You are what you eat—and it’s eating your wallet


Where basic food items are most expensive

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It costs more to eat and drink than it used to. The federal government reported food prices in May had their highest increase in almost three years. How much you pay for food usually depends on where you live ... but not always.

We looked at the prices of the three main food groups: milk, bread and beer. OK, these are my three main food groups.

A website called Numbeo crowdsources cost of living data from around the world.

Based on the prices put in from its users, here are the top, best, most- and least-expensive places for basic groceries.

New York

Everything costs more in New York, so it's no surprise that food prices there are the highest for any big city. The average price for a gallon of milk is $5.29, a loaf of bread is $2.57, and a 16-ounce domestic beer averages (gulp) $6! Numbeo says that based on the average daily recommended consumption of food, feeding one New Yorker costs $337.14 a month. That's, like, 100 lattes.


Here in the Valley of the Sun, you pay top dollar for water. Actually, you don't. Numbeo users report a 12-ounce bottle of water in Phoenix is about $1.09, cheaper than the national average of $1.27.

Milk in Phoenix costs only $2.76, about half the price in NYC. Bread is $2, beer is $4. Why so cheap? I mean, it’s not like there’s a lot of dairy cows or wheat fields or beer operations in Arizona. Phoenix is, however, a growing nexus for warehouses, railroads and trucking. That proximity to all the products moving across America may account for part of the lower cost.


You'd think everything cost a lot more in Alaska, right? Not really. A gallon of milk is $3.93, not that much more than the national average. There is a dairy industry in Alaska, but it's not big. Of course, not that many people live there. Bread in Alaska only averages $2.64 a loaf. However, it's the beer you need after a long day fighting grizzlies that will drain your wallet. Numbeo reports the average price for a 16-ounce domestic beer in Anchorage is $6. Those are New York prices!


The Aloha State is no paradise when it comes to your grocery bill. That's because so many products have to be shipped in. According to the Numbeo data, a gallon of milk in Honolulu will make you have a cow (and you should have one if you live there)—$6.58 a gallon! A loaf of bread costs $4.05 on average and a 16-ounce domestic beer is $4.50. In fact, about the only thing cheaper in Honolulu than the Big Apple is a pack of Marlboros, $9.94 versus $12 in New York.

Numbeo users produce a few weird conclusions. For example, you'd think living in a big dairy state would mean you'd pay less for milk. Not true! The average price for a gallon of milk in Madison, Wisconsin, is $3.94 a gallon, a penny more than in Anchorage!

But quit complaining, America.

Numbeo also has input from consumers all over the globe. According to those numbers, the most expensive milk is in Papua New Guinea, where a gallon averages $11.03.

Then there's beer.

I have good news and bad news.

The bad news is that if you try to buy a 16-ounce domestic beer in Tehran (and good luck with that), it could cost you $7.80.

The good news, skip that Iranian vacation and head to Hanoi instead. That same beer in Vietnam will only cost about 59 cents. And with average temperatures there in the 90s with high humidity this time of year, you'll need all the beer you can safely handle.

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