What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The World

Groceries: they take up a considerable portion of our disposable income, we often love the ads for them, the packaging calls to us in an enticing voice when we wander about a store, the fruit and veg markets smell, look and feel fantastic, we all consume them (unless we are totally devoted to self-sustainable subsistence farming practices - rare). In short, we can't really live without them!

So, what does a typical week of groceries look like in different, 'average' families around the world?

Take a look at photographer Peter Menzel’s remarkable photographic documentary that gives us a look into the homes, kitchens and bellies of families from around the world.


Some observations:

  • If we’re going to talk averages, I think most people reading this would not recognize the Australian family. According to the ABS, the typical Australian family is a couple with two kids living at home, and residing in a capital city. While the chosen family may represent a stereotype of the average Australian household, this bias doesn’t seem to play out in the other photos (the one exception to this might be the Germans, ever organised!)

  • While the point of the exercise is to highlight variety, the ubiquity of Coke is a stark reminder of its global pervasiveness.

  • Personally, a week or two of a Turkish diet would suit just fine, as would a couple of weeks on a Japanese diet (just in time for our summer bodies to emerge down here in Sydney).

Your thoughts?

‘No Thanks, I’m Just Using’


With Australia Post in the news over price hikes of up to 30% for pre-paid parcels, competitor Toll has announced its trial rollout of TZ locker technology. Consumers simply rent the automated lockers in anticipation of a parcel delivery and pick it up from a 24 hour localised pick up point. While this innovation is an evolution of the almost ancient concept of a PO box, it got us into a discussion about the broader trend it is part of and what this says about our changing society.

Once upon a time it was standard practice for a young adult to get a job, buckle down and save their pennies in order to buy a house and things to fill it with. But this trajectory may be on the wane.

Things seem to be gradually giving way to the services things offer. Lately we’re seeing the emergence of a number of innovative short-term rental/usage concepts whose success indicates that for some Australians it is no longer appealing or necessary to commit to fully purchasing something to enjoy its benefits, or to have that something to hand all the time. The service comes before the product.


Spotify is the pioneering commercial music streaming service that has been described as the saviour of the moribund music industry. Spotify offers users access to almost every piece of recorded music for a modest monthly service fee. Essentially this negates the need to purchase or own music; users are simply borrowing the music they want, as required.

GoGet is one of a handful of car share services launched in Australia that claim to be more convenient than car-rental and cheaper than car ownership. Members can book a car online, take a short walk to the nearest GoGet rental car, unlock it using a smart card and return it to the same spot when finished. No vehicle registration, no insurance, no repairs, no saving or commitment. To add to this in recent years

Melbourne has embraced the bike-sharing trend occurring in over 200 cities in 33 countries. The idea is much the same as GoGet, with two wheels.

So what’s driving this shift towards services rather than products? Is it an affordability issue? Not really. According to a report released last year by NATSEM, the cost of living isn’t increasing as rapidly as many would have us believe. Australians are experiencing financial stress due to greater discretionary spending and consequent expectations. We think this ‘service over product’ shift is about something bigger and more significant - services such as these offer lifestyle without encumbrance; they mitigate the rising cost of lifestyle, cater to an attitude of entitlement present amongst some, and talk to the new narrative that sees young Australians less willing to set aside part of their weekly wage to purchase a car, bike or LP. A service doesn’t deteriorate like a consumer durable, and disappears as soon as you’ve finished using it. It’s all the wheat and no chaff.

So what’s next? Could this trend, coupled with some quirky Japanese inventiveness, be the answer to Sydney’s housing shortage?

It's Raining Again.................

With 10-year rainfall highs in Sydney to start the month of April, record commuting delays have again been triggered as active commuters ditch the bike or running shoes to join cautious motorists on our congested wet roads.

Empirically, according to the RTA, the commuting speed in Sydney averages around 30kph. However, this includes major toll roads such as the M2 and M5 that skew this average higher with 40kph and 35kph averages respectively; A premium to travel 5 to 10kph quicker. 

A more recent study by the University of Sydney concludes an average speed during peak hour travel in Sydney of 26kph. In either case, if these are the average travel speeds, how much slower do we travel when it rains? Without the ability to split RTA or USyd data by wet and dry days, we can only comment anecdotally. For example, the wet start to April meant commute times to the Stancombe office in Paddington by car of 1.5hrs+ from Vaucluse, a similar duration from Seaforth on the north side, and 1hr+ from Randwick - that's more than double the normal commute times.

While we can reasonably expect that both travel speeds decrease and travel times increase when it rains, there are some more shocking statistics about our commuting habits and consequential impacts. 

This topic provides us with the opportunity to spruik a brilliant University of Sydney documentary aired on the ABC in October last year (2012). 

Two key statistics are:

-    80% of workers commute by car! 


-    Traffic jams cost Australia 13 Billion per year!

Check out the following data visualisation from episode 3 of the documentary Great Southern Land – Episode 3 (University of Sydney - 2012)
- it's a real eye opener.