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Here’s How Much You Need To Budget for Groceries for Just a Week in Hawaii
By Selected News Articles @ 3:00 PM :: 1482 Views :: Cost of Living

Here’s How Much You Need To Budget for Groceries for Just a Week in Hawaii

from GoBankingRates, May 4, 2024

Anyone who’s even just seen pictures of Hawaii know perfectly well why the world’s tourists flock to its islands and why many people who live in the other 49 states dream of one day calling it home. But life in paradise isn’t cheap. 

According to Forbes, Hawaii is the most expensive state in America, with an average annual living cost of $55,491. Aloha State residents also have the least disposable income — the average among them has just $5,929 left over per year once their expenses are paid.

Housing, transportation and other major expenses are all inflated in Hawaii — but the high price of groceries doesn’t help, either.

According to data from Zippia and several other sources, groceries cost more in Hawaii than in any other state, so if you’re planning to move there — or even just rent an Airbnb for a seven-day visit — here’s what you should expect to budget for food each week.

The High Cost of Importing Just About Everything You Eat

While Hawaii is renowned for its abundance of exotic fish, tropical fruits, locally grown coffee — and, of course, SPAM — most of the products in its supermarkets travel thousands of miles to get there.

“Unless you are getting produce or foods native to the islands, you are going to be paying a premium across the board,” said Jennifer Kirby, a fiduciary financial advisor and managing partner of Talisman Wealth Advisors. “Most foods and staples are imported from somewhere else.”

Food Gets Expensive When It Crosses an Ocean

According to the state’s Office of Planning Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism, Hawaii — located 2,506 miles from the U.S. mainland — imports 85% to 90% of its food, with predictable results.

“When I was in Kauai in March, groceries were easily 30% more expensive on average than most places in the States except for very high-cost cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York,” said Kirby.

Real Hawaii says groceries there cost 32.7% more than average, confirming Kirby’s experience almost precisely.

Offering additional anecdotal evidence that paints a real-world picture of what hungry Hawaiians are up against, the author of the Tangled Up in Food blog chronicled the sticker shock she encountered at Hawaii’s grocery stores in 2023 compared to those in her native Minnesota:

  • A gallon of milk at Foodland in Kihei cost $7.69 compared to $3.99 at her Minnesota Super Target.
  • A bag of baby carrots costs $2.99 compared to $1.29 back home.
  • Brand-name breakfast cereal was $5.59 to $8.29 per box instead of $3.99 to $7.19.
  • A package of Quaker Oats sold for $9.49 instead of $5.99.

So, What Does It Cost To Eat for a Week in Hawaii?

The Zippia analysis that ranked Hawaii as the most expensive state for groceries says the average person there spends $556.76 at the supermarket per month, or $139.25 per week. That’s about 11% more than No. 2 Vermont, where the average resident pays $497.41 per month.

However, the Zippia study focused on Honolulu, which is expensive even by Hawaii’s standards — but even that might be a lowball figure. Move.org says the average Honolulu resident pays $638.57 per month for groceries — around $160 per week — over $200 more than the national average of $415.53 per month.

So, the data says to budget roughly $139 to $160 per week for groceries in Honolulu on Oahu, and while costs tend to be higher in the capital city, you shouldn’t expect much relief on the other islands.

  • The Hawaii Vacation Guide says grocery prices are 68% higher in Maui than on the mainland.
  • According to AreaVibes, groceries cost 57% more than the national average in both Hilo on the Big Island and Waimea on Kauai.
  • Lanai City on Lanai is comparatively cheap, with AreaVibes quoting average grocery prices at “just” 17% more expensive than the national average.
  • AreaVibes says residents of Kualapuu on Molokai also pay 17% more than average.

Whether You’re Visiting Hawaii or Moving There, Shop Wisely

With the lowest grocery prices coming in at 17% higher than the national average, it’s important to strategize at the supermarket when visiting the islands. According to the Hawaii Vacation Guide, the following grocery stores offer the lowest prices, in this order:

  • Costco
  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Island Grocery Depot
  • Safeway

The most expensive places to buy food are:

  • Times Market
  • Foodland
  • ABC Stores

HiEstates, a local real estate firm, says it’s more important in Hawaii than anywhere else to shop around, as some stores have lower prices on some things but higher prices on others. The company also calls big-box store memberships “a must” and advises signing up for the rewards program of every store you visit. Military members should stick with NEX, or Navy Exchange, which offers excellent discounts to service-people and veterans. Finally, the firm suggests buying fresh, local produce at farmer’s markets and visiting specialty shops in diverse areas.

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