HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Average Grocery Shopping Around The World

This is from an email going around about what is suppossed to represent typical grocery shipping behaviors around the world. Please let me know your thoughts, agreement, disagreement etc.,

Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide
Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. United States: The Revis family of North Carolina
    Food expenditure for one week $341.98

    1. Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily
      Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11

      1. Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca
        Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09

        1. Poland: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna
          Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27

          1. Egypt: The Ahmed family of Cairo
            Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53

            1. Ecuador: The Ayme family of Tingo
              Food expenditure for one week: $31.55

              1. Bhutan: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village
                Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03

                1. Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp
                  Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23

                  1. interesting - the pictures say it all - want to lower your food costs? buy less pre-packaged and fire up that stove.

                    I prob. wouldn't survive two days, but I was jealous of the variety of fresh vegetables in Mexico, Ecuador, Poland and elsewhere. and yes I do understand many of these families eat what they do out of necessity not choice, no romanticizing here (Chad was very humbling).

                    1. I've seen these quite sometime ago. Reviewing, I want to move to Egypt.

                      1. these pictures appear to have been lifted from the book
                        "hungry planet, what the world eats" by peter menzel (text and photographs)


                        does the email going around give any attribution to the author/photojournalist?

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: soupkitten

                          Yes, you're correct about Hungry Planet. I've seen these pics on Time before.

                          Here's the link. There are more countries featured:


                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            Thanks for the link & the additional countries.

                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              saw a few things i hadn't initially noticed when paging through the book. in the wealthier countries (usa, uk) i noticed packaged pet food for the first time, & then i looked for it in the other photos. i noticed the flowers & family photos amid the display of the polish family's foods (hmm. anyone fancy a sausage & rose-petal preparation?). i noticed again who buys water, & how the water is packaged, & who doesn't buy it/need to buy it because their tap water is cleanish.

                            2. re: soupkitten

                              Unfortunately no credit for Menzel

                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                aw, that stinks. :( fwiw it's a well done book & i'd rec anybody who gets a chance to page through it in the library or book shop do so.

                                despite some of the other thoughtful comments re: rural/urban & relative wealth of the participating families, i thought it was a very interesting concept for a book & for thinking about food differently. thanks for the op EN.

                            3. I received this email some time ago too. What interested me the most was the color scheme of each family's food. The US family's was florescent....most of the other's earth tones. Agreed that less packaging = less expensive.

                              1. Wow. Thanks for uploading these. There was an article about this in the NYT a while back. Some thoughts/observations:
                                -U.S., Great Britain and Japan have high amounts of processed food.
                                -I wonder if the book compared grocery supplies of urban vs. rural or compared different states w/in the U.S. Where I live, for example (or at least among people I know), I don't know anyone who buys that much processed food.
                                -For the German family, I was really surprised how much of their groceries was beverages. It looks like they spend quite a lot of $ on beverages. I remember growing up--we were a family of five, but my mom had a rule of no more than two half-gallon containers of juice per week. Sometimes the half-gallon container of juice was replaced by soda, and granted, my dad never drank any of that stuff (he had his own stash of beer), but once we ran out, it was water/tea for the rest of the week.
                                -The Sicilian family eats a *lot* of bread.
                                -Also, for the Mexican family, I wonder if that is an affluent family and not representative? Given the cost of living and lower wages, I find it hard to believe that the average family spends close to $200 on their weekly food budget.
                                -on a related note on beverages, it's interesting that in some countries (e.g. Mexico), even if their diet seemed very healthy and plant-based, their beverage choices were a less healthy soda.

                                -from an economics standpoint, one interesting thing is that the poorer the country, the less processed foods in the diet. As you get wealthier, you start introducing more of it, but the Mexican family (and the ubiquity of soda in other families' groceries) shows that it starts with soda. Probably b/c it's cheap, so that makes sense. But in the U.S., at some point, the trend reverses (produce is expensive!), and it seems like the prevalence of processed foods in one's diet correlates with income, which is why you have all sorts of food/health issues, but more among the poor.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: anzu

                                  Sicilian.... I was surprised that they ate so much bread as well... given that Siciliy was the entry point for pasta.. and they seem to take great pride in being the first "Italians" to have a pasta tradition.

                                  Mexico... I think that is pretty average. The thing you have to know about Mexico is that it is considered an Upper Middle Income country... and most people don't carry mortgages, car loans etc., Utilities are generally cheap... and so are most labor intensive services. Its a completely different economy where food is a much higher part of the budget.

                                  With regards to the Soda... its the major vice of the Mexican consumer... highest per capita of any nation on earth. Its not even that cheap compared to other drinks... its barely cheaper than buying pre-made Agua Fresca from a street vendor. And not any cheaper than some astonishingly good bottled sparkling water. Further, soda consumption per capita has actually increased quite a bit in the last 25 years and is probably the single leading cause of disease & obesity there.

                                2. I was intrigued woth the premise so I bought this book. It is a very different book than what I'm reading here. Several half-truths and downright mistakes are being bandied about.

                                  *** The authors are a husband-wife team Peter Menzel and Faith d'Aluisio. Please note that it is not the sole work of Menzel. Peter Menzel is a photojournalist, Faith d'Aluisio is a writer. The book, " HUNGRY PLANET, What The World Eats" won the 2006 Beard Foundation Award(s) for both Cookbook of the Year and Writings on Food Award.

                                  *** The authors attempted, through a variety of methods, to find "...everyday food of everyday people everywhere - the heaping plates at middle-class mealtimes, the meager communal bowls shared by families crushed by poverty, the sacks of grain served up by overworked aid organizations, the clamorous aisles in hypermarkets, the jam-packed shelves in mom-and-pops, the foods prescribed by religious doctrine, the foods celebration, subsidized foods." (pg 16)

                                  The book does not purport to show what an average family eats in a particular country, nor that their expenditures are "average". Families were chosen for specific reasons, as explained by the accompanying text in each section.

                                  To glance at photos and make the leap that what is shown is "typical" fare for the country is incorrect and not what the authors wrote.

                                  1. to me, a more interesting comparison would be what percentage of an annual salary do people spend on their supermarket and market shop.

                                    1. The weekly budgets of the families shown compared to per capita income is interesting. The following is: country; per capita income (from the IMF); yearly expenditure for each family (amount cited x 56); and per cent of national per capita income spent on food by the individual family shown.

                                      Germany: $28,000 - $34,181 - 82%
                                      Egypt: $5,491 - $3,864 - 70%
                                      Poland: $16,311 - $8,456 - 52%
                                      Italy: $30,448 - $14,560 - 48%
                                      USA: $45,845 - $19,152 - 42%
                                      Ecuador: $7,195 - $1,792 - 25%
                                      Bhutan: $5,167 - $280 - 5%
                                      Chad: $1,675 - $56 - 3%

                                      Clearly, the families are not and cannot be "average." People in the US and countries like Germany and Poland spend very small percentages of respective income on food; and people in places like Chad, Ecuador, and Bhutan spend very high proportions. Why do these numbers seem to indicate that the poor spend proportionally little on their food? Because per capita income, per se, is not the right indicator (my fault) where great income inequality exists: I don't have time to calculate inequality (the gini coefficient) in each country and then make better sense of the data. Suffice to say that people's impressions of each family and their food spending must be examined carefully.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        While it is true that you need to factor in the Gini index... the thing you are missing is Average Household Size. For example in the U.S. the Average Household Size is 2.59... making the Per Household GDP - $118,738... of course you are correct that the Billionaires of the country & the top 1% skew the number quite a bit and things like the Median & Mode must be considered. Last I remember... a the typical household at low end if the Middle Class... was about $52k in yearly income, at the higher end of the Middle Class... I think typical income is more like $90k.

                                        In countries like Mexico where the average household is 4.4... even though Per Capita GDP is only $10k... the Per Household GDP is $44k... while those numbers are just statistics... my own familial experience validates that. I have cousins in Aguascalientes who live on a family compound. My uncle bought the lot back in the late '80's... and as each kid got married they built a house (did the general contracting themselves)... so for about $40k in building materials & hired help... each kid owns their own home outright... not bad looking either... 1,800 sq ft, 2 story, white neo-mudejar, red tile homes.. with decent hand made tiles in Puebla & Mexican marble floors etc.... most of them ended up having entry level beauracrat & white collar jobs paying about $15-$25k a year... and I can tell you they have a much better lifestyle than I do! They are always in Guayabitos or Guanajuato for the weekend!

                                        In any case... GDP statistics often don't reflec the true consumption patterns in Developing countries (when we do linear numeric comparisons to the equivalent in the Developed world).