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Right now, in Sweden, a small-feeling 340 g (which is apparently 11.9 oz) jar of "Skippy creamy peanut butter" is, translated to current USD value, $3.7 USD. I think it has been around this price for a long time, and it's an expected standard price for something like that, given how much everything costs these days.

However, I have heard economic tips such as "use peanut butter and apple sauce on toast bread", which all seem to imply that this is a cheap and yet filling meal. However, considering how relatively little peanut butter is in such a jar, this sounds like it would quickly get expensive if eaten constantly, with Swedish prices. (And that apple sauce isn't free either...)

Apparently, it's "extra smooth", but I don't know if that is just part of the advertising slogan or actually a separate product, and if so, if this is some kind of unusually pricey version. It's the only peanut butter product sold here (except for the "crunchy" version of the same brand).

In the USA, is perhaps a larger can of peanut butter of this quality (whether that is low, medium or high, I cannot tell) far less expensive than my price for the small jar? I suspect this is the case.

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    No offense but this seems off topic to me. Also, it's easily answerable through Google or checking a few stores online, for example Walmart or Amazon Fresh
    – 0xFEE1DEAD
    Jun 25 '20 at 17:49
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    This question, as it stands, especially the title, is way too specific to the price and quantity to be particularly useful to others with the same question. The more general version of this question would be "how much does peanut butter cost in the US". But phrasing it that way makes it much more clear that it's off topic, as others have pointed out it is. There might also be the question of what others consider expensive, but, as has also been pointed out, this is probably too subjective for this site.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jun 26 '20 at 7:30
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    I’m voting to close this question because one can trivially check the price of anything, instantly, online. Simply visit any US supermarket web site, say publix.com. Or, use "google.com" and enter "price of skippy 11oz".
    – Fattie
    Jun 26 '20 at 12:34
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    @Criggie: when peanuts are locally manufactured in Sweden, we will know for sure that climate change is irreversible(!) Peanuts are grown in southeastern US, West Africa, China, S/SE Asia, Latin America. They're hardly growable at all inside the EU, and Hungary seems to the most northerly, not Sweden.
    – smci
    Jun 28 '20 at 7:09
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    @0xFEE1DEAD Checking online stores really isn't a good indicator for normal U.S. grocery prices, at least in my experience. I typically find stuff significantly cheaper in-store. Which makes sense, because there's no delivery cost built into the price.
    – reirab
    Jun 28 '20 at 17:31

11 Answers 11

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You've got two or three factors jacking up the price from what you'd pay for peanut butter in the US, which is probably where most of those cheap meal suggestions come from.

First, Skippy is a highly-advertised brand name, so you if you buy it, you are paying for all the advertising.

Second, it's probably not made in Sweden but imported from the US, so you pay shipping costs and maybe import tariffs.

Third, it's been my experience that pretty much all food is more expensive in Europe than in the US.

Edit after visiting the grocery store: For comparison, an 18 oz/510 g jar* of store brand (WinCo) peanut butter* costs $1.64 at my local store. A close to the same size jar of Skippy Creamy peanut butter was $2.69, so you're paying about twice US price per oz/gram for the same brand, and over three times as much as for the store brand.

*This is the smallest size the store had, of either brand.

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    "Third, it's been my experience that pretty much all food is more expensive in Europe than in the US." - This is true for processed foods but I'd say fresh food tends to be cheaper in Europe, as does buying prepared food in restaurants. Though the latter varies by country/locale and the way the US does tax/tipping makes direct comparisons less straightforward than they should be.
    – aroth
    Jun 26 '20 at 2:40
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    *Unreferenced footnote error?
    – MadHatter
    Jun 26 '20 at 6:52
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    Also, peanut butter is very much a localized cultural product and its consumption in Sweden is minuscule. In US its sales profit comes from volume, in Sweden you have to increase the markup to make importing and sales profitable.
    – Moyli
    Jun 26 '20 at 8:53
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    For peanuts there is also the "US peanut program", which subsidizes USA peanut production and helps keep the prices down (by shifting the cost to tax payers).
    – epa095
    Jun 26 '20 at 9:25
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    Peanut butter, in particular, is cheaper in the US because the peanuts are almost certainly grown domestically. The US is the #4 peanut producer in the world, behind China and India, who both consume a lot domestically, and Nigeria, who is the major exporter to the EU. Skippy will be a US export, though, so not made with Nigerian peanuts. Still, you can get organic, top shelf peanut butter in Sweden at basically the same price as Skippy, so it's definitely pricier simply because it's a foreign import. Skippy has no factory in Sweden - there's one in Little Rock AR, and one in Shandong.
    – J...
    Jun 26 '20 at 13:37
22

You careened out of your way to pick a bad product on several levels.

  • It’s an American name and taste. Its target market is American expats and others with strong desire for the American “taste”, and so it commands a premium price.
  • USA Skippy substitutes cheap oils for the peanut oil, uses HFCS instead of sugar, and uses GMO strains not yet certified in Europe. These and other issues would interfere with it being imported commercially into the EU. To satisfy demand, they (or likely, a partner) makes an EU-legal version flavored to taste about the same. That is a limited-run specialty product requiring a higher price.
  • The taste is tuned for Americans’ sugar-heavy palate, which does not appeal to Europeans. Swedes surely have domestic or EU brands of peanut butter they prefer. You should price those.

Even in the US, Skippy asks a lot “for the name”. Target has a 16 ounce jar of Skippy for $2.29, but they also have an equivalent house-brand for $1.29. Target also has house-brand organics for $4 a jar, either a) stir-it (peanuts only, really), or b) no-stir (like Skippy, but it’s organic crud, and the sugar is dialed down to almost zero). That’s probably comparable to what Swedes eat.

So if you really want Skippy particularly, that’s an expensive choice. If money is a factor, don’t waste it on name-brands and full-retail groceries. In the US I would send you to Trader Joes or Aldi. (There may be Aldi there; it is German after all). And of course avail yourself of any government programs.

Also consider that COVID is affecting food supply, and I would think that’s especially true for oddball, import or boutique items.

Certainly your article is right that you can get a lot of food for very little money. However the advice of some of them is laughable; for instance filthy-rich Gwyneth Paltrow tried to design a month of attractive meals on a monthly food-stamp budget, and somehow had people buying 3 limes.

Applesauce seems like one of those; it’s expensive and the picture of empty calories. Cheap white bread (and “white” food generally) are also empty calories; they taste good but leave you hungry. Simply switching to whole wheat helps a lot: better for you and make you feel full.

Now if they’re going to P.B. for the protein, watch it - protein is not a single substance, it’s a variety, and they must be in the right proportions to be bodily useful, Red meat is ideal, but vegetables require combining in a particular way to get the benefit. Ask biologists or vegetarians.

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    The cheap proteins would be rice&beans. In isolation, both lack some amino acids, but together you get all the essential amino acids at a price much lower than meat.
    – MSalters
    Jun 26 '20 at 7:34
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    Of course, 3 limes and a bit of salt can take you a long way - you do have Cointreau and tequila on stock, don't you? Jun 26 '20 at 14:32
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    What's wrong with buying limes on food stamps? They're cheap enough that you could easily buy them if you watch your budget and they improve the flavor of lots of meals.
    – Kat
    Jun 26 '20 at 15:28
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    Americans have a taste for “sugar in everything” -- Americans have a "taste for sugar in everything" because food manufacturers in the United States put sugar in everything. I have to hunt for spaghetti sauce without sugar (sugar in spaghetti sauce is an abomination). Jun 26 '20 at 16:29
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    @aquirdturtle Alright, I toned that down, but there’s no way not to imply that. It is true, and it’s relevant to the answer. Jun 27 '20 at 5:46
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I got some peanut butter recently and it was not nearly this expensive, so I took at look at what Walmart had. I found what looks like the exact sort you got for 2.36 USD:

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Skippy-Creamy-Peanut-Butter-12-oz-Jar/191560633

You can find this brand cheaper by weight if you get larger jars or packs with more at a time. I would say 3.7 USD for the same jar is expensive for Skippy, let alone peanut butter in general.

There are also plenty of other options and brands, even in smaller stores. For example, here's a 64 ounce jar of Walmart's house brand for 5 USD:

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Great-Value-Creamy-Peanut-Butter-64-oz/47375932

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  • And the jars in that four-pack are over 16 oz, which is significantly larger than OP's 340g jar. Jun 25 '20 at 16:34
  • @user34258 I read it at 16 oz originally; no idea where I got that number from. Let me find an equivalent size. Jun 25 '20 at 16:35
  • I'm not even sure you need to; the fact that you can get more for less money makes your point that it tends to be cheaper. Jun 25 '20 at 16:38
  • I see a 3-pack of 16.3 oz jars at Walmart for $7.09
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 26 '20 at 2:26
  • 1.8kg of peanut butter in one jar!
    – user253751
    Jun 26 '20 at 17:55
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Others have established that peanut butter is in fact less expensive in the US than in Sweden, and that is the question you explicitly asked. However, the context for your question was advice for eating cheaply. In order for peanut butter to be good advice in the US but not Sweden, the price of peanut butter relative to what it replaces would have to be less in the US. Here, 255g of pre-sliced roast turkey is $4. That's about 50% more expensive. I think this is the kind of comparison that the advice you see is making. If you are already cooking dried beans at maybe $1.50 for half a kg, then peanut butter is no bargain at all, in the US or Sweden.

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Google tells me that 340g of peanut butter has eactly 2,000 calories. At 3.7 USD, this would be 540 calories per $.

As a comparison, for a 15.5 oz can of beans, there is about 682 calories. Per this Swedish grocery store website, it looks like you can get a can like this for between 8kr-12kr, (https://www.coop.se/globalt-sok/?query=b%C3%B6nor), which is about $.83 USD - $1.2 USD. This equals about 821-568 calories per $.

So peanut butter is about as expensive per calorie as 'higher end' can of beans. Perhaps you will tell me 'ah yes but beans are notoriously expensive in Sweden', at which point I shrug my shoulders. Peanut butter is cheap-ish in Sweden as a pure calorie source, but perhaps not the absolutely least expensive option possible.

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$3.70 for an 11.9 oz jar is expensive. Where I live in the USA, a 16 oz jar costs a bit under $3.00

For most of my life I didn't care much for peanut butter. Then about 8 years ago a switch flipped and now, honey roasted creamy peanut butter is one of my biggest food vices. I like it in my protein shakes, on top of a protein bar, even straight up. The one thing that didn't work was peanut butter in my coffee. It's not miscible so I ended up with a bottom layer of molten peanut butter in my coffee cup! :-O

The 40 oz jars are much more cost efficient at a cost of $6 to $7 each. And given that it's a frequent buy one/get one free sale item, that further cuts the price in half.

Generic peanut butters are even less expensive but I'm kind of particular when it comes to molten peanut butter ;->)

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  • This suggests that the shipping cost to Sweden from the plant in the US, plus all import/export taxes tarrifs and duties is about $1-2 USD. That's not bad, all things considered.
    – Criggie
    Jun 26 '20 at 1:04
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    @Criggie: As another answer notes; it's likely not from a US plant as the American product would never meet EU food quality requirements. It's likely a low-volume product made in the EU.
    – MSalters
    Jun 26 '20 at 7:32
  • As an alternative to PBJ sandwiches I added PB and jam into a bowl of oatmeal. Works nicely and less messy too.
    – mike3996
    Jun 26 '20 at 7:48
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At a bulk store such as Costco 2x 48oz (total 2.72kg) Jif or Skippy cheap brands cost about USD 10 so about 37 cents/100g, less on sale. No particular difference in price for creamy vs chunky.

Your price is 1.09/100g, so about 3x in nominal terms. Comparing the Big Mac Index, seems it is also similarly expensive in purchasing power terms.

That said, I don’t think it’s out of line for a small jar, perhaps purchased at a specialty store or a convenience store.

Mass-market peanut butter and (perhaps more importantly) low quality mass-market bread are very cheap in North America, so they make a meal that meets some nutritional requirements at low cost. Eggs are super-cheap protein as well, I’ve seen 20 cents total for 3 eggs in packs of 90 (though the production conditions are likely pretty horrific).

Personally, I pay (in Canada) similar to US price for peanut butter ~USD0.30/100g in a 2kg jar, but about USD 0.40 for two slices of artisanal bread, so a PB&J sandwich is probably in the US 1.00 range. If I used cheap bread and cheap jam it could be half that.

Anything that counts as a meal and is in the $1 range seems cheap to me- that is 1/2 or 1/3 average US spending (and there are many folks living on very low incomes in the US).

If you start adding requirements such as ‘organic’, prices can easily skyrocket since there are many, many people who can afford to pay a lot more.

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A quick search for the price of a jar of peanut butter from Price Chopper (a common grocery store in America) shows a 16 oz jar of peanut butter can cost anywhere from $3.19 for Skippy (Actually 16.3 oz), or as low as $1.99 for store brand.

https://shop.pricechopper.com/shop/categories/92

These are not the only factors in deciding that peanut butter is an economic food though.

Consider also the cost of a jar of jam, which from the same search can go as low as $2.49 for 18 oz (assuming you don't want the even cheaper $1.99 jelly, which can be a little gross)

And for bread, a single loaf can be anywhere from $4.49 for high quality stuff, to $1.29 for the extremely cheap store-brand stuff.

https://shop.pricechopper.com/shop/categories/89

Even with the higher quality ingredients, if you add up $4.49, $2.49, and $3.19, you get $10.17.

For ingredients that can make around 8 to 10 sandwiches, depending on how many slices of bread you get in a loaf (and whether or not you use the heels of the bread).

So the real reason peanut butter is considered a 'cheap' food source isn't just the exact price, but the fact that it can be used multiple times with other relatively low-cost ingredients.

If you were to use the cheaper ingredients, the price for 10 of these sandwiches would be a mere $5.27.

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This is, in my opinion, a very high price. At our local Sam's Club (discount "warehouse" store - sells larger quantities at (sometimes) lower prices - but not always - I've learned to watch them like a hawk and compare-compare-compare to my local supermarket) 96 ounces (2.72 kg) of Skippy creamy peanut butter is priced at $8.98.

Your 11.9 oz container at $3.70 comes out to about 31 cents-per-ounce.

The larger quantity (96 oz) at $8.98 comes out to about 9 cents-per-ounce.

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You specifically picked 11.9 oz, which is a 'convenience size', not the bulk sizes, which are going to be priced more economically: 64oz/4lb and 5lb and twin-packs of 2x48oz

There is a well-known trend in US grocery retailing that 'convenience sizes' are priced at a premium, and you should avoid them if you can buy in bulk and store it (CostCo, Amazon, Walmart/Sam's Club, Smart & Final); this typically works in favor of families, homeowners and people with large houses and cars/minivans, and against single people/renters/people who have to share cupboards/fridges/freezers / people who live alone/convenience users.

If you plot the $/oz for prices from Amazon or Google Shopping for Skippy peanut butter, you will get a markedly non-linear curve: small sizes are uneconomical, larger are far better value.

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  • You really have to watch 'em like a hawk. I've caught my local store pricing the bulk-sized containers higher on a per-unit basis that the convenience sizes. I suspect their rationale is that people assume that the larger sizes are cheaper per unit, so they raise the prices on the larger sizes to make more money. Jun 27 '20 at 20:35
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    @Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica: OTOH, sometimes my usual store (WinCo) has the larger size of something priced lower than the smaller size. Not less per oz/gm (which you would expect), but less for the package. Go figure...
    – jamesqf
    Jun 28 '20 at 3:58
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I live in the U.S. My family likes peanut butter. We bought some just yesterday at Whole Foods Markets (owned by Amazon). WFM is a grocery store chain that emphasizes "healthy" food, although not everything they sell is "organic". I know they have some European presense, but I'm not sure about Sweden.

A WFM store typically has at least 3 grinding machines that look like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIFGIj6ma4g (someone's old YouTube video)

The usual choices are: organic peanuts, conventional (not organic) peanuts, and almonds. You press a button, the machine grinds its contents as you watch, and dispenses the fresh paste into a container. They are sold by weight. We paid $5.19 per pound of organic peanut butter (there's no sales tax, VAT, etc). That translates to $0.011442 per gram or $3.89 for 340 grams. Non-organic would have been a little cheaper.

I made me a sandwich earlier today that used maybe a tablespoon and a half of peanut butter - maybe $0.20 worth.

So, it sounds like the prices are comparable between WHM and your store, and given how "dense" it is, I don't think it's expensive.

As other answerers noted, there's a world of difference between freshly ground peanut butter (we try to eat it within a couple of weeks, otherwise it separates) and peanut butter in a jar. Not to pick on Skippy brand, but since you mentioned it, here are the ingredients:

enter image description here

It contains:

  • roasted peanuts - good, that's what we want

  • sugar - even if we assume it's real sugar from beets or cane, and not some kind of high-fructose corn syrup, there's no need to add any sweetener to peanut butter. The peanuts taste better without any sweetener.

  • hydrogenated vegetable oil (cottonseed, soybean, rapeseed, or palm oil) - I prefer to avoid hydrogenated oil.

  • salt - again, there's no reason to add salt to peanut butter.

As other mentioned, the label warns that it "may" contain GMO. I'm not paranoid about GMO, but I know there are no GMO peanuts on the market, so they must refer to the hydrogenated vegetable oil added to extend its shelf life.

My advice to you is to avoid peanut butter in a jar if you can find it fresh instead. It does taste better.

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