I see we had a very informative comment from Mellopuffy, who has solved two mysteries. In comments on this earlier post, Able Commenter Weka linked to the Food Cost Survey published by the Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Otago. That prompted a long but inconclusive discussion. What did that 400g of sugar per week mean? And second, why are some of us consistently spending far less than the survey suggests is normal?
I just went and had more of a squizz at the info pack – the sugar is the amount included in all products that would be consumed over the week (including processed foods, any biscuits, baking, ice cream etc.). They have used the food groups discussed in the Food & Nutrition Guidelines (e.g. breads & cereals, fruits & vege, protein sources, dairy products) to determine a balanced diet for the average person per week, then done a breakdown of the foods themselves to determine how much of the basic purchasable constituents would be required to make these up (I think the milo is included as a commonly consumed caffeine free hot beverage). So the 400g for an adult man would be spread amongst all foods containing added sugar (as well as discretionary intake such as in cuppas). It might seem like a large amount, but processed foods do contain a lot more sugar than many people realise and many NZers think nothing of including cheap ready made items in their grocery baskets (as is evidenced by the food item suggestions included in the report). If you’re baking cakes muffins, biscuits or muesli bars at home, many recipes include around a cup of sugar or equivalents (approx 250g) per recipe.
I do think that where many of the commenter’s savings are being made is via the ‘making from scratch’ ethos. The Otago study will be coming from the standpoint that this behaviour is not the norm in contemporary NZ society. Indeed, they refer to the Basic category as one in which people prepare all food at home, yet the shopping suggestions for meeting the budget in this category still includes bought crackers & biscuits, ice cream, basic pasta sauce etc. I don’t see anything particularly ‘disturbing’ in this, just that the study aims to reflect patterns of food consumption as they currently exist across NZ society. Also, for Nutritionists & Dietitians to make effective recommendations and suggestions about food related spending, recognition and accommodation of these habits is more effective than issuing instructions that someone who’s never baked in their life (and doesn’t have the time to either) should start making all their own bread and bikkies in order to be able to eat affordably.
If any other commenters want to write gargantuan, fact-packed comments that save us the trouble of composing a post, please do.
[Editorial from Che: In fact, if you want to write a fact-packed post like this for our site, we welcome them, we’d like this to be a community blog.]