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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Comparing the cost of peanut butter to eggs, for lunch-making

So, peanut butter is on sale this week for $4.99 for a 64-oz jar, or $1.24 a pound. That's a fabulous price for peanut butter. But is it the best price for a protein source for lunch sandwiches?

My first thought is to stock up like crazy on peanut butter, and be done with the question of what kind of sandwiches to have available for summer. But I do want to know, could there be less expensive lunch-time offerings?

Other sandwich possibilities include cheese (at about $2 per pound), luncheon meat (best price for me -- on markdown for about $1.76 per pound), bean spreads at about 50-75 cents per pound (can be the most frugal) and eggs (right now about 64 - 72 cents per pound).

There was a time when peanut butter was always the most frugal lunch choice. That's just not the case, any longer. So, I have to weigh this out for myself, and find some alternatives that are easy and welcomed by my family.

I will certainly be making some bean-based spreads for summer lunches. But also want some quick and easy options (bean spread requires soaking and cooking the beans first). The luncheon meat, I think, is best reserved for too-busy evenings, when making sandwiches is about all I have time for. And cheese is kinda pricey for use more than once per week for sandwich fillings, but I do use frequently in preparing dinners.

That leaves me with eggs. Eggs are priced per dozen. That does make it difficult to compare the price of eggs by weight, to other foods. However, I use a nice little calculation shortcut, when comparing eggs to other ingredients. Mostly, I buy large eggs. Large eggs are the size that are typically on sale at Walgreen's, Target and other grocery stores, so most often the best buy for me.

A dozen large eggs weigh about 24 ounces, each egg weighing 2 ounces. So, 8 large eggs weigh 1 pound. My price per egg is about 8-9 cents, these days. (I carry that tidbit of info in my head, as I comparison shop or figure the cost of making any recipe.) So, at 8-9 cents per egg, multiplied by 8 eggs to make a pound -- my price per pound, on large eggs, is currently between 64 and 72 cents for one pound.

The price of using eggs in lunches is not quite half that of using peanut butter. So, while I'll buy some peanut butter this week (maybe 3 or 4 large jars, to last through October), for summer lunches, I will also be planning ahead to make more egg salad. My plan with the peanut butter is to ration it out for the summer, and encourage family members to use the alternatives that I provide.

In case you wish to compare the prices of eggs per pound to other food items, here's my list of how many eggs it takes to equal 1 pound.

Eggs are "sized" by how much a dozen eggs weigh. So, the eggs that you buy in the store "must" meet a minimum net weight to qualify to be labeled a specific size. Knowing this makes calculating our price per pound on eggs, reliable, without having to get out the scale at home and weigh each carton.

To figure your price per pound on eggs:

Figure your price per egg, based on your current egg prices. Multiply that price per egg by how many eggs are in a pound (using the info below), for whichever size of eggs you've purchased. It's that simple. I like that it's the large eggs that go on sale most often AND are the only size of eggs that have a nice, even, round number to make my calculations with.

  • jumbo eggs --- 6.4 eggs per pound
  • extra-large eggs --- 7.11 eggs per pound
  • large eggs --- 8 eggs per pound
  • medium eggs --- 9.14 eggs per pound
  • small eggs --- 10.66 eggs per pound
  • peewee eggs --- 12.8 eggs per pound

What will be going into summer brown bag lunches at your place?


  1. Since you are into the minute details, do you factor in the weight of the shell of the egg?

    1. Hi live and learn,
      my eggs/dozen is based on USDA figures of how much each egg weighs, which includes the shell. The shell apparently weighs about 11% of the egg's total weight. However the USDA requirements of weight of each egg is a minimum, not an exact amount. So, each egg may weigh more than the USDA figures, making up some of that "shell weight". To complicate this further, chicken egg shells have been getting thinner in recent years, for eggs from some producers. The theory is not enough calcium in the chicken's feed is the culprit of thin egg shells. So, the actual "food weight" of each egg may be greater than the 89%.

      But, as my comparison for myself was to determine whether peanut butter at $1.24 per pound, or eggs, averaging about 70 cents per pound, the weight of each shell wouldn't change my outcome.

      And then one needs to factor in, how much peanut butter gets "lost" in the grooves of each jar, never to be scraped out, due to difficulty of even reaching inside those grooves with a rubber spatula.

      Sometimes, I find that I need to allow figures to be not-exact, or I will drive myself crazy.

      And one last piece of egg-y info from my house -- we use the egg shells, ground up around the base of our plants, as a slug deterrent and soil improvement, off-setting the cost of buying those garden-related supplies. So, the shells aren't even considered waste in our home. Whereas, the peanut butter jars are now sent to the recyclers, as we have way too many of those large plastic jars already. We have used as many as we could, though.

    2. I figured (pun intended) that you had considered the shell. While I don't factor the savings of things nearly as closely as you do, I do enjoy the thoroughness of your calculations, Lili. (From one detailed math nerd to another.)

  2. Lili,

    That is just amazing to me all the calculations! I just can't take the time to do all that, but in defense, I will say that I still think our lunch options are fairly cheap. A few weeks ago I found some turkey pieces greatly reduced. I don't love turkey but price trumps whether I like it or not. The pieces were breasts, legs and backbone (I didn't buy those). I have cooked those pieces and made turkey salad, turkey dumpling soup and turkey potpie. The turkey salad was mixed with a bit of mayonnaise and pickle relish if I had it and that made for a delicious sandwich or topping for a salad. I'm sure it cost only pennies for a lunch just because the turkey price was under $2 for an entire breast and only about $1.68 for the legs. Soup and potpie was made with the "pickings" and leftover meat and broth made from the bones. Rather than calculate it out to the penny, I mentally calculated that it was indeed frugal. We also are allowed to have ham sandwiches which are rather inexpensive since we bought the whole boneless ham at about 99 cents per pound and had the meat dept. slice it into thin sandwich slices that has lasted for about two months.

    Peanut butter was cheap last week so I bought two large containers that will last only about a month. Hubby likes a spoonful after a workout and that is allowed in our home.

    Someday I might try a more detailed calculation but not yet. And I still love seeing you doing the math!


    1. Oh, one more thing--the large peanut butter jars can be used to transport salads-on-the-run. Plastic won't break and if they are a bit larger can give a more ample portion. Put the dressing in the bottom first then layer in the "wet" items and end with the dry one. When ready for lunch, give it a good shake and eat it right out of the container. That's my lunch today!

    2. Alice, that's a great idea to use large peanut butter jars for portable salads! I'v seen it done in qt-size canning jars, but my thought had always been "oh, glass! I can just see it dropping and hitting the hard floor!" But plastic would be great!

      Your find on turkey parts was amazing! Turkey's not my favorite either, but since it's so inexpensive just before Thanksgiving, we buy and eat a lot of it. There are always ways to improve the flavor.

      We do use peanut butter as a quick protein boost around here, too. If anyone is telling me they're hungry but don't want to spoil their appetite for dinner, I always say to have a spoonful of PB.

  3. What store has the PB on sale this week?

    1. It's the Cash & Carry chain. The First Street brand (house brand).

    2. Thanks. I'll have to check that out this week.

    3. The current Hot Sheet at Cash & Carry is good through Sunday, June 14, and it's both chunky and creamy on for $4.99/64 oz.
      Hope that works for you! I didn't realize you were near a Cash & Carry. In checking my last purchase of these jars of peanut butter (Nov 2014?) I paid $5.39 per jar.

  4. You didn't mention, but I'm certain you took into account, how much of each product goes into a sandwich. Do you have stats for how much a PB sandwich, egg salad sandwich, bean spread sandwich cost?

    1. Hi Linda,
      No, no stats for each kind of sandwich, as I'm typically not the one making each sandwich. One daughter might put close to 2 tablespoons of an ingredient, while another daughter or husband might put more, or less. And this could vary according to what the filling is, per individual.

      I also didn't compare from a nutritional standpoint, like how much each food costs for the amount of protein or fat or calories. I was basically looking at an easy way to approximate cost of food item, in a general way, and weight is an easy unit of measurement for food, as many items are unit priced by weight.

      This method works for me, but someone else may have very specific dietary needs that they look to meet in what they purchase. For instance, someone may be Atkins or South Beach, and want to compare foods based on cost of the protein for a serving. That could be a very legitimate question for them. But that doesn't apply to my family, so not my concern.

      What I do know is that right now, given prices I have right now, stocking up wildly on peanut butter this week, even at a low price that I have available, would use up more of my grocery dollars for the month, and still not give us the least-expensive sandwich option. My conclusion for me is that if I take the time to make egg salad and bean spread this summer, I will save money on sandwich-making.

  5. Awesome, Lili--

    We often buy our eggs from Smart & Final in the big square box (must be a hundred eggs or so?) Now, I'll be able to tell my husband exactly what the price per pound is for those, compared to smaller cartons and other protein sources. I've never had to freeze any yet, but now I know from you how to do that, too! :)

    Eggs are a protein source of which my doctor heartily approves for me, and they're certainly quick and easy (especially if you hard-boil a bunch at the start of the week to use for last minute needs.) I stocked up on peanut butter recently due to a fairly good price/specific need; but now I'll definitely think about saving that for the things that ONLY peanut butter will do for, and bump eggs up as a substitute protein source for some other things.

    THANKS! and take good care! Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      I think that's the 13-dozen box?I bought one of those cases a while back. They can be a really great deal, and especially for you, if eggs are a source of protein that you use a lot of.

      You're right about just taking a few minutes at the beginning of the week to boil a bunch of eggs, and then you're set for quick meals later in the week. A typical breakfast or lunch for e is a boiled egg and slice of bread. Super simple and I get the protein I need.

      Have a great day, Sara!

    2. Lili--

      I'll add my huband's thanks for this post, too. We had a busy week here with pre-fire-season chores outside, and when he came in two days, he had deviled eggs to snack on. His favorite! :)


  6. I've always wondered by exactly how much the different egg sizes differed so now I know!

    I keep a lot of peanut butter on hand since my usual breakfast is peanut butter on toast, also occasionally using PB for sandwiches to take on the go (there isn't anyone at our house who brown bags it). The best price I've ever seen is $1.40/lb so $1.24 is an awesome deal.

    1. Hi Kathryn,
      We also keep a lot of PB here. It does make for good and quick snacks, and everyone in the family likes it. With this current price so low, at the Cash & Carry, I am now wondering if peanut prices are coming back down. We shall see.

  7. Holy Moly! You are nothin' if not thorough! Apparently I'm the only person on the planet who thinks peanut butter is disgusting, so there's never a need to ration the stuff here. I do keep some around for CatMan, who loves it, and I'll occasionally have some on an apple or something nice and acidic to cut through the yuck of it... but that's one food I could easily live without (well, that and chocolate ice cream - yuck!)

    Anyhow, what about stuff like tuna salad, salmon salad or chicken salad? I haven't priced "normal" tuna in a while - since they started packing it in vegetable broth (which has celery in it - an allergic no-no for me) I can only have the ridiculously expensive stuff which still comes in plain water. Just curious how the prices on that sort of thing work out. I'm sure the cost of the meat/fish is high, but once you mix it with mayo & veggies, that should dilute the cost a bit.

    1. Hi Cat,
      Even the "cheap" tuna has gotten expensive. The size has shrunk (now about 5 oz., used to be 7 oz.), and the best price I see around here is about 79 cents/can. That's over $2.40 per pound.

      The one way we used to do tuna, though, it was pretty affordable. We used to be able to get TVP granules, super cheap, 39 cents/lb, in the 90s. I would cut the tuna with rehydrated TVP, so 1 can of tuna could make enough sandwich filling for all 5 of us, and still give us enough protein. Chicken salad will be a possibility if I find we're tiring of the 40-lb purchase of chicken leg quarters. It would be close in price to egg salad.

    2. Ooooo... cutting tuna with TVP - that's genius!

    3. Cat, with TVP so much more expensive, now, I use cooked brown rice, when I don't have quite enough tuna to go around for sandwiches. What got me doing this with tuna in the first place was memories of a product called Tuna Twist, and box of extenders and seasonings that you would add to tuna salad.

  8. I lost my earlier comment....but I only have two suggestions: frozen fish sticks and can Spam. We serve the fish sticks in taco shells or rice paper (spring roll style) with veggies. Of course, there is our favorite spam musubi which is a must serve when the grandkids are over.

    Beans freeze very well. Whenever I plan to have residual cooking water from preparing other foods, I soak and cook beans. I have been very careful with our water usage and for two months saved $8 a month by using 1000 fewer gallons each month.



    1. Hi YHF,
      I hadn't thought to use fish sticks as part of a filling. But great idea! They would be good in fish tacos. Thanks for the suggestions!


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