Thursday, January 5, 2012

Food Cost Basis

My good friends Joe and Clair, with whom I spend New Years Eve 2011, have decided that I need to write more blog posts, and even went so far as to suggest that it should be my new years resolution.  So this is my first one of 2012.

As I think about the price of groceries, and food in general, I intuitively would look at the "$ / pound" label in the supermarket as my normalized basis for how much things actually cost.  But that doesn't consider the nutritional content, as well as the amount of sustenance (calories) you actually get for that $.

Let's consider Kraft's 4% Cottage Cheese.  Shoprite had this for $1.89 / container this week.  The nutritional information lists 120 calories per 1/6 container.  That comes to 720 calories / $1.89 or 380 calories / $.  If you were on a 2000 calorie diet per day, it would cost you $5.25 to eat only cottage cheese that day.

If we look at a Subway Spicy Italian Sub, the footlong sub costs $5, and contains 960 calories.  So that would cost you $10.40 per day, or 192 calories per $.

Just for fun, let's consider vodka.  A handle is 1.5 liter, and contains 50 oz.  In 80 proof vodka, 1 fluid oz is 64 calories.  This means that vodka gives you 162 calories per dollar.

So this is just me ranbling on about random costs of food, and a list of some others I calculated can be found here, sorted by Calories / $.  Turns out rice is the cheapest; who would have guessed.  Also I completely ignored nutritional value in all of this analysis.  I should really consider macronutrient composition of various foods and how much nutrition you get per dollar, not just how much energy.  Maybe another time.


  1. This is so handy! When looking at protein options, we calculate $/g of protein. Chicken breast on sale and gluten flour bought in bulk seem to be the best options.

    Forgot I said I'd send you a few fact, maybe I'll write a post too...I'll let you know!

  2. Yeah, I should ideally have a column for $ / gram of protein. Maybe I'll add it to my spreadsheet when I have some time.

    Surprisingly, when looking at just caloric content per $, chicken breast is not as efficient as I'd hoped for, at 245 calories / $, while peanut butter is as high as 1100 calories / $.

  3. Also, it was interesting to note that even the non-generic olive oil is still more effective in terms of efficiency than, say, beans.

    So what I've learned from this is that it's not so important which brand you get (as long as it's not a super expensive brand), but rather the choice in ingredients themselves when it comes to cost.