One of the constant pressing topics among our team and other moms is the exhorbitant price of food at our local supermarkets. It seems like these days, you need to sell your soul to put food on the table for your family. (Ok, not really, but you know what I mean.)
Out of curiosity about whether or not basic groceries in New Orleans were more expensive than other cities, I did a little research among family and friends who live across the United States. When I posted the call to get prices on Facebook, I got an overwhelming response of volunteers, all curious about the same thing. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks that they are spending way too much to put food on the table. Across the country, mothers are wanting to stage a revolution against high grocery prices! The results I received were quite surprising, and I am still scratching my head from the results!
I created the list to my left for test subjects to obtain grocery prices. These are all basic items than any typical American family may have on their grocery list. I intentionally chose things that are available nationwide and that are typical food items for a family and are easy to find. I spanned the items from most departments of the grocery so that we had adequate areas of the store with which to get data. The items I personally find most expensive here in New Orleans are dairy, meat, and produce, and I wanted to see if my assertions on our prices were accurate or just me being overly cheap. (Hey, I’m being honest here!)
What I found was telling!
Grocery Prices in the Northeast
I have always been told that the cost of living in the Northeast was one of the highest. While they may have more expensive homes to purchase, it seems like they actually are coming out ahead when it comes to their food budget. Some of the most common and widely used household foods are so much cheaper than here that I could use that extra money to actually GO OUT for a bowl of pho instead. While the average price of boneless, skinless chicken breasts average $3.99 per pound here in New Orleans (average of Rouses, Winn-Dixie and Walmart), the average in the Northeast was $2.32 per pound (from Philadelphia, PA; New Haven, CT; and Rochester, NY).
Of course, if you are thinking it is a fluke, I assure you it is not. All forms of dairy were cheaper there, and their produce was also less expensive. That is the thing that baffles me the most. Those cities are nowhere near the southern and western parts of the country that provide the produce indicated. Why are blueberries and bananas cheaper there? Do they have a special discount for chicken and beef that we don’t know about? I am just confused as to why they get cheaper prices when we are a PORT CITY!
Grocery Prices in the Midwest
What I did expect was for food prices to be significantly less in the Midwest. I got pricing from several midwestern cities (South Bend, IN; Chicago, IL; Grand Haven, MI; and Appleton, WI). I had no doubt that their grocery costs would be more affordable because the midwest is home to much of our country’s agriculture. I have always loved visiting my dear friends in the midwest because the people are so much like our people – they are so friendly, hospitable, and they love to have a good time. (My reference is Wisconsin, y’all. If you have never been, go. The people are so nice, they appreciate a good beer, and they have the best cheese I’ve ever had in the US). The heartland of our country is also full of farms that harvest much of our corn, wheat, and dairy among other food items. However, I fully expected their beef and chicken prices to be less than our averages, and they were not. I was thinking that much of the beef and chicken we eat comes from the midwest and that their prices would be better, but I was wrong! However, when it comes to dairy and produce, they have us beat!
Grocery Prices in the West and Southeast
Another aspect that really surprised me, though, was that the prices in the west (California, Hawaii, Nevada) were comparable to New Orleans and the Southeast with regards to dairy, meat and even produce (which, I always thought much of it came from California, right?). Overall, though, it appears as though the Southeast has the priciest average for almost every item from the list.
While our beautiful home of New Orleans is not the highest cost-wise of all of the items, it was pretty significant in the fresh foods range, with prices for meat averaging $3.99/pound for boneless skinless chicken breasts and $4.49/pound for ground sirloin. We clearly pay way more for cheese. Our average cost for cheese is $3.87 and the average on milk was $4.37. I got prices from other southeastern cities (Charlotte, NC; Destin, FL; Knoxville, TN; Savannah, GA) just to make sure that the higher prices were not just unique to New Orleans, and I was right!
Overall grocery prices in the southeast region of our country are considerably higher!
This study has been proof positive that the myth about the south’s cost of living as being less expensive, well…
I can’t speak for other cities in the southeast, but I can most certainly say that our cost of living in New Orleans is NOT that affordable when you factor in high rates for homeowners insurance, flood insurance, and of course, some of highest car insurance premiums in the country. Tack on our high food costs and such, and I’d say that those assertions are inaccurate, at best. The worst part is that these are prices on pretty common, regular items. May the force be with you if you choose to shop 100% organic, free range or you eat specialty foods like gluten free goods, farro, or sprouted grain bread. You’ll need to put a second mortgage on your house just to eat!
This whole project has had me scratching my head, but also realizing that I am not crazy to believe that our groceries are pretty high in comparison to other cities. The only explanation that I have is that our reputation as a city who “Lives to Eat” is part of the reason why we leave the grocery with a high food bill? Is it because our culture revolves around family and good food? Do grocers and their food providers know we will pay a premium for quality food as we all have discriminating palates? Is it because we put a lot of stock in feeding our families with our unique and delicious cuisine?
Whatever the reason, I get frustrated every time I swipe my debit card at the supermarket.