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Exploring the Rising Cost of Living: Food Around the World

Updated: Sep 4


The cost of living is an ongoing concern for individuals and families around the world. Rising

expenses, particularly in essential areas like food, pose significant challenges for many people. After all, you can cut costs in many places, but food is a necessity to health and safety. With increasing costs of food and stagnant wages, paying attention to where food is cheapest can be one way of saving major money.

Despite minimal wage growth in many countries, the prices of essential food items continue to climb. This imbalance poses a significant burden on households, particularly those with limited incomes. To provide a comparative perspective, let's examine the average cost of feeding a one-person household in several countries. Please note that these figures are approximate and subject to change based on location and market fluctuations. Prices regarding Cambodia are based on my own purchases, and may vary depending on your dietary habits.

United States:

  1. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the monthly cost of food for a thrifty individual ranges from $188 to $234, while a moderate-cost plan could amount to $237 to $293 (Source: USDA, May 2023).

United Kingdom:

  1. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates the average monthly food expenditure for one person in the UK to be around £100 to £120 ($136 to $164). (Source: ONS, April 2023).


  1. The Canada Food Price Report projects an increase of 5% to 7% in food prices for 2023. On average, a single person in Canada spends approximately CAD 200 to CAD 250 ($166 to $207) per month on groceries (Source: Canada Food Price Report, December 2022).


  1. According to a survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the average weekly expenditure on food for one person in Australia is around AUD 75 to AUD 100 ($55 to $73), with monthly expenses adding up to $220 to $292 (Source: ABS, June 2022).

South Africa:

  1. The Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PACSA) estimates that the monthly cost of a basic food basket for one person in South Africa is approximately ZAR 1,550 to ZAR 1,750 ($107 to $121) (Source: PACSA, March 2023).


  1. Due to the cheap cost of restaurant food, and accessibility of fresh food items, my daily spending fluctuates between $5 to $12 (with more, depending on if I want to relax at a bar after work). In a week, I spent $30 on food, with a total of $120 for the month.

Some of these numbers look quite similar, but when you take into account how much a dollar can buy in Cambodia in comparison to other places, the differences become quite stark. All prices have been converted to USD for easier comparison.

Food prices
Food prices

Cambodia offers a more affordable lifestyle compared to many Western countries. This is in part due to Cambodian fresh produce and local food items being generally less expensive than in Western countries. A meal at a local restaurant can cost as little as $2 to $5, while groceries for a single person might range from $70 to $100 per month, depending on personal preferences and dietary choices. While these differences may not seem too large for a single person, for families, it certainly adds up. When a cup of coffee, or fresh juice costs $1 instead of $5 (as is typical at a Starbucks, or incorporated coffeehouse), you end up saving quite a lot, without having to give up the things that make your day a little brighter. The rising cost of living, especially concerning food prices, continues to be a cause for concern for many individuals worldwide. For those seeking a lower cost of living, Cambodia stands out as an attractive option, particularly in terms of food expenses. The amount of food a dollar can buy also varies, and makes a stark difference in what it means to stretch your budget.

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