While the West coast usually takes the prize for highest home and gas prices and the East coast generally leads in auto spending and taxes, where you’re likely to pay more for groceries is often a mystery. People don’t usually follow the price of food like they do for gas even though we consume both every day. Overall, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows food costs have largely stayed flat since 2012, but when it comes to per family spending, one region of the county is spending a lot less than the others.
It turns out that according to Gallup’s poll on family grocery spending, states in the East, West, and South all spend about the same on groceries–an average of $155 each week. However, Midwesterners spend about 10% less on groceries than the rest of the country saving roughly $65 per month or $780 per year.
What’s so special about the Midwest? One of the reasons for the significant gap in grocery spending could be that much of traditional Midwestern cuisine, typically composed of U.S. produced staples is just cheaper to buy and cook. While coastal areas have overwhelming access to seafood, and specialty meats, cheeses and other international products, typical Midwestern meals are made of American grown beef, pork, vegetables, and grains.
Grilled Chicken Cutlets with Capers, Potatoes and Green Beans
Cost per serving (4 oz) ~ $1.85
Rosemary Broiled Salmon over Rice, Tomatoes and Parsley
Cost per serving (4 oz) ~ $3.25
A $1.40 difference per serving for a family of four is almost six dollars a day, over $150 per month–and that’s just for dinner. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of all food produced in the U.S. occurs in Midwestern states like Iowa and Illinois according to Where Food Comes From. Household mainstays like beef, chicken and wheat or corn-based products are heavily produced in the Midwest states and transported around the county at a cost.
Ironically enough, buying and eating locally-produced food often costs more due to the small scale of farms that sell to consumers directly or through markets. For those who are interested in eating local, the National Resources Defense Council has an iPhone app to find you the nearest of more than 5,200 local farmers markets around the country. However, if you’re primarily interested in cutting your grocery bill by 10% or more, meal planning and grocery list apps like Su Chef can help you avoid the food waste that costs families $1,365 to $2,275 each year.
Some of the easiest and best ways to save money on groceries are also the most basic: make a shopping list (and don’t go shopping hungry), plan meals ahead, and buy generic brands. Being hungry leads to impulse buying in an irrational attempt to satiate that need immediately, and having a list and will help you move quickly through the store and keep you on budget. Studies show the longer you stay in a store the more money you’re likely to spend.
It also doesn’t hurt to expand your recipe library and cooking knowledge. With little effort you can easily turn leftovers into soups, salads, and stews, and being able to make great meals with simple ingredients at home can save you multiple trips the store each week where you’re likely to buy more than you need.
How do you save on groceries? Let us know in the comments.