50 to $6.50 range, with sale prices rarely below $4. In other parts of the country, the normal price seems to be in the $4 to $4.50 range, with sale prices at $2.50 to $3.50.

Maybe the issue in Buffalo is the state of competition. There are only two major supermarket chains in the area; mid-end Tops, and high-end Wegmans. Aldi and a couple of Sav-A-Lots are really the only discount grocers. There's a few indies like Dash's and Budwey's, but none are discounters. In Cleveland, there was Heinen's, Giant Eagle, Dave's, Marc's, and smaller chains that operated in certain parts of the metro area, along with all of the yuppie chains (Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Fresh Market) and a wide assortment of ethnic (Asian, Italian, Kosher) supermarkets. Buffalo has a rather nice co-op and the usual number of small ethnic food stores, but no organic free-range fair-trade single-source sun-dried chains or ethnic supermarkets.

I wonder if there's greater competition in the UK for supermarkets, or if the EU brought with it economies of scale that dwarf the US.

Last edited by elmwood; 10-10-2010 at 02:20 PM.
#42
Old 10-10-2010, 02:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elmwood View Post
It's got to be worse in Canada than in the US or UK, based on the number of Ontario license plates and even Toronto-based tour buses I see in the parking lots of Buffalo-area supermarkets.
The supermarket here is at the border. Lots of BC license plates here.
#43
Old 10-10-2010, 02:38 PM
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I should also mention that online grocery shopping has caught on a lot faster in the UK than in the US. I read an article about it in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago, but can't find it online now. With greater usage by consumers, there are economies of scale and incentives for competitors to enter the online market. We haven't reached that point in most of the U.S. The stores that offer online shopping in some parts of the country tend to be the more expensive stores.

To the best of my knowledge, none of the local grocery store chains in my area offer online shopping, neither for delivery nor pickup. It's possible to have non-perishable items shipped from Amazon or Meijer, sometimes with free shipping, but prices seem to average 50 to 100% more than what I pay.
#44
Old 10-10-2010, 03:41 PM
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Location: Dublin, Ireland
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by elmwood View Post
It's got to be worse in Canada than in the US or UK, based on the number of Ontario license plates and even Toronto-based tour buses I see in the parking lots of Buffalo-area supermarkets.
The supermarket here is at the border. Lots of BC license plates here.
It varies because of currency fluctuations but in general groceries are cheaper in the UK than in the Republic of Ireland. I've heard tell before that the busiest ASDA in the UK is just on the border with the Republic in Strabane, Co. Tyrone. I don't know if it is actually the busiest but a huge amount of its custom comes from cross border customers. Newry, in Co. Down, which is the closest big town in Northern Ireland to Dublin does a roaring trade too in groceries and other goods. Again it depends on the €/£ exchange rate as to how busy they get as well as relative VAT and duties etc.
#45
Old 10-10-2010, 04:20 PM
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Location: Southeast Michigan, USA
Posts: 10,391
When I was living in Ontario, I was astounded by how high the prices were, and for the lack of fresh produce versus what I have in SE Michigan. Here in Mexico, fresh produce is abundant, and dirt cheap compared to Michigan. When I care to venture out of the grocery store and into the local markets, it's about another 1/3 cheaper still.

Meats are a problem, though. I can't figure out the grading system, and I seem to end up with sub-par meat unless I go to the local high-end grocery, where the meat is totally worth it, and it works out to about the same price as high-end grocery meat in Michigan.

Peanut butter, though, is wicked expensive. All I can find are tiny little jars, and they're about $4.00 each. And Haagen Dazs is about $10 for a quart.
#46
Old 10-10-2010, 04:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Balthisar View Post
When I was living in Ontario, I was astounded by how high the prices were, and for the lack of fresh produce versus what I have in SE Michigan.
It's true, and yet strange. Part of it, I imagine, has to do with imports. I live a 15 minute drive from a strawberry farm, and yet even in the summer, the grocery store has fruit driven in from Baja California. I'm no "food miles" zealot, but that just strikes me as poorly thought out.
#47
Old 10-10-2010, 04:53 PM
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Quoth Johnny LA:
Quote:
I like American cheese (100% real cheese, pateurised-process; not 'cheese food' or 'cheese product', which contains as little as 51% cheese)
All American cheese is "cheese food". The process for making American cheese involves melting and resolidifying it, which is what "cheese food" means.

On the OP, the only one of those prices I know off the top of my head is that milk is indeed $2.19 for a half-gallon at Albertson's, but a full gallon isn't all that much more than that. The only reason I buy halves is that I often can't go through a full gallon before it spoils. Even at that, though, Albertson's half-gallon is something of an outlier; I can usually actually get it cheaper at the on-campus convenience store.
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#48
Old 10-10-2010, 05:13 PM
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Our food may be more expensive, but it's got one ingredient you'll never find in British bread, meat or fruit: Freedom.
#49
Old 10-10-2010, 05:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
All American cheese is "cheese food". The process for making American cheese involves melting and resolidifying it, which is what "cheese food" means.
Pasteurized process cheese, which is what I was referring to, is:
Quote:
Sec. 133.169 Pasteurized process cheese.

(a)(1) Pasteurized process cheese is the food prepared by
comminuting and mixing, with the aid of heat, one or more cheeses of the
same or two or more varieties, except cream cheese, neufchatel cheese,
cottage cheese, lowfat cottage cheese, cottage cheese dry curd, cook
cheese, hard grating cheese, semisoft part-skim cheese, part-skim spiced
cheese, and skim milk cheese for manufacturing with an emulsifying agent
prescribed by paragraph (c) of this section into a homogeneous plastic
mass.
Pasteurised process cheese food contains:
Quote:
Sec. 133.173 Pasteurized process cheese food.

(a)(1) A pasteurized process cheese food is the food prepared by
comminuting and mixing, with the aid of heat, one or more of the
optional cheese ingredients prescribed in paragraph (c) of this section,
with one or more of the optional dairy ingredients prescribed in
paragraph (d) of this section, into a homogeneous plastic mass. One or
more of the optional ingredients specified in paragraph (e) of this
section may be used.

<snip>

(d) The optional dairy ingredients referred to in paragraph (a) of
this section are cream, milk, skim milk, buttermilk, cheese whey, any of
the foregoing from which part of the water has been removed, anhydrous
milkfat, dehydrated cream, albumin from cheese whey, and skim milk
cheese for manufacturing.

<snip>

(e) The other optional ingredients referred to in paragraph (a) of
this section are:
(1) An emulsifying agent consisting of one or any mixture of two or
more of the following: Monosodium phosphate, disodium phosphate,
dipotassium phosphate, trisodium phosphate, sodium metaphosphate (sodium
hexa meta phos phate), sodium acid pyro phos phate, tetra sodium pyro
phos phate, sodium aluminum phosphate, sodium citrate, potassium
citrate, calcium citrate, sodium tartrate, and sodium potassium
tartrate, in such quantity that the weight of the solids of such
emulsifying agent is not more than 3 percent of the weight of the
pasteurized process cheese food.
(2) An acidifying agent consisting of one or any mixture of two or
more of the following: A vinegar, lactic acid, citric acid, acetic acid,
and phosphoric acid in such quantity that the pH of the pasteurized
process cheese food is not below 5.0.
(3) Water.
(4) Salt.
(5) Harmless artificial coloring.
(6) Spices or flavorings other than any which singly or in
combination with other ingredients simulate the flavor of cheese of any
age or variety.
(7) Pasteurized process cheese food in the form of slices or cuts in
consumer-sized packages may contain an optional mold-inhibiting
ingredient consisting of not more than 0.2 percent by weight of sorbic
acid, potassium sorbate, sodium sorbate, or any combination of two or
more of these, or consisting of not more than 0.3 percent by weight of
sodium propionate, calcium propionate, or a combination of sodium
propionate and calcium propionate.
(8) Pasteurized process cheese food in the form of slices or cuts in
consumer-sized packages may contain lecithin as an optional anti-
sticking agent in an amount not to exceed 0.03 percent by weight of the
finished product.
(9) Safe and suitable enzyme modified cheese.
Or to put it more succinctly:
Quote:
  • Pasteurized process cheese, which is made from one or more cheeses (excluding certain cheeses such as cream cheese and cottage cheese but including American cheese), and which may contain one or more specified "optional ingredients" (includes both dairy and nondairy items). Moisture and fat content percentage requirements vary according to standards for constituent cheeses, but in most cases fat content must be >47%.
  • Pasteurized process cheese food, which is made from not less than 51% by final weight of one or more "optional cheese ingredients" (similar to the cheeses available for Pasteurized process cheese) mixed with one or more "optional dairy ingredients" (milk, whey, etc.), and which may contain one or more specified "optional ingredients" (nondairy). Moisture must be <44%, and fat content >23%.
  • Pasteurized process cheese spread, which is made similarly to Pasteurized process cheese food but must be spreadable at 70° F. Moisture must be between 44% and 60%, and fat content >20%.
So pasteurized process cheese is cheese. Pasteurized process cheese food is at least 51% cheese. Both are processed into a homogeneous mass. One is cheese, and the other is just mostly cheese.
#50
Old 10-10-2010, 05:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by put down the sabre View Post
As a Brit in the US, I too find this: especially for basic food items like bread and fresh meats and fruit and veg, America is surprisingly expensive, at least on the East Coast.

Junk food (pop, crisps, chocolate) and eating out are extremely cheap.

One weird thing about shopping for food in America is that you either get the dirt cheap crap from walmart, or the very expensive organic hipster stuff from whole foods or a coop. There's very little middle ground -- decent stuff that tastes OK, like you get at tesco.

For comparison, a nice (not crap plastic, but not organic either) loaf of bread will cost you under $1 at tesco in the UK. If you want noncrap bread in the Chapel Hill, NC area, expect to pay $3.

pdts
I repeat again you are talking about the east coast.
Fresh fruit and veggies are very cheap here in California. We grow a lot of this stuff. Meat seems cheaper, but I did not buy much meat when I traveled to the east coast, so that might just be my perception.
As far as mid range markets go, we have tons of them. In So Cal there is (in no particular order) the following chains:
Ralphs
Vons
Food for Less
Albertsons
Hows
Fresh and Easy
Vons
plus a couple of others who's names I don't recall.
We also have club stores like Sam's and Costco. Meat, dairy, and some other items are insanely cheap there.
Just to complicate things a bit, Fresh & Easy is the US branch of Tesco.

I have to back up what Rick is saying here. This is a big frakking country here. East Coast prices are nothing like the prices in Texas, which are different from those in Atlanta, which vary widely from those in LA.

As for sales, just glancing at this week's Stater Bros sales: Cantaloupe - $1 each. Broccoli - $.49/lb. Oroweat bread, all varieties - $2.50/loaf. Red grapes - $3 for 2 lbs. Squash - $.99/lb. Pears, apples, avocados, green beans, all $.99/lb. Tri-tip - $2.99/lb. Top sirloin - $2.99/lb.
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