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Top 10 US Cities That Spend the Most On Groceries

Michael Graw
US Cities That Spend the Most On Groceries
Groceries can eat up the lion’s share of your weekly budget, especially if you live in a city that has above-average food prices. As the cost of living rises in major metro areas, a regular trip to the grocery store has gotten more expensive than ever before.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the 10 US cities that spend the most money on groceries and explain how grocery delivery could help cut down your costs.

1. New York

Annual Grocery Spending: $5,205.02

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that New York is the most expensive city to buy groceries in the US. In the USA’s largest city, the average New Yorker spends more than $5,200 on groceries every year.

Food prices here are high in large part because the cost of rent and transportation are high. This means it costs more for grocery stores to operate, and they pass on those costs to everyday people. It also doesn’t help that New York City has some of the highest taxes in the US.

2. San Francisco

Annual Grocery Spending: $5,205.02

San Francisco is just one-tenth the size of New York by population, but groceries are just as pricey. In fact, the average Bay Area resident spends just as much on groceries each year—around $5,200—as the average New Yorker.

Once again, the cost of rent is largely to blame. Rent prices in San Francisco have shot up by nearly 50% over the past decade, and that’s pushed up the cost of food in the city. In 2020 alone, San Francisco grocery prices jumped by more than 5%.

3. Washington, D.C.

Annual Grocery Spending: $5,093.42

You might not expect Washington, D.C. to fall into 3rd place on this list. After all, it’s not located in ultra-pricey California, and it isn’t a fast-growing tech center with a population boom. 

However, the nation’s capital is ranked 6th in the country for overall cost of living, ahead of cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Seattle. Restaurants in the city are notoriously expensive, which helps explain why more people might opt for cooking at home and spend more on groceries as a result. On average, the annual D.C. resident spends nearly $5,100 on food shopping each year. 

4. San Jose

Annual Grocery Spending: $5,075.57

San Jose, another major city in California’s Bay Area, ranks in 4th place for annual spending on groceries. Like its smaller neighbor, San Francisco, San Jose has seen its cost of living soar thanks to the region’s tech boom. That’s driven up the price of everything from housing to transportation to food, and the result is a much higher-than-average grocery bill for residents.

In fact, San Jose ranks right behind Washington, D.C., in terms of the overall cost of living. The average resident spends $5,075 on groceries each year.

5. Las Vegas

Annual Grocery Spending: $4,981.82

Las Vegas is one of America’s cheaper metro areas. It has an overall cost-of-living index that’s less than half that in San Jose or San Francisco. So why are Las Vegas residents spending nearly $5,000 on groceries each year?

A big part of the reason is that groceries in Las Vegas are simply more expensive than other types of products. Since the city is in the middle of the desert, most food needs to be trucked in from California, the Southwest, or further afield. Grocers then pass on those transportation costs to consumers in the form of higher prices.

6. Boston

Annual Grocery Spending: $4,972.90

Boston is one of the fastest-growing tech centers in the US, so it should come as little surprise that it’s among the ten most expensive cities to buy groceries. Still, it has a much lower overall cost of living than other East Coast cities like New York and Washington, D.C.

That keeps total expenditure on groceries reasonable, if not still a little high. Boston residents spend around $4,973 per person per year on groceries.

7. Oakland

Annual Grocery Spending: $4,968.43

Oakland, California, is the 3rd Bay Area city on our list of the top 10 cities that spend the most on groceries. Residents spend an average of $4,968 each year.

However, if you’re comparing Oakland against nearby San Francisco, it’s worth pointing out that Oakland has a much lower average household income. So groceries in Oakland eat up a much bigger portion of residents’ budgets. In fact, Oakland households spend more than 6.7% of their total income on groceries each year. 

8. San Diego

Annual Grocery Spending: $4,897.01

You might not think of San Diego as being one of the priciest cities in the US for groceries. But the city ranks in the USA’s top 10 in terms of the high cost of living, just behind Oakland.

Residents in San Diego spend nearly $4,900 on groceries each year on average, putting it in 8th place nationally and in 4th place for California. What’s more, San Diegans spend about 10% of their total income on groceries, making it the 6th most expensive city for groceries by spending as a fraction of income.

9. Seattle

Annual Grocery Spending: $4,852.37

Seattle is home to Amazon, Microsoft, Costco—and high grocery prices. A population boom in the city has pushed up costs across the board, leaving the average Seattle resident spending more than $4,850 per year on groceries.

Although the tech economy in the cities means that Seattle has a relatively high median income, it’s still one of the priciest cities for grocery bills. On average, residents spend around 9.3% of their total income on store-bought food.

10. Miami

Annual Grocery Spending: $4,789.87

Florida is one of the nation’s largest producers of fresh foodstuff. So why do Miamians spend more than $4,789 per year on groceries?

A lot of it has to do with how food is moved around the state. Most produce is shipped from south Florida to the northern part of the state for processing, then transported back to Miami. That means that Miami grocers have to contend with higher transportation costs, just like major cities further from food-producing regions.

Save on Groceries with Delivery

The price of groceries has been rising around the country, and the climb has been particularly steep in fast-growing coastal cities. In some cities like New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C, and San Jose, residents are paying an average of more than $5,000 per year on food and essentials. That means that a huge portion of residents’ budgets in these cities is dedicated solely to paying for shop-bought food.

One of the best ways to save money on groceries is to switch to a grocery delivery service. When you get your food and essentials delivered, you have more freedom to shop around to get the best prices—even if the great value deals are at a store across the city. In addition, you won’t be tempted to make expensive impulse purchases at the checkout. 

Read our reviews of the top 10 grocery delivery services to start getting cheaper groceries delivered right to your home.

Michael Graw
Michael Graw is a freelance writer and journalist based in the Pacific Northwest who writes for top10.com.