The cost of living in Hawaii is more expensive than on the mainland and groceries are no different!
Yes, the cost of food and groceries in Hawaii is higher than the rest of the mainland. Most of the food in Hawaiian grocery stores is manufactured and/or grown outside of the state on the mainland. Don’t get it twisted: Shipping and importing food to Hawaii isn’t like doing the same thing from say, Florida to Massachusetts. The price to ship overseas is A LOT higher. Hawaii is an overseas destination regardless of its place as the 50th State.
The consumer obviously eats (pun intended) all of that additional cost for shipping food and groceries to Hawaii.
As a large, or young family, I can see how this is an important question to ask and consider before moving to Hawaii. The price increase in older or smaller families may be a little bit easier to manage as others work and can contribute to the grocery bill. (That’s how I handle my kids, anyway.)
This isn’t really an in-depth article, I know. However, I’m going to start scanning and sharing my family’s grocery receipts so that you have a better understanding.
As a simple guideline I think that you can look at this way:
Rough Estimate for Hawaiian Food and Grocery Prices
Price increase at a regular chain grocery store: 40% more than on the mainland.
Prices increase at large discount stores (Walmart, COSTCO, Sam’s Club, etc): 20%-20% more than on mainland
Military (Commissary): Yes, even the military commissaries are 15%-25% higher than on the mainland for groceries in Hawaii.
Grocery Shopping Strategy:
How you decide to buy groceries (when and where) is up to you, but as an example-here’s what I would do and my suggestion.
You really have to be smart and frugal when buying groceries in Hawaii.
1. Find out where the cheapest overall prices for groceries in your area of Hawaii is. (For my family that’s the military commissary on Hickam AFB). DO 90% of your shopping there.
2. Find out where the cheapest prices for certain products are. I.E. Some places may have meat and milk that is regularly cheaper than your “cheapest overall” location. Do 10% of your grocery shopping at this location only concentrating on what they offer at the best price.
3. Throughout the week, or month (however often you decide to shop), then supplement the refrigerator and cupboards with what you need as it runs out (or pops up for a recipe). Do this at whichever of the above applies to what your needs and budget constraints are.