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Apr 4, 2014 02:06 PM

What a Week's Worth of Groceries Look Like in Different Parts of the World

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  1. Fascinating... it begs the question - what would a typical week's groceries look like for chowhounds? (also a stark reminder of how limited food resources are in some parts of the world, and how wasteful more affluent societies can be...)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Kajikit

      Chad and Mali--not surprising but the contrast is good to see.

    2. It's interesting to see the difference but I wonder how they came up w/ what is typical. There is very little on the US one that I buy.

      12 Replies
      1. re: chowser

        I agree about the US picture then again, Chowhounders are probably not typical American families.

        The amount of soda in the US and Mexico picture makes me shudder.

        1. re: chowser

          I agree, it might be representative but not of my house both in actual food products and the volume.

          1. re: fldhkybnva

            Concur. It would be fun to do the same photo essay in different parts of the US.

            1. re: tcamp

              I suspect no matter where one is in the US, one would find the same shopping basket diversities--the 'hounds among us would likely have baskets full of (likely) less processed foods and a greater variety whether they were in the Midwest, East Coast, Southeast, etc. Similarly, you'd find some people with baskets full of frozen entrees, boxes of cereal, soda, milk, pre-sliced balloon bread, etc. on the West Coast as well as the East coast, Michigan as well as Texas. Given the extended reach of General Mills, Kraft, and so on, the same TV commercials for foodstuffs, the ability to transport goods pretty rapidly, etc., my guess is that the shopping baskets would be fairly similar from coast to coast.

              1. re: nofunlatte

                My food for this week (minus what I'm grabbing for free from work) is macaroni and cheese. I've made enough for the entire freaking week (two people, 13x9 pan, plenty of cream, cheese, some bacon and some crumbed croutons on top).

                I'm on the "cooking is easy if you do it once a week" bandwagon.

          2. re: chowser

            Do you ever look in other peoples' carts while waiting in line and fantasize about asking them why they're buying all of that crap, and BTW, where are their vegetables?

            1. re: sandylc

              One day I was in a long line and looked at other people's carts and thought, "When did I get so far off the mainstream?" I honestly hadn't seen a lot of the stuff in some of those carts. OTOH, because I'm in fitness, if I see people I know in the store or restaurants, the first thing they do is look in my cart or what I'm eating. One night, as a special splurge, we were buying stuff for brownies sundaes for dinner. And of course, I run into a bunch of students from my boot camp class. It's a very judgmental world in fitness...

              1. re: chowser

                Sooo true! I run into people at the gym and since I pretty much eat a keto style low carb diet I often have to explain my cart. When I do have to buy the rare items of processed food for events that I'm asked to bring them for, I must admit I often feel embarrassed though I'm sure the cashier just sees it as normal. The journey to find Goldfish and Cheetos is difficult enough and then I have to associate it with it at the checkout :)

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  MIchael Pollan gained me as a fan when he talked about buying cocoa puffs for his son for a special occasion, in Berkeley, where most people know him.

              2. re: sandylc

                I am terrible about looking at peoples carts and making speculations - I tend to shop a bunch of different markets and I see a lot of extremes - it also varies a lot by which store I shop at.

                The lower income ethnic-focused supermarkets seem to move lots of fresh produce and meat - grains, beans etc, not the highest quality but inexpensive and in volumes

                At the higher-end more upscale urban-professional oriented market they stock more pedigreed products, also a good amount of organic fruits and vegetables (the bread is pathetic) but people seem to be buying absurdly tiny amounts of food - like they are only thinking for one meal - I see a lot more people buy one onion rather than a sack of onions for example - probably eat out often they seem to shop the market like they shop a boutique (this is even more prevalent at my coop marketplace and local farmers market).

                At he bigger more downscale supermarket that serves the broader, and poorer, neighborhood is where I see carts full of frozen pizza and colorful boxes and soda with incredible frequency I am actually amazed when I see someone filling a cart with veggies and meats.

                1. re: JTPhilly

                  Haha I'm one of those 1 onion buyers. It seems like the onions (and potatoes and oranges, etc) that come in a bag have a lot of bad ones. I also shop almost every day and don't plan meals so I'm only buying for a day or two. Plus, I divide my shopping between the regular supermarket, Lotte Plaza, and the farmer's market.

                2. re: sandylc

                  I do that, and yet, I'm sure if a lot of people looked at my shopping card they'd make weird -- and wrong -- assumptions.

                  In the late sping - early autumn, I mostly buy my fruits and vegetables at local (New Jersey) roadstands. Or grow my own. My mother raises her own chickens and pigs so I never buy eggs, nor pork. I get most of my meat and seafood from a local purveyor of restaurant-grade meats.

                  What do I buy at the supermarket? Cat food, cleaning goods, some soda and juice, and frozen dinners for my partner for when I'm on the road (he's too lazy to cook on his own.) So I'm sure I look like some crazy cat lady at the checkout counter who eats nothing but premade meals while feeding and cleaning up after my pets. Not exactly the real story...

              3. Thanks for posting the fascinating piece!

                1. The original comment has been removed
                  1. This is are my observations;

                    Mexico- holy contrast. All that fresh produce, about 80-90% of their weekly groceries are fresh produce and the rest is soda? Wow......are they ahead of the US on obesity? Not being sarcastic, just wondering, that's a staggering amount of soda for one week.

                    Great Britain, is it just me that thinks this picture was taken in 1972?

                    USA- here we are the fat bastards of the world. What does two to-go pizza's have to do with groceries? Same should be asked about the various Burger King and Mc Donalds items on the table. Are we subconsciously saying fast food now equates to groceries for us? The only fresh produce, two tomatoes and a bunch or two of grapes. Great......also anyone else notice the case of Budweiser on the counter?

                    Australia - did the Mexican Family sneak some more relatives into the Australian picture? Those are the least Australian looking people I have ever seen. Way more meat products than I would have imagined their diet to require. Again a good balance between fresh and processed food, probably 70-30. Balance.

                    Germany - look at the family's unforgiving faces. "Yeah this is what we eat, got a problem with that?" I'm actually surprised at how little meat they have. I expected to see plates of smoked meats and sausages etc. Also what is in those containers that look like half & half or heavy cream? Even the Germans don't have a case of beer for a week of groceries.

                    Italy- PACKAGED PASTA???? OMG why not stab me in the heart.....are you kidding me? Packaged pasta? I expected to see the house draped with fresh pasta drying on clothes lines. Dear God take me now....and not one bottle of Sambucca? I'm calling bullshit on this pic. This is Greece!!

                    Canada- Always the show off's. Look at our perfect kitchen and perfect family and perfectly balanced diet and grocery list! For what it's worth I think the kid on the left is adopted.

                    France - What is the daughter doing? Showing off a plate of pasta and the family pet, or is that another form of protein for the family? I would have expected that from some of the 3rd world countries later in the list. Anyone else notice the bottled water right in front, not Evian? You people do know what Evian spelled backwards is right?

                    Japan - I don't know what most of that is, fish and noodles I'm assuming. Notice the death grip the daughter to the left has on the one bag of "junk" food. I think that was just a prop they gave her and she has no intention on letting go.

                    China - Look at the french/Italian loaves of bread? I would have never expected to see bread like that in China, let a lone a part of the normal weekly diet of a family. Who wants to wager if after this picture was taken so was all the food and the only two pieces of furniture in this picture?

                    Poland - Let me break the ice by coming out and just saying it, am I the only one who see's the 800lbs elephant in the room? Similar to Italy, where are the perogies? I expected to see dozens upon dozens of those babies!?!?!?! I see what looks like some hot dog's on the table but I also expected more sausage type meats.

                    Kuwait - Nice to see they have been doing well since the evasion/liberation. The nicest kitchen so far and also a very content looking family. Very well balanced......

                    Mongolia - that's a large piece of un-identifiable meat there. I guess that's a bag of rice next to it. Not to familiar with their culture or diet so I'll assume that reflects it accurately. Notice the stark contrast in quantity.

                    Turkey - Holy Bread!! Similar to China I didn't expect to see loaves of bread like that.....unleavened yes, not loaves like that, interesting. Can't really see what's on that higher portion of the table but I assume some red meat.

                    Mali - I have no idea what to expect from this....but the one thing that does catch me this is by far the largest family, the happiest looking so far. Such little if any protein and nothing as far as beverage.

                    India - not too familiar with Indian cuisine, most notable 1 bottle of soda for the family for the week. No protein? I know most of their diet is heavy on vegetarian type items, although most dishes I have tried are chicken.

                    Bhutan - I honestly need a globe to figure out where this is. That's is a pretty substantial bag of rice or grain the boy to the right has. Is it just me that thinks the photographer forgot to tell the people in the middle to smile? What a contrast from the people on the sides of the pic to the center.

                    Chad - is sad.

                    Ecuador - Plantains anyone??? Again look at that family on their dirt, thatched floor all smiles. God bless.

                    Guatemala - it just me or is this the largest produce you have ever seen? Everything looks like it's on steroids and I don't think it's miracle grow. What is that giant green thing in front of the guy on the right, squash? That alone looks like it could feed a family for a week. They also get the award for most fashion coordinated family of the bunch. I would like to see what they do for their Christmas Card pictures!

                    I really do think the picture(s) were skewered to depict the US in a negative light with the pizza and fast food included in the items. Just my thoughts.............but I am by no way defending out diet(s).

                    17 Replies
                    1. re: jrvedivici

                      Jrvedivici, I think we were composing posts at the same time. Thanks for your hilarious and apt observations.

                      Some responses:

                      USA - Such a good point about take-out becoming the new "groceries". See note in my post below. I think people on the East and West Coasts don't realize how very badly people in the middle are eating, and how completely most parents all over the country have given up trying to have input with regard to what their children eat.

                      Australia - Those are native Australians. Maybe Maori or part Maori.

                      Canada - They can't be THAT much better than us. (Can they?)

                      France - Daughter looks ready to throw both the plate of pasta and the cat in our fat American faces.

                      Poland - Fear not, pierogis are present as the onions, potatoes and sacks of flour tucked away here and there. More like what you expected from Italy.

                      Mali and India - There's lots of protein there in the form of dried beans and lentils.

                      Germany - Are most of those bottles alcohol?

                      1. re: ninrn

                        Most of those bottles appear to be beer and sparkling water bottles.

                        I'd say that's a pretty typical depiction of the German diet (not just the beer & water -- the food, too: lots of dairy products, cold cuts, cheese, bread, vegetables & fruit).

                        1. re: ninrn

                          For india, I was expecting a sack of lentils. I don't see any lentils there (maybe I'm blind)

                        2. re: jrvedivici

                          "Germany - Also what is in those containers that look like half & half or heavy cream? "

                          That type of Tetra packaging is popular in Germany. I remember my family buying milk and juices in it.

                          Smoked meats and sausages didn't figure prominently on my family's tables, they were more of a snack or a side dish.

                          1. re: cleobeach

                            Hello cleobeach,

                            Do you find the Germany photo to be somewhat accurate in its representation of what most people eat in a week (even if it's not representative of how you and your family eat or ate)?

                            1. re: ninrn

                              Mind you, my father has been gone for a couple of years now and I haven't spent extended periods of time with my relatives since then.

                              But yes, based on my memory, it is somewhat accurate.

                              There was more bread/rolls in our diet and less alcohol on our tables. It looks like there are a couple of bottles of red wine to the left, which would have only made an appearance for group or special meals. (my dad was not a big drinker)

                              My dad loved TV dinners/frozen pizzas and our freezers were stocked full of such things but the rest of the family would not have purchased similar items on a weekly basis.

                          2. re: jrvedivici

                            Yes, Mexico has passed the US as the fattest country in the world.

                            Given the amount of coke depicted.... perhaps not a surprise.

                            1. re: linguafood

                              It's amazing isn't it? Look at all the fresh produce....without that back wall of soda it would appear the Mexicans' have the "healthiest" of all the diets.

                            2. re: jrvedivici

                              The British family is oddly archaic. I wonder how they were found, out of all the people in Britain? The parents don't even look very British to me.

                              I liked that the Kuwaiti family included their two housemaids in the background. The only missing food in their picture is fast food. Gulf Arabs love American fast food.

                              I think the Australian family is mixed-race, with maybe some Aboriginal heritage but not fully so or possibly immigrants from the South Pacific islands (Maoris are New Zealanders). If they were Aborigine their skin color would be much darker.

                              1. re: Roland Parker

                                Housemaids.........oh I thought that was the harem.

                              2. re: jrvedivici

                                Re: Canada.

                                In fairness to the photo, I am Canadian and I found that the photo mostly closely resembled an average grocery haul for me (not exactly, but the closest out of all of them).

                                One funny thing I noticed in it was the milk bags. I have spent time in other provinces where milk bags are common and have always been happy to return to milk cartons, so even the milk containers are a bit of a regional thing in Canada.

                                1. re: aasg

                                  I was afraid of this. How can you guys be so close to the US and do so many things so much better? ; >)

                                  1. re: aasg

                                    I couldn't find the Kraft Dinner at first, but there it is on the back counter. The photo is perhaps a tad optimistic. I see more frozen prepared foods in the average basket at my local in Toronto.

                                  2. re: jrvedivici

                                    Just to comment on the Australian family - of course they're Australian. More so than many of us. But they're not European-Australians, they're Australian aboriginals, presumably living somewhere out in the back of beyond (as posited by the large containers of water - people living in urban areas have no need to buy water by the megaliter, but in the Outback tapwater is not very (if at all) palatable, not to mention in extremely short supply.). I recognised a lot of the stuff on their table from my childhood...

                                    1. re: Kajikit

                                      Definately not aboriginal Australians - their facial features look more like South American. Australia is a very multi-ethnic society with immigration from many many countries so an Australian family can be from anywhere.

                                      That said immigration from South America is probably very small compared to immigration from the UK, Italy, Greece, the Middle East (Lebanon especially) and South East Asia. So how representative is this?

                                      1. re: PhilD

                                        South Americans are part of the Asiatic branch of humanity. Far more probable that you've got someone with some Chinese/Korean/Japanese blood (or Vietnamese).

                                    2. re: jrvedivici

                                      Quick comment - yes Mexico is #1 in the obesity rankings with sugar beverages (sodas and juices) being credited as the top culprit.