Recipe Finder Cost Data: Questions and Answers


          1. How did you come up with the costs for recipes?

            The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) purchased data from the AC Nielsen 2001 Homescan panel, a nationally representative panel of US households, which provides food purchase data for at-home consumption. The National Agricultural Library, within the USDA Agricultural Research Service, was able to access the data from ERS to calculate the average cost of various ingredients. The average price for the ingredients was calculated by computing the sales revenue for particular ingredients and dividing it by the number of units of the ingredients sold. The price used in the calculation was the national average price for the ingredient.

            The Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index (CPI) is used to update the costs on a yearly basis. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services.

          2. Will this data be the same for all areas of the country?

            No. The AC Nielsen Homescan Panel is a national average and is demographically balanced to represent the household population of the mainland United States and is seasonally adjusted. The CPI data is also adjusted for seasonality and is also based on a national average. The individual cost of a food item may vary depending upon the region and time of the year. Educators should use their judgment and discretion to adjust the costs based upon the region and time of the year.

          3. May I use the cost data in my work?

            You may use any of the information you find in the Recipe Finder. This data is in the public domain.

          4. Does the data you used to calculate costs include all foods found in grocery stores?

            No. It reflects all food items purchased from grocery stores in the household panel which won't include all possible foods. However, most of the ingredients in the Recipe Finder use common, readily available ingredients which make them easy to find in the AC Nielsen data. If necessary the dietitians who enter the recipes use professional judgment and choose the most appropriate food for each recipe.

          5. Why was 2001 AC Nielsen data used instead of something more recent?

            ERS purchased the AC Nielsen Homescan Panel for 2001 and at the time of development, this was the most current data available from ERS for our purposes of performing cost analysis on recipes.

          6. How is the cost information be updated?

            Costing data is updated annually based on relative changes in the CPI. For more details on how CPI is calculated, its uses and applications, please see the Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site.

          7. How can national cost data help local educators provide SNAP-Ed?

            While national average costs may vary from local area costs, the data provided may assist nutrition educators in their efforts to help clients learn food budgeting and food resource management skills. The information may be used as a stand alone tool or as a supplement to curricula that address these and similar topics.