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I am confused when everyone talks about expensive food in Hawaii.
At the Safeway website's Hilo location, apples are 88 cents a pound and Progresso Soup is 2 for $3.00. There are other sale items that look about the same as U.S.
Can someone clear this up?
By the way, Amazon ships food and on some of their sale items, shipping is reduced or free.
This is asked and answered fairly frequently here. The answer -- if there is one -- is "it depends." Almost everything consumed here must be shipped here, so there are inherent typical costs that are magnified from the mainland US. That said, shipping apples from New Zealand may cost only half as much (hence half the distance) as if they were shipped from to the mainland.
There are also distribution and storage issues that affect retail pricing and prompt "sell-off pricing," and "loss leaders" to get people into stores just as there are everywhere else. I was in the Lahaina Safeway (and Foodland and Lahaina Farms and Star Market and our local health-food market and two local fish markets) yesterday. A loaf of locally-baked (here on Maui) whole-grain bread was still $5.99, compared to $5.49 from Honolulu. Go figure, except for volume pricing. (Mainland brands were from $3.69 to about $6, with limited options.)
Canned sodas, for instance, are $6.99/12-pack + "buy 2/get one "free." Sheesh! FREE? You've spent $15+ with the recycling tax. On the mainland, canned sodas are often $1.50-$1.99/12-pack for "loss leader" pricing, in which vendors know that "brand-loyal" customers will start there and finish their shopping lists for convenience's sake.
On the other end of the health spectrum, Boca soy burgers, for which I recently paid $3.69 on the mainland, are "regularly priced" on Maui around $6 box. Occasionally, they are on sale here (Boca and similar brands) for almost half the price. Since they are frozen, who cares?
Local produce can be half -- or double -- the price of mainland/imported. It really just depends on where you shop, whether you buy everything at one store, whether you shop the sales, where you buy perishables, etc. For some reason unbeknownst to me, raspberries were an unheard of $1.49/carton (beautiful!) last week at Safeway. This week, $5.99. Similarly asparagus: local $5.99/bunch local OR import at Foodland/Lahaina Farms; $2.49/bunch at Safeway. Some is "turf war," some is storage and distribution, some loss-leader, some just prayers. (September is Maui's lowest occupancy visitor month.)
There is lots posted here on mainland v. Hawaii pricing if you use the "search" feature at the top-right of this page. I hate to say it again, but "it depends."
You're looking at specially advertised sale prices. In that same store, I bet cereal is going for $6.99 a box.
If your "staples" are lots of pre-packages foods (cereal, canned soups, and so on), then stuff can get really expensive. If you don't want to hit four different stores to get what's on sale at each place, then you're going to pay (usually a lot) more than mainland prices.
I pretty much live on (mostly locally-grown) fruits & veggies, which you can get pretty cheap at farmers markets. I make my own bread (flour is a lot, but a lot less than bread). When I see stuff on sale (cereal or canned soups), I'll buy several. But if I run out and it's not on sale, I do without. I just can't bring myself to pay $3.69 for a can of soup! I make my own stock and keep it in the freezer... then I can make my own soup whenever I want.
So, yeah, you can get stuff on sale for about the same price as on the mainland. But that's a few things on your list, and most of it is lots more. To live here, you need to learn to eat & shop differently, or to do without some stuff, especially the convenience foods. (I used to get those "Bowl Noodle" and similar stuff to have at my office for cheap lunches. They were $1-$2 each on the mainland. Here, they're almost $4. I can buy a small plate lunch for that!)
Sorry, I don't know the fast food prices by heart, but I just came back from Wok Star, a new noodle shop on South Kihei Road here in Kihei on Maui.
In California, you can get a bowl of rice or noodles with veggies on top for about $5. Wok Star is one of my favorite places because the people and food are great (and open 'till midnight!), but the price of a bowl of Thai Sweet Red Curry is $9. That's white rice in the bottom, veggies on top with a tasty sauce. You can swap out some or all the rice for extra veggies with their low-carb or no-carb option for an additional $1.00. Then add tofu or meat or shrimp for $5-7 (I think that's right).
So a $9.00 noodle bowl ends up at around $14-15. Again, great spot, I take all my visitors there, but that's $10 more than in California.
Two years ago Safeway used to have 10 for $10 specials. Now they are 8 for $10. I stock up on some things like canned garbanzo beans for quick hummus, or canned corn to add to chili. But often the specials are on items we don't buy.
If you have room for a good pantry and a freezer, it's wise to stock up on sale items if they are in your eating lifestyle. But at least here on Maui those items are invariably those that are more processed foods. If you are inclined to eat more fresh food, there are fewer sales bargains and definitely higher prices.
Yesterday I planted tomatoes, peppers, onions, and lettuce. I've got a lilikoi vine ready to plant. My neighbors gave me bananas and I have a stalk that will be ready in a few weeks so I'll reciprocate. Other neighbors share mangos, star fruit, coconuts, and anything else they have or obtain.
One thing that makes the high cost of living here is the community, if you join in. Sharing food and splitting larger purchases helps you afford bargains and allows you to take advantage of group growing power.
You can not look at spot prices, you have to look at the total. Everything that isn't locally grown or produced will come at a higher price. It may be just a few pennies but when you add this up, day after day, week after week, month after month. item after item; it can be a sizable amount. It is not just food but gas, cloths, materials, repairs, furniture, etc. Do not make the mistake of trying to find and fit the prices to your dream as thats a sure way to underestimate true cost. Accept the reality of prices and your dreams won't become heartburn.
For several of the islands there is no comparison prices to Subway's, McD's, Taco Bell, etc. because there aren't any of them on the island. Oahu and Maui are city islands but the rest of them may have a town or two but that's the most you could hope for. Some islands don't even have towns, just villages. So depending on which island you look at there may not be any comparison prices at all. I think there is a lot more "scratch cooking" on the outer islands with a lot more folks growing or foraging for stuff to eat.
FYI, over here on Kauai we now have (at least one) Subway, Taco Bell, McD's, Burger King (with their "Spam in the A.M." ad campaign!), Starbucks, Jamba Juice, and let's not forget Costco, with their delicious 'Chicken Bakes' and pizza. It's becoming a regular metropolis over here.
I personally haven't been to any of them but Costco and Starbucks (and the hot-dog cart in front of Home Depot), so I can't really comment on price.
Molokai and Lanai seem to be the last bastion of food sanity - what's up on the BI, fast-food-wise?
I find what others have said to be basically true, but I have not found it difficult to keep costs down by watching for sales, buying in bulk, visiting different stores (not 4 stores every week, maybe 2), and changing my eating habits a bit. YMMV.
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