I'm interested in the cost-efficiency of food, so I decided to do some price per kcal comparisons of some foods I've been buying recently. This is a flawed/limited analysis in the sense that calories are not the only valuable aspect of food. Things like fiber and micronutrients are also obviously valuable and often found in low calorie foods such as leafy vegetables. You should be eating fruits and vegetables for the taste, micronutrients and so on, calories aside. But it would be too complex to do a true cost-per-value analysis. I'm also looking at things like protein, glycemic load and so on, but for now I'll just share this calories per penny spent table in case anyone finds it interesting.
These are all vegan foods AFAIK, but please let me know if I made a mistake. And of course, they may vary by location/store/brand/package size. Here are the foods I've looked at so far:
|Product||kcals / cent|
|Canola oil (store brand)||38.5|
|Bulk Black Beans||33|
|Bulk Long Grain Brow Rice||29|
|Brown rice, long grain (store brand)||23.4|
|White rice, medium grain (store brand)||19|
|Whole Wheat Flour (store brand)||18.2|
|Angel Hair Pasta (store brand)||16.8|
|Spagehtti (store brand)||16.8|
|Rigatoni (store brand)||16|
|Creamy Peanut Butter (large size, store brand)||12.2|
|Fettuccini (store brand)||12|
|Bulk Green Lentils||11.7|
|Whole Grain Oats (store brand)||11.3|
|Bulk Yellow Corn Grits||9.9|
|Bulk Sunflower Seeds||9.8|
Whole Wheat Pasta (store brand)
|Raisin Bran (store brand)||9.6|
|Dry Mixed Beans (store brand)||9.4|
|Cornflakes (store brand)||9.1|
|Everything Bagels (store brand)||8.9|
|Bulk Pitted Dried Prunes||7.5|
|Private Selection Multigrain Bread||7.5|
|La Comadre Corn Tortillas||7.4|
|Earth Balance Original||6.8|
|Bulk Seedless Raisins||5.3|
|Bulk Pumpkin Seeds||4.9|
|Bulk Blanched Almond Slivers||4.6|
|Nature's Own Whole Wheat Bread||4.3|
|Simple Truth Organic Plain Soymilk||3.2|
|Randall's Great Northern Beans (Jar)||3.2|
|Bulk Oat Bran||3.1|
|Taco Bell Fresco Bean Burrito||2.9|
|Barbara's Shredded Spoonfuls||2.9|
|Bulk Agave Nectar||2.9|
|Orange Juice (store brand)||2.6|
|Tofurky Italian Sausage||2.5|
|Kretschmer Toasted Wheat Germ||2.3|
|Silk Plain Soymilk||2.4|
|Simple Truth Organic Firm Tofu||2.1|
|Bulk Medjool Dates||2.1|
|Boca Chicken Style Nuggets||2.1|
|Bulk Raw Cashews||2|
|80 Proof Vodka||1.9|
|Brown Rice Protein Powder||1.8|
|Amy's Soy Cheese Pizza||1.7|
|Naked Juice Blue Machine||1.7|
|Bolthouse Farms Mango Smoothy||1.6|
|Toffuti Creamcheese Substitute||1.6|
Lightlife Organic Tempeh
|Gen Soy Soy Protein Powder||1.5|
|Jumbo Navell Oranges||1.5|
|Daiya Cheddar Shreds||1.4|
|Naked Juice Green Machine / Bolthouse Farms Green Goodness||1.4|
|Daiya Jack Wedge||1.3|
|Lightlife Smart Dogs Jumbo||1.3|
|Lightlife Tofu Pups||1.2|
|Amy's Black Bean Burrito||1.2|
|Gimme Lean Ground Veggie Sausage||1.1|
|Tofurky Deli Style Slices||1.1|
|Bolthouse Farms Pomegranate Juice||1|
|Amy's Palak Paneer||.8|
|West Soy Seitan||.8|
|Lightlife Veggie Bacon||.7|
|Amy's Indian Mattar Tofu||.7|
|Frozen Tri Berry (Blackberries, Blueberries, Raspberries)||.5|
|Bulk Dried Mango||.5|
|Bulk Brazil Nuts||.5|
|Lightlife Chicken Style Strips||.4|
|Lightlife Veggie Buffalo Wings||.4|
In general, frozen premade foods are obviously going to have very low scores. I only included one (Amy's Black Bean Burrito) for the sake of example. In general, oils are going to have very high scores. Foods high in protein (tofurky sausages, smart dogs, tofu, tempeh) tended to have low scores. Beans, peanut butter, oats, pasta and bread all have moderate amounts of protein, though.
Some foods I hope to look at in the future:
I was actually thinking of doing some meat comparisons too since I hear some people claim that they can't afford to go vegan. I could do that by just writing down the information at the store instead of using my receipts. I'm a little unsure what meat products people commonly buy, though, since I was raised vegetarian.
I've had to do my grocery shopping this way due to economic hardships.
The best whole food cost-to-nutrient ratios are brown rice and lentils. Also high on the list are the cheaper beans, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, bananas, apples and pears, leeks, leafy greens, onions and garlic. Very low on the list are nuts, mushrooms, exotic fruits and veggies, and citrus fruits.
Meat, eggs and dairy score very low cost-to-nutrient wise, and were rarely worth it for me when I was poor.
That's just whole foods, though, so no oils or prepackaged foods.
I made a list based on dollars per calorie, then I went through the top foods and eliminated any that weren't excellent sources of at least a few micronutrients (this is why white potatoes are not on the list). Then I went through the list and figured out what micronutrients were missing, and found the best thing to include to make sure all the micronutrients were represented (that's how leafy greens made the list).
I only did this because I was surviving on no money. Poor college student, you know. I was really convinced of my cleverness, though. :P I wouldn't choose to eat like that.
I edited my original post to add a bunch more items.
I looked at some meat products and wrote the information down the other day. Some of them were a little tough to judge, because they just showed the weight and the price per weight, not the calories, so I ignored those. And I didn't try to get any info on the over-the-counter meat. I did not enjoy looking at all these. Here they are:
|Bob Evans Pork Sausage||2.9|
|Eckrich Smoked Sausage||2.8|
|Ball Park Beef Franks||2.7|
|Ground Beef Patties||2|
|TGIF Boneless Chicken Breast||1.3|
|Sliced Turkey Breast||.5|
|Mahi Mahi Fillets||.4|
The cheapest foods I could find were obviously vegan. I'm making a note of this for the next time I hear someone say that they 'can't afford to go vegan/vegetarian'. I mean I already knew this, but it's nice to have some specifics handy. Also, it's very easy to meet daily recommended values of protein (if you are into following that kind of thing) with vegan food. Beans, peanut butter, pasta, lentils, whole grains, seeds, bread, soy milk and other vegan foods have good amounts of protein and are generally cheaper than meat. Black beans had 8.1 grams of protein per dollar, while the highest PPD meat product I could find was 1.4. 17 of the vegan products were higher than that, in addition to having much higher levels of vitamins, minerals and fiber.