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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Figuring Out The True Price of Eggs- Are They Really So Cheap?

Image credit- Simon Howden
I think the standard frugal kitchen maven knows, de-facto, that eggs are the cheapest protein you can serve your family, other than legumes (cooked from dried beans, not canned).

But I don't like taking such knowledge for granted- I mean, is it really true? Is it perhaps even wrong, like the common knowledge that chicken breast is the cheapest type of meat, because there's no bone in it, and that wings and necks are a waste of money because they're mostly bone, which I actually proved wrong, when I did my calculations to figure out which type of meat is actually cheapest, and discovered that, contrary to popular belief, necks and wings are cheaper than breast, even once you factor in the bones and skin.
And maybe eggs are the cheapest animal protein sometimes, like if you can shop at Aldi's- but where I live eggs are much more expensive than Aldi's- so maybe here they are not the cheapest option?

I'll admit, eggs have been my go-to protein to cook for my family when they don't want legumes, because I assumed they were cheapest- but are they really?

Add to that the fact that there are three different sizes of eggs sold locally regularly- medium, large, and extra large, all with different pricing, and I really had no idea which was the best buy.

So that made me realize- it was time do to another crazy calculation- to figure out how much I'm really paying for my eggs, figure out type of egg is most worthwhile to buy, and if eggs are actually the cheapest type of animal protein out there.


To do this, I went to a super cheap sale and bought 3 trays of 30 eggs each (they're generally sold by 30 in my country, not by the dozen) in three different sizes and went to work.
The medium eggs cost $6.86 for the tray, or 22.8 cents an egg, or $2.74 a dozen.
Large eggs cost $7.43 for the tray, or 24.8 cents an egg, or $2.97 a dozen.
Extra large eggs cost $8.57 for the tray, or 28.6 cents an egg, or $3.42 a dozen.
(This is not the standard price of eggs locally, but pretty much the best deal I can get. Typical pricing for eggs at non cheapo places is $7.43 for 30 medium, $9.14 for large, and $10 for extra large.)

I then weighed and measured it a few different ways.
Each time I weighed it, I did it with 4 eggs of the same size, because I assume there is some variation in sizes of eggs, so by taking 4 and then using the average of them, I'm getting a more accurate picture of the size of the standard medium, large, and extra large is than if I just measured one of each.

I measured them whole and raw, then peeled after being hard boiled, taking care not to leave any on the shell. I also measured them raw shelled, after getting every last drop out of the shell that is possible, and then after frying it in a teaspoon of oil (which I didn't subtract in the final tally since it was such a small amount- weighed less than 5 grams.
I weighed everything in metric units, after which I converted it to pounds (since it is so much easier to work with metric when it comes to these types of calculations) and then made them into this chart.


Egg Size4 eggs (kg)1 egg (kg)1 egg (lb)4 raw, shelled (kg)1 raw shelled (kg)1 raw shelled (lb)4 boiled (kg)1 boiled (kg)1 boiled (lb)4 fried (kg)1 fried (kg)1 fried (lb)protein/
egg
Medium0.2320.0580.12762000.050.110.2050.051250.11280.170.04250.09356
Large0.260.0650.1432300.05750.1270.2250.056250.12380.2050.051250.112756
Extra Large0.2820.07050.15512600.0650.1430.2580.06450.14190.2270.056750.124857

You always think of a shell as insignificant in terms of weight- at least I do, anyhow, but I see now that with the medium eggs, 14.5% of its weight was actually in its shell, vs with the extra large egg, only 8% of its weight was shell.

If you notice, you get much less quantity of egg when you fry the egg vs hard boiling it. With the extra large egg you get 20% less than the original weight when fried vs 7.5% less when hard boiled. With the medium you get 26.5% when fried vs 11.5% less when boiled, and with the large eggs 21% less when fried vs 13.5% when boiled.
I know that the second I say this I'll have people already thinking I'm wrong- because its still the same amount of nutrition when boiled vs fried, that its still going to be 6 grams of protein in a medium or large egg and 7 in an extra large egg, no matter whether boiled or fried, but hear me out for a second.

We don't just eat for nutrition. We eat for satiation, and satiation is based on so many factors. I'm assuming that when an egg is boiled, it keeps its moisture inside it, as part of the egg, and when fried most of the moisture evaporates, and it kind of shrivels up, hence weighing a lot less when fried vs boiled, and now that I think of it, it looks a lot less as well. When we eat, our brain is getting all sorts of messages to signal satiation, and how many times we take a bite of something, how much we see visually, how it tastes, all plays a part in how satisfied we feel after eating it. When something looses its moisture and is smaller, size-wise, even if the nutrition stays the same, we feel less satisfied and end up wanting more of that food before we feel content.
That explains why my kids are generally happy with 1-2 hard boiled eggs, and generally 1-1.5 hard boiled eggs if mixed with mayonnaise and/or some other veggies like celery and onion, vs wanting 2-3 (or even more) if its scrambled eggs or an omelet. Though I asked my husband while I was writing this post, and he said its equal to him, he'd be satiated with the same amount of eggs hard boiled vs scrambled, I have seen from when I've made him eggs, he eats more when its scrambled vs hard boiled.

Ok, so is it cheaper to buy medium, large, or extra large eggs?

Well, I plugged in the numbers and calculated this chart to figure out how much I was paying per pound for eggs, and per gram of protein.

Egg SizeCost for 30Cost per egg$/lb whole$/lb raw shelled$/lb boiled$/lb fried$/gr protein
Medium$6.86$0.23$1.79/lb$2.08/lb$2.03/lb$2.44/lb$0.037/gr
Large$7.43$0.25$1.73/lb$1.96/lb$2.00/lb$2.20/lb$0.041/gr
Extra Large$8.57$0.29$1.84/lb$2.00/lb$2.01/lb$2.29/lb$0.041/gr

The difference was really negligible when it came to the difference in price per pound for hard boiled eggs, but more significant with price per pound for fried eggs, with large eggs working out to be cheapest per pound, followed by extra large, and medium being the most expensive. However, medium worked out to be cheapest per gram of protein.

But since these aren't the standard egg prices here, only when I'm able to make it to a certain weekly sale, I plugged in the standard egg prices to the chart. 

Egg SizeCost for 30Cost per egg$/lb whole$/lb raw shelled$/lb boiled$/lb fried$/gr protein
Medium$7.43$0.25$2.09/lb$2.42/lb$2.37/lb$2.85/lb$0.044/gr
Large$9.14$0.30$2.13/lb$2.41/lb$2.46/lb$2.70/lb$0.051/gr
Extra Large$10.00$0.33$2.15/lb$2.33/lb$2.35/lb$2.67/lb$0.048/gr

For standard egg prices, extra large works out to be cheapest per pound, followed by large then medium. However, again medium worked out to be cheapest per gram of protein.

Now the question is...
Are eggs cheap?

For you, it depends on the price locally. 
I put together this handy dandy chart with numbers to plug in. Where it says price, plug in the price per dozen where you live, and then multiply it by the number that follows to get the price you're paying per pound, or per gram of protein.

US- Dozen$/egg$/lb raw$/lb whole$/lb boiled$/lb fried$/gr protein
MediumPrice * 0.083Price * 0.653Price *0.758Price * 0.73Price * 0.885Price * 0.014
LargePrice * 0.083Price * 0.581Price * 0.658Price * 0.73Price * 0.735Price * 0.014
Extra LargePrice * 0.083Price * 0.538Price * 0.581Price * 0.588Price * 0.667Price * 0.012
I asked around to find out the price in the US for these different sized eggs and the prices varied so tremendously from place to place.

Just as an example, one person said that at her local Fareway in Iowa, medium eggs were $0.50 per dozen, large were $0.99 per dozen, and extra large were $1.09 per dozen.

At those prices here's how much she'd be paying per pound of egg:

Egg Size$/dozen$/egg$/lb raw$/lb whole$/lb boiled$/lb friedCents/gr protein
Medium$0.50$0.04$0.33$0.38$0.36$0.440.7 cents
Large$0.99$0.08$0.56$0.65$0.66$0.731.4 cents
Extra Large$1.09$0.09$0.59$0.63$0.64$0.731.31 cents

And now compare that to this pricing from someone else, elsewhere in the US- $2.99 for a dozen medium, $3.29 for a dozen large, and $4.29 for a dozen extra large.

US- Dozen$/dozen$/egg$/lb whole$/lb raw$/lb boiled$/lb friedCents/gr protein
Medium$2.99$0.249$1.95$2.26$2.21$2.664.2 cents
Large$3.29$0.274$1.92$2.16$2.21$2.434.6 cents
Extra Large$4.29$0.376$2.42$2.63$2.65$3.015.4 cents

Essentially, there is no one answer as to whether eggs are actually a cheaper meal than another animal protein, or which type of eggs are cheapest per pound or per amount of protein.

To find that out, you'll have to just plug in your local costs and figure out what the best buy is where you live.

Now as to whether or not it is a cheap protein for us? 

Lets compare eggs bought on sale to chicken wings bought on sale for 90 cents a pound. Using this chart, I see that they'd be $1.83 per pound of meat, once you factor in the bones. That is cheaper than the cheapest eggs I can get, large eggs would cost me $2.00 per pound bought on sale.
Wings not on sale? $1.29 per pound, with a real cost of $2.61 per pound of meat, factoring in the bones. That's more expensive than eggs bought on sale but cheaper per pound than all sizes of eggs not on sale made into scrambled eggs.
Chicken breast on sale? I recently bought some for $1.93 per pound. That's $2.12 per pound, more expensive than all sizes of eggs bought on sale and made into hard boiled eggs but cheaper than all sizes of eggs bought on sale and made into scrambled eggs, let alone eggs bought not on sale.
Chicken breast not on sale and bought at $3.24 per pound, $3.57 real price? Eggs obviously are the winner.
Chicken necks bought for $0.77 per pound, $2.03 per pound of meat? Practically the same price as eggs bought on sale and hard boiled, and cheaper than sale eggs made into scrambled eggs.
Chicken or turkey gizzards bought at $1.30 per pound, with a real cost of $1.93? Cheaper than all types of eggs, bought on sale or not.

For me, eggs certainly are not the cheapest protein, especially if I don't buy them on sale.
They're quick, they're easy, and they still are relatively cheap, but I'll keep in mind that chicken breast is also easy and when bought on sale is cheaper than eggs not on sale.

But it is much more complicated than just what is cheapest per pound or per gram of protein, because satiation plays a big key as well... but that will have to be for another chart and another series of calculatons that I am in the middle of working on.

But for now, at least you know how to figure out which are the cheapest types of eggs for you to buy, and if they're even such a cheap protein after all.

How much do eggs cost where you live? How does that compare to the cost of other proteins? Do you think eggs are a cheaper protein? If you did the calculations provided, do you still think they're the cheapest option?

26 comments:

  1. This is fantastic. I had never thought about hard boiled versus scrambled or fried, and wow, I need to crack down on my food budget!

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    1. Good luck with cracking down on your food budget!

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  2. As long as you are calculating, chicken breast might be cheaper per pound than eggs, but it is more expensive to cook, takes more resources. So unless your cooking fuel is free, chicken may be more expensive in the long run. Really good work. I wouldn't have the patience to do the experiment.

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    1. I don't know how you cook your chicken breast, but I slice mine thinly on the stove top and it barely takes any longer in a frying pan than scrambled eggs do, and it takes far less time than hard boiled eggs. And in the oven, I bake it for 10 minutes.

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    2. I hear ya. Since I cook mine in the oven I judged it by my usage, not yours. Sorry about that. It didn't occur to me to cook it the way you do.

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  3. Wouldn't it be more accurate to calculate based on per serving (vs. weight)?

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    1. That is going to be the next chart.

      But usually when you figure out the cost of anything, like the cost of veggies, to see which is cheaper, do you calculate cost per serving or cost per pound?

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  4. At Easter I found eggs on sale at Aldi for 75 cents/ lb and stocked up on 6 dozen, since they don't go bad for a while, even past the expiration date. Organic chicken at Walmart in the whole fryer size is $1.99 a pound or you can get the non organic chicken thighs for $0.60 a pound. I try to look for sales on everything though I don't usually buy pork or beef because of the overall higher cost. And lately I have been eating more Indian/ vegetarian meals which are balanced proteins/carbs and make me feel full and satiated even without the meat! I don't think I would go with only eggs are only chicken or only turkey just based purely on the cost because my body would eventually get sick of it, of eating the same thing over and over again. However I love that you've broken it down into a formula so to speak!

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    1. Right, I vary it up too here, but I do like to keep in mind what is cheaper, as my go-to option.

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    2. Oops! Or* not are. I was using voice to text.

      And yes! It's good to know where your money is going plus its fun to do the math on things. The knowledge informs your purchasing decisions!

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    3. Thanks for this! I was coming to this realization (without doing the math) especially after egg prices rose sharply around us due to flocks being lost to control avian flu. The prices came down again, but not nearly to what they had been before. I especially like the size comparison.
      I like your thoughts on satiety. My first thoughts were the opposite. I can generally only eat 1-1.5 boiled eggs but they don't seem to hold me as long as a scrambled or fried egg meal. The scrambled eggs tend to be cooked with sauteed onion, a scrap of meat or bacon and a nice dose of butter and if I have it a bit of cheese that needs to be used up. Fried, the sauteed veggies end up being a bed for the egg. The overall dish ends up providing more satiety. Hardboiled eggs get used to fill in the nooks and crannies for the adults when my "main" protein is skimpy- chopped on a salad, egg salad served as an appetizer or just an egg if I am tired.

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  5. OMG. If you're so worried about the cost of eggs, you've got problems. Maybe your husband should get a second job, or you should get a job, if your situation is so bad that you need to figure all this out down to the penny. This is just sad. Who wants chicken all the time, sometimes you just want eggs. If you have to think twice before buying eggs, you need to earn more money.

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    1. I think you missed the point. Im not so starved for cash. My husband works crazy hours, and I work a few jobs, work hard, and do what I can to save money. But that isn't why I do this. I just make eggs often because I thought it was the cheapest food, even if my family would have preferred chicken. I actually appreciated the eye opener that figuring this out was, because now I don't have to feel that I'm wasting money if i serve chicken or fish, because it actually often works out even cheaper than eggs, and we enjoy it more.

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    2. It's called 'being curious' and that is the mark of an intelligent mind.

      -Vera

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    3. I'm not quite sure why someone should be bothered by the fact that someone is trying to make the most of their income. Reading seems to be assuming that Penniless Parenting is poor and that is "sad". "Sad", in this case, doesn't seem to being used as "worthy of empathy", but rather as some form of opprobrium. Others here have suggested that assumption may not be true, but what if it is? What if this blogger is poor and she and her husband are already doing all they can to generate income (including writing a blog)?

      What is it that makes being poor the subject of criticism?

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    4. It is not about what she has to choose. It's about the knowledge and come on! This blog is called Penniless Parenting. Obviously money is a topic we want to read about because here we are. If you dont like it, you dont have to comment. There is a real person behind the screen. Remember that!!

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    5. Great analysis Penny! To the negative commenter; we make a very decent living and I still am still interested in the cost of these things. You never know how your situation will change and we enjoy saving where we can so we can freely give to others without worrying about our own budget. Also, there are many many others out there struggling to feed their families and this info. could make a big difference in the choices they make to feed their families the most nutritious and cost effective meals. I know I live in a bubble and maybe you do too, but all over the world families are struggling and Penny is making a very meaningful contribution and empowering people with knowledge. Keep it up Penny!

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    6. Loved Penny's reply. Why shame people for budgeting wisely? Moreover, some people who work multiple jobs still have a problem making ends meet. The commenter seems to have a serious misunderstanding about who is struggling financially in this world. Many of the poor are already working multiple jobs. Some are unable to work do to illness, disability, or the need to care for children or elderly family members.

      Bravo to Penny for creating this site to help us all do better on a budget - whether it is a small or large one. Penny is doing a kindness with her experience and wisdom and I for one appreciate it.

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    7. Reading, that comment was kind of rude. The entire point of this blog is to make the most of your money and this person is sharing what she has learned and does. If you aren't interested in learning about it, you can read a different blog. Nobody made you read this one. I happen to be curious about actual vs imagined costs of food so I enjoyed the article and I also enjoy her writing style. I have a good job, an advanced degree, etc but I live in a VERY expensive part of the country and I have a child going to a VERY expensive university who has a gluten sensitivity so this particular blog is enjoyable and informative for me. There is no need to come in here and take a crap on it. Try being nicer.

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    8. If it is so offensive to "Reading" to read about a person comparing costs, why would such a person read a blog like this? The entire blog is about frugality and many people enjoy reading about it (myself included, even though I have enough money for luxuries like frugal travel). It seems that there are other blogs out there that wouldn't upset Reading's sensibilities. Move along.

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  6. Figuring out the cost of items down to the nitty gritty helps control one's finances. Many of the richest people control their income in this manner. That's how they acquire monetary wealth. Small leaks sink big ships. Reading should know this. Don't underestimate the power of a penny.

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    1. I think knowledge is power. What you do with that knowledge is up to you, but to not want that knowledge in the first place is silly.

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  7. I've always wondered I find boiled, mashed potatoes significantly more filling than roasted/fried potatoes. What you said about frying vs boiling eggs solved the mystery for me. :)

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  8. I just bought a dozen eggs at Aldi today for $1.09. They are def. the cheapest place to get eggs, they are almost $3 a dozen at Walmart.

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  9. It blows my mind when you do these calculations Penny. I'm wondering if you put your mind to it if you could solve the US budget. I bet you could. You are amazing. Wow. Oh and I don't eat enough eggs to even think about price but I'm glad u do.

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  10. I think the suffering of the chickens should be factored into the equation too. Cheap eggs mean the hens are paying the price. Aldi, for example, is one of the last supermarkets in my country to sell caged hen eggs, which are the product of a horribly cruel farming practice.

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