Comparing Grocery Prices in Japan to America

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grocery store

Nerd alert: I love grocery shopping.

Knowing that my huge bowl of chocolate krispies only costs me thirty-five cents is a saver’s dream. I do enjoy the occasional night out at a restaurant with an appetizer, entree, and a glass of wine but at $8-$20 a shot these nights tend to come once every couple of weeks. My girlfriend is also an amazing chef so in America I would get gourmet meals that cost less than $3.

There’s one problem: I can’t cook. I’ve been by myself in Japan for two months and the idea of hanging out in the kitchen while my vegetables saute is not something I look forward to. Instead, my meals tend to be gourmet ham sandwiches or pancakes.

Since Baker over at Man vs. Debt wrote a great post on the different costs of living around the globe, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the prices of everyday grocery items in Japan, compared to the average prices in America. The results were very surprising.

For the Japanese prices, I took the average of the two local grocery stores in my town in rural Japan. For the American prices, I averaged Peapod, Jewel-Osco, and Aldi. For reader ease, I changed everything to dollars, ounces, and gallons.

Also, Japan’s prices have tax built in where as the American prices do not. Sales tax is around 7% in America and I did not include this in the numbers below. I’ll dive more into the inclusion of tax and tip in Japanese prices in a later post.

*The dollar amounts are based on the September 25th, 2009 exchange rate of 90.38 yen for $1 USD*

Bread

Japan: $1.33 for 6 french-toast style pieces
America: $2.50 for approximately 20 pieces
*77% more expensive in Japan*

Milk

Japan: $1.33 for ~.25 gallons
America: $2.50 for 1 gallon
*113% more expensive in Japan*

Cereal

Japan: $2.19 for 7 oz.
America: $3.50 for 15 oz.
*34% more expensive in Japan*

Eggs

Japan: $2.74 for 10 eggs
America: $1.90 12 eggs
*73% more expensive in Japan*

Potato chips

Japan: $2.75 for 4.7 oz.
America: $3.50 for 11 oz.
*84% more expensive in Japan*

Lunch meat

Japan: $2.73 for 6 oz.
America: $2.99 for 8 oz.
*21% more expensive in Japan*

Ice cream sandwiches

Japan: $3.59 for 6
America: $4.75 for 6
*24% cheaper in Japan*

Beer

Japan: $30.92 for 24, 11.8 fl. oz. cans
America: $18.99 for 24, 12 fl. oz. cans
*63% more expensive in Japan*

Hard alcohol

Japan: $21.83 for 23.7 fl. oz. of Jack Daniels
America: $28.99 for 25.4 fl. oz. of Jack Daniels
*19% cheaper in Japan*

 

These numbers are pretty staggering, but the Japanese don’t usually eat these types of food which helps explain their inflated prices. The portions are less so I constantly feel like I’m getting a greater bang for my buck when, in reality, I’m paying over 65% more for groceries in Japan.

This is an example of how important it is to run the numbers. When the dollar differences are only a buck or two we tend not to notice, but when you see the percentage differences and realize how much this comes out to over a month or a year, it makes you rethink your weekly Whole Foods trip.

Compared to America, Japan is notorious for higher prices but it’s experiments like this that really help me understand how my money is being spent.

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