09 October 2005

No weigh?

It always surprises me that people will pay extreme rates for boring/everyday food, but flinch when it comes to paying the same or lower rates for exotica.

For example, if you buy a 200g (large) packet of potato chips (“crisps” for poms) and pay a typical price of AUD$3.20 for them, you’ve just paid $16.00 a kilo for potatoes and fat.

A kilo of cashews will cost about the same amount, as does a kilo of reasonable quality steak — and the same kilo of potatoes and fat piping hot and tasty from a fish-and-chip shop will cost you about 1/3 as much. That’s still a higher rate than most fruit and veggies, although about the same as dried pineapple or pawpaw. A kilo of water will cost roughly $1.50-$3.00 for a bottle or effectively $0 from a tap.

Buy the potatoes and fat in a 50g bag instead, paying $1.60 for it, and you’ve just shelled out $32.00 a kilo, more than most of the slightly exotic chocolates (a Chocolate Orange or box of Cherry Liquer chocolates is cheaper per kilo than small bags of chips, cheezels, burger rings and the like).

Similar economies of scale can sometimes be realised elsewhere — for example a 27g box of Jila Mints from a supermarket is $1.80 apiece or $67/kg. The same mints in a half-kilo jar from OfficeWorks (of all places) is $9.99 ($20/kg) — but the general rule of thumb is that the less processed the food is, the cheaper it is (and the better for you); e.g. Pink Lady apples in a 1.5kg bag for $3 vs apple sauce in a 375g bottle for $3.

It’s also much, much better suited to your system. The apples will provide you with a bunch of nutrients neatly packaged with the enzymes and stuff required to properly assimilate them, plus water and soluble fibre, but the sauce will have most of the nutrients boiled to death and soaked in sugar, thickeners, preservatives, “flavours” (whatever the heck that is), salt and other stuff.

Sugar, salt and flavours are there to boost and alter the flavour. Why does the flavour need boosting and altering? Because the processing which upped the price sixfold also killed the flavour.

And so on. What inspired this diatribe against overpriced junk food was being sent out to fetch some flavoured coffee for a coffee-loving set of guests. I was merely awestruck to see that some of the little tins of the stuff worked out to $50 a kilo until I ran across boxes of sachets at what worked out to $150 a kilo.

The single most expensive “fresh’ food item at the Wanneroo Markets is dried rockmelon at $100/kg ($10/100g), and when you see just how small a slice of rockmelon becomes when it’s dried you can appreciate just how much fresh rockmelon goes into a kilo of the stuff (it loses volume about about 25-fold in the drying).

Anyway, since I had to trot down to the supermarket after other things, here’s a more or less random table of food price per kg to consider:

ProductMassPrice$/kg
Moccona coffee200$16.00$80.00
Big Mac65$3.25$50.00
Macdonalds regular fries44$2.00$45.45
Scotch fillet  $26.99
Rice chips125$3.13$25.04
Jarrah “flavoured” coffee200$4.78$23.90
Potato chips (small bag)50$1.17$23.40
Freddo Frog40$0.92$23.00
Mars bar60$1.37$22.83
Salami125$2.69$21.52
Cup of noodles (dry)70$1.49$21.29
Canned Dolmades feta280$4.68$16.71
Frozen prawns  $15.99
Block chocolate220$3.40$15.45
Muesli bars240$3.64$15.17
Potato chips (big bag)200$2.96$14.80
Dip200$2.76$13.80
Mint Slice biscuits365$5.03$13.78
Snakes200$2.75$13.75
Special K375$5.14$13.71
M&Ms (peanut and plain)250$3.41$13.64
Twisties190$2.47$13.00
Icecream, Picnic cone460$5.90$12.83
Instant potatoes (as powder)115$1.45$12.61
Ovaltine chocolate drink350$4.28$12.23
Corn chips230$2.79$12.13
Starburst180$2.17$12.06
Blade steak  $11.99
Yakult 5-pack325$3.79$11.66
Frozen fish (schnapper)  $10.99
InABiskit range200$2.12$10.60
Grated cheese500$5.06$10.12
Apricot Danish400$3.97$9.93
Family Assortment biscuits500$4.95$9.90
Frozen pizza500$4.89$9.78
VitaWheat biscuits300$2.90$9.67
Chocolate mud cake475$4.56$9.60
Hotdogs375$3.39$9.04
Rice bubbles530$4.77$9.00
Peanut Butter500$4.48$8.96
Weeties575$5.06$8.80
Frozen beef pies (pack of 4)700$5.47$7.81
Frozen chicken pies (pack of 4)700$5.47$7.81
Muesli packet600$4.58$7.63
Block cheese1000$7.20$7.20
Mince  $6.99
Frozen beef burgers400$2.65$6.63
Raisin Toast520$3.36$6.46
Butter500$3.12$6.24
Sausages (average of 3 packs)  $6.00
Jam/Marmalade500$3.00$6.00
Eggs804$4.50$5.60
Whole chicken raw  $5.00
Frozen sliced beans500$2.21$4.42
Packet pasta500$2.00$4.00
Yoghurt1000$3.81$3.81
Weetbix1000$3.70$3.70
Frozen corn kernels1000$3.66$3.66
Choc Milk 600ml612$2.09$3.42
Canned baked beans420$1.43$3.40
Canned spaghetti420$1.43$3.40
Frozen peas1000$3.39$3.39
Bread (white or wholemeal, plain)680$2.30$3.38
Instant potatoes (made up)560$1.45$2.59
Icecream, 2l tub2040$5.21$2.55
Canned beetroot825$1.88$2.28
Rice2000$3.99$2.00
Milk 2l2040$2.99$1.47
White Sugar3000$3.91$1.30
Soy milk2040$2.05$1.00
 
Cheapest  $1.00
Most expensive  $80.00
Mean  $12.20

Stewart Smith will be pleased to note that the vegetarian, particularly vegan, items strongly tend to sort towards the bottom (most cost-effective food), but nevertheless one of the least cost-effective foods (the coffee) is technically vegan. If I’d included more fresh food in this, the cost-effectiveness of a veggo food plan would be much more obvious.

Healthier items (with a few notable exceptions like sugar) tend to sort towards more cost-effective as well.

Edit: BlogSpot/Blogger.com is dumb enough to treat newlines after </TD> and the like as line-breaks and convert them into <br /> tags. To make this table work, I had to collapse it down to one single line. <slap forehead>

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