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Weekly Food Cost in Japan


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In the umeboshi thread, Kristin mentioned this:

I found this at the store about an hour ago

i8867.jpg

umeboshi kimchi

The first bite was strange witht he combination of the flavors, but by the second bite I was really enjoying it. I doubt it will become a regular condiment in our house though as that tiny container cost over 700 yen ($7).

A container of kimchi that costs over 700 yen doesn't sound expensive, does it?

It got me to thinking...how much do you usually spend for food per week in Japan? I know that Japanese workers get paid once a month. That must make for some fairly interesting fluctuations.

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I can spend anywhere from 300 yen to untold amounts of yen per day on food. On the low end of the spectrum my local market has packages of udon, ramen, soba, yaki soba, and thin udon for 18 yen each. Tofu is only 33 yen a pack and chicken of all types seems to fairly inexpensive. There is also a tempura item deli with most items for 49 yen. I just bought a 10kg bag of rice for 1800 yen, which is cheap in Japan. Iced coffee is 100 yen a liter!

I usually glaze over the expensive end of the spectrum but I do know that I get sticker shock when I browse the pre sliced beef and the rice section. certain items are very expensive despite their small size, such as that kimchi.

I always cook at home so that saves a lot of money. I actually keep a record of what I spend each month so I will be able to tell you exactly how much I spend this month, and what my daily average is. But keep in mind that my consumption habits are in no way typical and I don't have anyone to feed but myself. I can only imagine how much it costs to feed a family! Let alone feed them interesting and nutritious items with good variety every day.

I am very interested to see what others have to say.

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I don't keep a record :hmmm: , though I have a rough budget.

Including rice and staple condiments, I expect I spend around JPY15,000 (USD125) per week, sometimes more like 20,000 (USD155).

I cook for 2 adults and 2 teen boys - 2 meals a day plus snack, plus packed lunch for at least 2 of us. The impact on food costs is immediately noticeable if my boys are home from school. :laugh:

It's a challenge to find rice under 2000 where I am, and if I do, it's a blend of current season rice and old rice. I try to pay less than JPY2100 (USD18:00) per 5kg(11lb) bag, and we use up to 3 of those per month. I noticed rice from Hiroyuki's area going for $60.00/22lb at a local rice shop (around JPY6900/10kg).

I shop mostly at a major mid-range supermarket, Daiei, as we're a bit short of small markets out this way, and so I miss out on the real bargain prices for fresh produce.

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Are we talking groceries or restaurant expenses, as well? Last month I spent just over Y34 000 on food, but that doesn't include Costco grocery purchases (which would probably add another Y5000-10000. And that's just for one person (but includes costs of parties at restaurants, etc.). As a percentage, I spend a 10% of my gross monthly salary on food--looking at it that way, it's not too bad, is it?

I do tend to spend more on food than any other item, though. I buy a few Thai mangoes every week and those, alone, are Y300 each, and I eat out a lot.

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I usually glaze over the expensive end of the spectrum but I do know that I get sticker shock when I browse the pre sliced beef and the rice section. certain items are very expensive despite their small size, such as that kimchi.

Get thee to Costco. Still expensive compared to US or Canadian prices, but much cheaper than supermarkets (100% ground beef, for example, is less than Y100/100g). Junk food is particularly cheap.

I'm headed their on the 21st (during the daytime, though), so you're welcome to tag along!

Edited to add:

I forgot to mention, shopping at Costco and owning a Tilia FoodSaver has really helped my food budget in Japan. Although Costco is cheaper, the portions are huge for a single person. The Tilia has allowed me to buy in bulk and freeze things in small portions for extended periods of time.

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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I never kept a record when I was living in Japan, but I always thought that food costs were on the reasonable side if you did not eat extravagantly, and taking into account the higher wages and lower income tax rates (compared with Canada).

I found eating out in the budget range to be a great bargain if you chose neighbourhood hangouts. A reasonably balanced teishoku meal (protein/rice/soup/pickles) could easily be had for around 600 yen, I can't imagine that prices have changed that drastically.

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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Many Japanese, including me, think of a food expense on a monthly basis, not on a weekly basis.

I don't keep a record, so I can only give you rough figures. I think my family of four spend about 40,000 to 60,000 yen a month on food, excluding rice. We spend about 9,000 yen on rice a month. (A 10-kg Koshiibuki rice bag costs about 4,500 yen and we use it up in half a month.) You know, rice is Japan's staple food, and Japanese tend to think of it separately from other foodstuffs.

Thus, our weekly food expense is roughly 12,000 to 18,000 yen.

I think ours is average.

The above figures do not include an eating out expense. When we eat out, we spend about 2,000 to 3,000 yen.

Since we moved to a new home last October, we haven't eaten out yet. :sad:

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I don't have enough time to do an extensive research. I'll give you just one example:

from

http://www.setuyaku-kakeibo.com/0_4_enquet..._shokuhi_00.htm

(Japanese only)

No. of family members/No. of replies/average food expense (in yen)/average income/Ratio of food expense to income x 100

1 25 26,300 185,417 14%

2 224 36,663 336,468 11

3 105 41,165 308,252 13

4 98 52,088 350,000 15

5 41 62,917 371,250 17

6 or greater 22 68,370 369,048 19

P.S. I want a tabulation function!!

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Why is rice so expensive?

Japanese rice farming is massively subsidized, and the increased cost is passed along onto the consumer.

Some aspects ofthe subsidies:

rice in all its facets from growing it to consuming it is considered an essential part of Japanese life, and therefore it is supported by the government (the irony of this is that the consequent high prices have lead consumers to buy less rice and more bread than they otherwise would have).

Following on from this, it was considered for a long time that import of rice would undermine Japanese rice farmers. Therefore no rice was imported. This meant that the much cheaper price of rice on the world market did not affect the price within Japan. (Are imports allowed right now? When I was living in Japan, no imports were allowed, but I know that this was relaxed one year when the harvest was really bad, and rice was imported for a few years after that. Did they allow that to continue, or stop it again?)

I've forgotten the details about this, but politically, there is a type of gerrymander system going on, where rice farmers have a huge tax advantages (and more voting power?? I have really forgotten this stuff). Politicians are very unwilling to step in and make any changes to this system. However, it results in very skewed patterns of rice farming. For example, tiny plots of land are maintained for farming rice even in the middle of otherwise built-up suburban areas - in the normal scheme of things such land would be worth far more if sold for housing or other development, however the susbsidies mean that the land continues to be farmed even though the actual scale of production and amount of rice produced is very small. Without the subsidies, these would not be economically viable.

(On the plus side - from my own experience - living next to a rice field even when you living in the suburbs is a source of great aesthetic pleasure. Watching the rice develop from brilliant green young shoots to golden ripe heads hanging ready for harvest was something I never tired of).

Finally - this is not so much a matter of subsidies but rather of marketing systems - again I have forgotten the details, but there tends to be a system of middlemen within the Japanese marketing system so that distribution is not as direct as it will be in certain other countries. If I recall correctly, this is particularly the case for rice. Of course, the middlemen have to make a living, so the more hands the rice (or other product) goes through, the more the price increases.

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(Are imports allowed right now? When I was living in Japan, no imports were allowed, but I know that this was relaxed one year when the harvest was really bad, and rice was imported for a few years after that. Did they allow that to continue, or stop it again?)

Imports are allowed, but the government imposes tariffs on imported rice.

In 1995, the Shokkan Hou (Food Control Law) was repealed and replaced by the Shokuryo Hou. Under the new law, anyone can sell rice provided they are registered. That is, farmers can sell their rice directly to consumers. In 2004, the planned distribution system was abolished, which means there is no longer jishu ryuutsuu mai 自主流通米 (voluntary marketed rice). Japan is moving toward a free market, but only at a snail's pace.

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We spend about 9,000 yen on rice a month.  (A 10-kg Koshiibuki rice bag costs about 4,500 yen and we use it up in half a month.)  You know, rice is Japan's staple food, and Japanese tend to think of it separately from other foodstuffs.

I'm stitting here with my mouth wide open. I buy Nishiki rice in 20 pound bags for about $13.00 :blink:.

Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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Tofu - "cheap" tofu is about 75cents per 12oz pack, and prices go up to around 4 times that for 12-16oz. But occasionally you can buy tofu much cheaper, though not often where I live (not urban enough for lots of small, competitive shops and discount stores, not rural enough for direct-sale fresh produce).

Fish - I grew up on a harbour with plenty of fishing, so fish seems very expensive to me. It used to be that one slice of fish weighed enough for two small servings. Now it's not even 100g - 80g is standard, and that's less than 3oz. 150 yen ($1.45 or so) would be a bargain, premium varieties might cost nearly twice that. The cheapest whole fish would be sauries at peak season, for 75 cents each, but small whole fish (one fish per adult serving, roughly) such as yellowtail or sardines would be USD$1.20 to $1.80 each, a bit more for white-fleshed fish, and anything from $10 to $50 per fish for desirable varieties.

I know that other people can buy chicken or pork for 40cents/100g, but where I live, extreme discount would be $0.65, I expect to pay $1.00, and I will pay up to JPY150 for $1.25/100g for everyday meats.

The rice farmers are not getting rich so much as the Agricultural Cooperatives - these do the same things that big corporations are accused of in other countries, only they have government sanction and therefore more complete control over retail distribution (until the reforms Hiroyuki mentions are complete). The original intention was to scotch the black market trade which flourished during the war and postwar period. A well known Japanese journalist wrote a book about the Ag Coops, it's dated now but still great reading.

Vegetables - we've had a very cold winter, and I recall that it was quite rainy last fall, so vegetable prices are definintely high at present. I think close to JPY300 ($2.50)for a small bunch of spinach. Long onions going for USD0.85 each last week.

The teishoku prices that sanrensho mentions seem very reasonable to me, but then this area is not very urban. I would feel I had a bargain if I found something under 700 yen, and I would sigh if my sons chose something over 900 yen! (Lunch prices).

This is the Macdonalds Menu JPY560 is USD4.73.

Here's Tenya ten-don chain shop menu.

Engimon chain "nomiya" drinks/snacks menu - there's one near us, JPY150 for a stick of basic onion/chicken yakitori, small dishes JPY350-500 or so.

Generally I would say 500-700 yen would be enough for a bowl of noodles, and set menus with noodles or kama-meshi etc starting around 700 yen and up to nearly 1000 yen.

Husband says that it costs 500 yen for a rice n fries type bento from hokka-hokka-ben. At the supermarket, that would be 400 yen for a small women's bento, 500-600 average bento.

Edited by helenjp (log)
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We spend about 9,000 yen on rice a month.  (A 10-kg Koshiibuki rice bag costs about 4,500 yen and we use it up in half a month.)  You know, rice is Japan's staple food, and Japanese tend to think of it separately from other foodstuffs.

I'm stitting here with my mouth wide open. I buy Nishiki rice in 20 pound bags for about $13.00 :blink:.

Me too.

We eat a lot of rice because it's cheap, not to mention the kids love it. Generally a 20 lb bag of Nishiki or Botan and two 1 lb bags of Jasmine rice (about $2/lb at Trader Joes) lasts us at least a month.

Cheryl

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The teishoku prices that sanrensho mentions seem very reasonable to me, but then this area is not

FWIW, those teishoku prices are for central Tokyo (Chuo Line, Koenji), so very high density and many students in my particular area. There were also quite a few "set menu" options in the 500-700 yen range when you include ramen and hamburg shops.

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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FWIW, those teishoku prices are for central Tokyo (Chuo Line, Koenji), so very high density and many students in my particular area. There were also quite a few "set menu" options in the 500-700 yen range when you include ramen and hamburg shops.

How long ago was it?

In my residential area in a small (medium?)-sized city, a karaage teishoku, for example, is about Y900. It includes karaage, rice, pickles, and a little bowl of ramen or udon. Y700 would be very cheap for teishoku around here.

I do remember a time when I could go to Gyoza no Osho and have karaage teishoku for about Y600. That was 15-ish years ago and the price has gone up since then.

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We spend about 9,000 yen on rice a month.  (A 10-kg Koshiibuki rice bag costs about 4,500 yen and we use it up in half a month.)  You know, rice is Japan's staple food, and Japanese tend to think of it separately from other foodstuffs.

I'm stitting here with my mouth wide open. I buy Nishiki rice in 20 pound bags for about $13.00 :blink:.

Me too.

We eat a lot of rice because it's cheap, not to mention the kids love it. Generally a 20 lb bag of Nishiki or Botan and two 1 lb bags of Jasmine rice (about $2/lb at Trader Joes) lasts us at least a month.

Sorry, I don't know why, but I made a mistake here. I can get a 10-kg bag of Koshiibuki rice for 3,500 to 4,000 yen here, not 4,500 yen. Even that price range is quite high by international standards. But you should know that Koshihikari rice is much more expensive. Two years ago, I regularly bought a 10-kg bag of Shiozawa-produced Koshihikari for about 7,000 yen. If you want to buy Koshihikari rice of the same quality in Tokyo, I think you have to pay up to 12,000 yen.

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I feed a family of 5 (3 kids in the 5-10 age range) for between 40,000-50,000yen ($336 to $420 at today's exchange rate) a month. This includes rice and I make breakfast and dinner for 5 everyday and lunch for two adults (the kids eat at school during the week).

I work really hard to pay this little by only shopping sales and often hitting 3 stores in one day to pick up the cheap items. I aim to have dinner for 5 under 1000yen ($8.40), though I allow myself to splurge once a week and go up to 1500. :biggrin:

I have been keeping a monthly budget book for almost 11 years now and I know where every yen goes.

I live in a much more urban area than Helen and thus have more competitive prices. I picked up chicken breasts 2 days ago at 32 yen ($.26) per 100g (about 1/4 lb). Vegetable prices were really bad in January and February but have started to come back down to normal. A month ago I wouldn't have been able to find a bunch of spinach for under 250 yen ($2.10) but on Monday it will be on sale for 78 yen ($.65) at a local store.

From what I know of what my friends spend I would estimate the average monthly bill for a family of 4 in my neighborhood to be in the 70,000 to 80,000 range.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Koshihikari rice of the same quality in Tokyo, I think you have to pay up to 12,000 yen

If it's genuine, I expect so - I'm sure the price I saw was for a 5kg bag, and it was a little over half the price you give.

The rule of thumb for a good housewife seems to be to produce dinner for 4 for under 1000 yen, but then you realize that doesn't include rice or other staples and condiments...with those conditions, it's quite doable.

Tonight's dinner - pork meatballs made with one darn expensive negi (JPY100, 2 packs of ground pork on special (JPY88/100g x 500g) and a half pack of shimeji (JPY50), condiments, salad made with wakame and half a small lettuce (JPY198), soup with potatoes (forget the price, maybe JPY50), and one small head of broccoli (HPY198). Plus rice. One pack aubergines (JPY300) with ginger and soy. Total excluding rice and condiments - JPY1,300/USD10.90 for 2 adults, and 3 teen boys (they pop up overnight in our house, like mushrooms - we have one extra for the weekend!).

...and on the way home from the bathhouse, which my son2 and his friend regard as high entertainment, at the local "non-convenience store", nicknamed for its high prices and inconvenient hours, I bought my husband one small can (350ml - 12oz?) of fake beer for JPY140 - roughly $1.18?

Edited by helenjp (log)
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Yes, Torakris does well to keep her bill that low. I think that's low average, and from ardent reading of housewifely magazines, a lot of women who keep their bills that low have extremely young kids/parents back on the farm who send rice and vegetables regularly. I used to run from one shop to another shopping the specials, but where I am now, they are too far apart, and I'm normally too pushed for time. These days I go for the closing specials at 9pm!

I think 60,000 to 80,000 is probably what it costs me these days, with 2 boys who eat a lot, but people who basically buy what they want can easily spend 90,000 to 120,000 per month, from statistics that I have seen, and as Torakris says, just adding up what you know of how people eat!

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I work really hard to pay this little by only shopping sales and often hitting 3 stores in one day to pick up the cheap items.

this is really key. where I live shopping around can save you a lot of yen. I have 3 grocery stores within 10 minutes walk from my apartment so if I have time I shop at all of them. One supermarket is having a "thank you customers winter meat sale" and their chicken prices are very cheap, three chicken breasts for about 250yen.

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from http://www.e-shokuiku.com/circulation/12_6.html

Annual expenditure per household, foodstuffs, ready-made meals, meals out, in yen

Year 1980 2,766,812 867,393 48,361 119,984

1985 3,277,373 957,528 59,949 144,387

1990 3,734,084 1,030,125 79,719 168,630

1998 3,938,235 1,027,293 99,118 179,998

2003 3,631,473 923,295 101,287 163,799

Source: Household Survey by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications

You can get a better view of the table by accessing the site above and scrolling all the way down to the last table.

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Sorry, I don't know why, but I made a mistake here.  I can get a 10-kg bag of Koshiibuki rice for 3,500 to 4,000 yen here, not 4,500 yen.  Even that price range is quite high by international standards.  But you should know that Koshihikari rice is much more expensive.  Two years ago, I regularly bought a 10-kg bag of Shiozawa-produced Koshihikari for about 7,000 yen.  If you want to buy Koshihikari rice of the same quality in Tokyo, I think you have to pay up to 12,000 yen.

I've seen koshihikari rice (imported) locally before. It was something like $25 for a 5ish lb bag... I think it was a 2 kilo bag. It was at a shop that catered to Japanese expats and the Japanese-American communities in the area.

There is a website that sells organic koshihikari rice from Niigata that will ship to the US for $20 for a 2k bag, but that's before shipping and any taxes. I suspect that shipping would be kind of high.

The cost of living here in California is kind of high compared to most of the rest of the US, and the SF area higher still, but nowhere near as high as Japan. I spend roughly $600/month on food for a family of 6 (me, husband, kids ages 8,6,3 and 2 months) and that includes specialty foods for my oldest son and my daughter. Fruit and veggies are relatively cheap here when in season because we're so close to where it's grown.

Cheryl

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