One Week’s Food

Posted on November 23, 2007 by Eric 
Filed Under Food, Groceries, Reflection

I came across this photo essay on the website a while back. It shows a picture of a family and the food they eat in a week, along with the price and a few of their favorite foods. You can find the link here. It’s well worth a look.

A few things surprised me when I looked at this. I actually read through it a few times.

Is this how much people typically spend on food? I’ll have to admit that for a very long time I never paid attention to the food bills. I just bought what I wanted at the grocery store, usually going without a list, and then paid at the end and never tracked what I spent. As Melissa and I chose to live fully aware of our spending, we started tracking our food bills very closely. On an average week, we live on about $75 worth of food. When the month is tight, we can pull that weekly total down to $50 (and have managed to get it down to less than $40 when we had to). Some families (granted, there is going to be some difference based on currency exchange) spent nearly $500!

The American family from North Carolina had virtually no fresh food. I see some meat up front, a few tomatoes, and some grapes. The rest of it was processed food and fast food. Their expenditure for a family of 4 was nearly $350! In the US, to eat cheaply is seems that you have to buy processed food (you know, the kind that’s always on sale and has really good coupons). In our case, our most expensive weeks are when we have the most fresh food. There are never coupons for the fresh food. One thing I did notice was that there was a lot of fast food and that isn’t cheap. Their food bill is $1400 a month!

Another thing I noticed was that in many of the photos the families had large amounts of soda. Soda is an expense that is completely unnecessary in my book and it holds zero nutritional value. I wish I could convince Melissa of this but she just won’t give up her soda.

Some of the poorest locations had the most fresh food. The people from Chad had nearly nothing. The people from Ecuador had almost exclusively fresh food. The most healthy way to eat, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, was enjoyed more by the poorest countries, and less by the wealthiest. Why is that?

The discrepancy in costs was also amazing. The people in Germany spent $500 a week on food, while the people in Chad spent $1.23! That’s an enormous difference. I know there are reasons for the differences, but it still shocked me. Honestly, if I were spending $500 a week on food, I don’t think we’d be able to afford it! That’s $2000 a month (roughly). That’s double the house payment!

I also found it fascinating to see what people in different countries eat. I had no idea that frozen pizza was so popular around the world. Or that people drank quite so much soda. Just seeing the volume differences was interesting too.

Overall I just found the photos amazing and really appreciate that Time did this photo essay. Once we move I think I might try to put together a photo of what our family eats in a week and the total amount of money spent. I think that would be pretty interesting.


7 Responses to “One Week’s Food”

  1. Lynnae @ Being on November 23rd, 2007 10:43 am

    Thanks for the link to the photo essay. That was really eye opening.

    It makes me sad that processed food is less expensive than fresh food. We also notice that we spend more on the weeks we buy more fresh food. Sometimes we can get good deals at our local produce stand, but as a general rule, processed food is less expensive.

    And I’d love to see your photo. Definitely post one. That would be interesting!

  2. glblguy on November 23rd, 2007 3:16 pm

    I “stumbled” across the same photo essay and was also amazed. Made me realize how healthy other countries eat and how unhealthy we eat.

  3. Suburban Wife’s Daily Dollar Diary » Day 83: Shampoo & Shepherd’s Pie on November 24th, 2007 2:05 am

    […] dinner we looked at Time’s What The World Eats photo essay as mentioned by Eric @ A Penny Closer (thanks, Eric, for that fascinating link).  I suggested that as a family we try to keep a food […]

  4. Eric on November 24th, 2007 12:07 pm

    Lynnae – I think we’ll definitely put a photo together once we’re settled into the new place.

    It shocks me that processed food can be that much cheaper. Personally, I wonder how much the federal subsidies affect the prices. I would much prefer to eat fresh food but some weeks that would wind up blowing our budget.

    Glblguy – That struck me too! Some of the poorest countries just looked like they ate the best. It seemed kind of crazy to me.

  5. MoneyChangesThings on November 24th, 2007 1:07 pm

    check out the wonderful book Hungry Planet. It shows eating around the world.
    You don’t mention the correlation between diet and weight. A majority of Americans are now overweight – something like 2/3. I know this is an over-simplification, but junking the junk food (expensive, processed) and substituting fresh foods (carrots, apples, grapes – not so expensive) would be better choices, if one has to make choices.
    Also American meat-based diets are very resource-intensive environmentally. Cutting back on meat is another budget item. AMericans eat a surfeit of protein.

  6. Eric on November 27th, 2007 10:13 am

    @MoneyChangesThings – I’ll have to checkout Hungry Planet. I didn’t touch on the weight thing, but I think you are correct. Processed foods contribute to obesity.

    Depending on the type of meat, it might not lower your bill much. Melissa and I have purchased a pork shoulder for about 5 dollars and have been able to make meals with the meat for a whole week. It’s not the best cut of meat but it’s cheap. I wish vegetables were cheaper…

  7. Suburban Wife’s Daily Dollar Diary » Blog Archive » Day 83: Shampoo & Shepherd’s Pie(new comment) on November 9th, 2008 5:20 pm

    […] dinner we looked at Time’s What The World Eats photo essay as mentioned by Eric @ A Penny Closer (thanks, Eric, for that fascinating link).  I suggested that as a family we try to keep a food […]


Leave a Reply