Calories per dollar

Chia seeds are pretty packed per serving with 'good' calories, but are they worth the money?

Chia seeds are pretty packed per serving with ‘good’ calories, but are they worth the money?

Having a Costco membership is changing the foods we eat and how much we spend on them.

We recently spent $80 CDN (before taxes) on eight items from Costco and I started a spreadsheet comparing their calories—the carbs, fat, protein and other nutritional information from their product labels.

For example, one way to calculate nutritional value is to quickly sum what $80 gets me at Costco:

  • 0.9kg fat
  • 8.75kg carbs
  • 2kg protein
  • 51,000 calories

The full table of nutritional data:

Direct link to spreadsheet.

The next step is to test some of our diet assumptions. At the least, seeing old standbys like pasta and cereal side-by-side with recent diet additions like quinoa and chia seed is allowing me to make quick comparisons and is already clarifying and dispelling some myths I had about a few staples we buy.

For example, I didn’t know cottage cheese has so much sodium, or that spaghetti is such a good bang-for-the-buck (at least when buying the basic quality from Costco). In some ways this data may reinforce hunches: like, I suspected the lore of Italian bike racers and pasta carbo-loading before a big race had some validity to it, and maybe still does. What kind of bang I’m getting, however, is something I’d like to learn more about; I only know, for now, that not all calories are created equal, otherwise I’d be sucking down a glass of maple syrup before every race (actually, maybe I WILL do that).

Now I’m curious about some other grocery shopping assumptions we make. For one, I suspect we’re not necessarily saving money by shopping at Costco but hopefully we’re buying “better” foods for the same price (ex. chia and hemp seeds). Second, as an athlete with a consumption well in excess of the average 2,000 calorie male, I want to both maximize my dollars to feed my training while keeping that fuel quality high.

The spreadsheet I’ve started is shared here and will be updated semi-regularly with new items and new columns. As a layman in the world of nutrition my hope is to add more metrics and data to these tables and perhaps develop an overall score for foods that accounts for not only price / calorie, but the quality of those calories and other quantifiables like, say, amount of omega fatty acids, or vitamins, or ease of preparation, distance travelled, carbon footprint, manufacturer ethics, etc.