The prices of identical products can vary — sometimes radically — from state to state. For example, a typical basket of food and home products from Walmart in Tennessee costs 14.30% more than the national average, while just over the border in Kentucky, the same basket costs 6.72% less than the national average. Well, call me a biscuit!
CashNetUSA grabbed a virtual basket and went on an online Walmart tour of the U.S. — comparing regular and vegan prices to each other and to the average local income along the way.
What We Did
CashNetUSA created a 12-item grocery list (and a vegan alternative, too!). We found the total price for each list in every state based on Walmart’s own brands in each state’s biggest city and compared them against the national average. Then, we calculated the price premium for groceries by state. We used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to compare each bill to the average local income for each state.
- Groceries in Hawaii cost 26.18% more than the national average — the highest disparity in the U.S.
- West Virginia has the cheapest regular groceries, at 7.70% under the national average.
- The cheapest vegan groceries are in New Mexico, where they cost 5.03% below the national average.
- It takes two hours and two minutes of work to afford the average basket of regular groceries in Alabama — the worst local affordability of any state.
Hawaii and Alaska Pay More at Walmart
Walmart is doubling down on its own-brand goods in response to price hikes among the big brand names. Here is the sample basket of Walmart-brand essentials we compared from state to state around the country.
Grocery brands are pushing prices up to cope with fuel and supply chain issues. But Walmart has countered that beyond these factors, the falling cost of packaging, transportation and raw materials should benefit consumers. It makes sense, then, that the non-contiguous states of Hawaii (+26.18% over the national average) and Alaska (+20.11%) should sport Walmart’s most expensive private brand goods.
In addition to added transportation and more limited locally produced goods, the premium on land makes bulk storage a more costly proposition in Hawaii — although you can have too much of a good thing, as Walmart has found out with its recent inventory woes.
Alaska and, to a less extent, Hawaii see their high prices offset by relatively high local incomes. On the other hand, Alabama and Tennessee suffer the double whammy of being among the six states with the highest Walmart price hikes while also having some of the lowest average incomes in the U.S.
New York State’s Walmart offers the best buys compared to local income. It helps that New York City’s high salaries boost the state’s average income, while Walmart has famously been blocked from creating physical premises in the city itself. Beyond the city, the state enjoys Walmart prices that are 4.82% below the national average — but Big Apple dwellers can still access Walmart brands through Instacart.
New Mexico and Massachusetts Offer Best Vegan Walmart Prices
When even PETA raves about Walmart’s vegan offering, you know animal-friendly eating has gone mainstream. Here are the common vegan Walmart-branded items we chose for our basket so as to compare the price of shopping vegan at the store around the country.
The big story here is that while Hawaii and Alaska suffer a price hike for vegan goods that are not dissimilar to the ones they get with regular groceries, the rest of the country enjoys a relatively flat line. Our vegan basket costs no more than 2% above or below the national average in 36 states.
New Mexico is the stand-out state, boasting vegan costs that are 5.03% below the national average (non-vegan prices in the state are 3.81% below average).
Mississippi has the worst value vegan food compared to local wages — despite the typical basket coming in 1.05% below the national average. Unfortunately, Mississippi has the lowest incomes in the U.S., so the slight advantage in the pricing is eclipsed by local economic conditions. West Virginia suffers a similar fate. (Here’s our guide to how far salaries tend to stretch from state to state.)
You’ll get the biggest vegan feed-up for your day’s work in Massachusetts: despite higher-than-average costs, it takes just an hour and ten minutes of work to pay for your basket. And it is marginally cheaper to shop vegan in Walmarts in Massachusetts — albeit with just 1.36% difference compared to the average basket of non-vegan groceries.
Browse the table below to view our full dataset and see which states can literally bring home more bacon:
METHODOLOGY & SOURCES
To create these tables, we built two lists of 12 food and drink items for a typical grocery and vegan grocery list. We found a Walmart Supercenter in or around the state’s most populous city and recorded the prices of all items from both lists. Then we summed them up and got the price of the entire basket. We compared the total cost for each list by state with the national average to calculate the price premium for groceries and vegan groceries by state.
We then calculated the relative affordability of these grocery and vegan grocery lists in every state by calculating the hours and minutes you’d have to work in each state to pay for the items. For this, we gathered wage data from https://www.bls.gov/oes/ and assumed that there are 260 working days a year and eight working hours a day.
The data was collected in February 2023.