High Level Cost Estimate for Food - Reality Check With Actual Prices

| by Attis & Peter | categories: planning | Read and Post Comments

TL;DR: After item-by-item price comparison, we can say that food in Germany is not 2-3 times more expensive than in Hungary. In the future, for high level estimates we'll use pizza prices.

As we shared before, we had problems with our first approach to high level trip cost estimating.

We organize self-supporting trips, which includes cooking for ourselves, instead of eating in restaurants (spare for the last day). But to estimate the difference between the food prices in various countries, for simplicity, we have chosen to use restaurant prices. However, the results looked unreal, so we decided to check food prices - Attis lives in Hungary and Peter in Germany, so we could compare the actual prices.

What do we need prices for?

  • for breakfast, we tend to eat a lot, even if it's usually simple: instant coffee and tea, bread with toppings, some vegetables - and of course the leftovers from dinner, reheated
  • lunch is light and short, and consists of bread with toppings
  • during the afternoon, there is a chocolate break to keep people paddling further
  • dinner is warm and cooked in a huge pot on the open fire - pasta Milanese, pea porridge, pasta with cottage cheese & bacon, etc.

Our dinner dishes are so established that it's almost set in stone, thus it was easy to make a shopping list.

Peter: But I'm dead set on introducing new dishes, after all, _chicken with turmeric has been added to the menu only 5 years ago, so we must be open to change :) Maybe we could even start having fruits!

Collecting & Comparing Supermarket Prices

It's quite a job just to collect the prices in these huge supermarkets! Writing down the prices is much more difficult than just analyzing the receipt after purchasing.

For instance, you cannot calculate the average price of potato, since the packaging size matters - obviously the unit price is cheaper if you buy 10 kg than if you buy 2-3. But we don't yet know how many of us are coming, and does which price to use.

On top of that, the German and Hungarian package quantities are different (e.g.: to take potatoes again, in the Hungarian shop we checked, you can buy 1, 2, 5 or 10 kg ; while in Germany sacks are 2.5 or 7.5 kg). So we had to normalize the problematic items to unit quantities, so our comparison is already skewed. The quantity problem becomes even more significant with spices - 100 vs. 15 grams make a considerable difference! And of course, there are the outliers we need to throw away (e.g.: Hungarian paprika sold per piece in Germany expensively, while the same is sold in Hungary in kilos).

On the other hand, if we keep in mind that what we are looking for is an approximation, none of this should really be a problem, thus the final price comparison table should be usable.


With that price list in hand, we could conclude that food prices are not as different in the two countries as the restaurant prices showed (it suggested that food is two-three times more expensive in Germany than in Hungary) - but we can see that the prices are approximately the same in the two countries, maybe in Germany a little bit higher (1.15x), but that's not a huge difference.

So we don't have to bring food from Hungary, which both saves time and space in the cars from Budapest - Peter & his girlfriend will drive less and they will have plenty of free space in their car for the food for the whole trip, unlike the cars full with four people coming from Hungary.

Cost type Total cost (in EUR) Difference Ratio (DE/HU) (in EUR)
Ingredients 47.90 53.29 1.11
Spices 13.63 15.53 1.14
Total 61.53 68.82 1.12

For future estimates - use pizza!

While this is reassuring for this particular upcoming trip, this isn't a scalable solution - we don't only intend to go to countries where somebody lives, and we want to easily find some numbers we could pop into the high-level planning app to see how much the trip would cost. So we need to find a reliable indicator. After some trial and error, we chose pizza prices. Pizza delivery is an active business in every (European) country, online menus (with prices!) are available (unlike gyros (kebab) or McDonald's). Pizza sizes are approximately the same, and there variations are rather standard, like Margaritha or Bolognese.

Food type Hungary Germany (EUR) Difference DE/HU (in EUR)
Dürüm kebab 700 2.28 3.5 1.535
Dinner dish in restaurant 1700 5.54 10 1.81
Pizza Margaritha 1400 4.56 5 1.09
Pizza Fruit of the See 1920 6.25 6.5 1.04

Let us know what you thought about the post via email!