A new ranking has revealed which states will find it harder to prioritize making healthy food choices than others, based on the cost of groceries versus a fast-food meal.
The research, conducted by fitness experts Total Shape, pulled together the average cost of a fast-food combo meal in each state, and compared this to grocery store prices of equivalent food items — including ground beef, chicken breasts, potatoes, and bread.
And despite world food prices falling to a two-year low in May — according to the United Nations world price index — grocery food inflation is still causing concern across America.
This is evident in a recent survey by the Cleveland Clinic, which found almost half (46%) of Americans cite the cost of food as the biggest obstacle to following a healthy diet, whilst parents were twice as likely to opt for a fast-food diet than their child-free counterparts.
Across America, the average fast-food combo meal costs $9.55, whilst buying the ingredients needed to make the same meal at home would set you back about $22.
This price increase is due to the typical product portion sizes in supermarkets, meaning those debating making their own meal or grabbing one from a nearby drive-thru have to weigh up the cost of buying all the ingredients, even if they only plan to use a little of each.
If you already have the ingredients in your pantry at home — including ground beef, cheese, bread, and potatoes — making your own is a little cheaper, with a per-portion price of $5.81.
The new ranking shows that some states will have a much harder time prioritizing healthy food choices, as fast-food meals are significantly cheaper than buying all the ingredients.
In Minnesota, the per-portion cost of making a burger and fries — or chicken tenders meal — is $4.71, whilst it costs just $7 to buy a combo meal from a fast-food chain. The home cooking cost then rises to $21.46 for those who need to buy all of the ingredients from the store.
Meanwhile, people in Nevada will find it easier to justify buying the ingredients over placing a food order, as a combo meal is $13.50, versus a per-portion grocery spend of $5.81 — meaning they’d be spending twice as much to justify an unhealthy food choice.
States that have to spend more to make healthy food choices:
Average wage also plays a part in determining how easy it is to cook rather than eating fast food, with some states having to spend more of their salary to buy the same groceries.
The data reveals that shoppers in Iowa don't see their $47.3k salary stretch as far as other states when buying groceries, as food prices are 56% higher than in the cheapest state.
Other states that end up having to spend more of their salary on groceries: Montana, Hawaii, Tennessee, and South Dakota. New Jersey spends the least.
According to food plans created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a single "thrifty" person should be spending $274 on their monthly groceries ($244 for women and $304 for men), whilst those with a higher income can afford to spend up to $428.
However, when compared to the average salary of $51,013, even the thriftiest food shop price is a stretch for many, as it equates to $3,288 a year — 44% higher than the $2,280 that consumers spent on food last year, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Speaking on the findings, a Total Shape spokesperson said: “As we approach summer, many Americans will find themselves having to make quick meal decisions when out and about — and unfortunately, they’re highly likely to eat fast food over cooking at home.
“Whilst there’s nothing wrong with fast food in moderation, it’s concerning that consumers turn to unhealthy meals to avoid the cost of buying groceries — especially as this actually ends up being more expensive in the long run when per-portion costs are considered."