Have you noticed rising grocery costs when you shop for food lately? We may finally be able to find chicken and eggs at the grocery store after initial shortages when COVID-19 began, but prices for the items we need have been going up during the pandemic.
A June report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the price for food at home increased nearly 5% for the year ending May 2020. All six major grocery store food groups, including bakery products, meats, produce and dairy items, went up during that period.
The reasons for the price increases are many, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. With restaurants closed or offering limited service, more of us were eating at home, prompting more demand for food at the grocery store. And some meatpacking plants and other facilities closed because of the pandemic, leading to food shortages.
As we move into a new year, the agriculture department expects food prices to return to historical trends. But, even still, as families face unexpected furloughs, layoffs and other disruptions during the ongoing pandemic, saving at the grocery store will be one way to protect their financial health.
Use what’s in your pantry
Not everybody has the luxury of stocking food in their cupboards. But if you have nonperishables in your pantry and an overflowing freezer, it’s time to use up that food. Take stock of what you have and see how long you can go without buying much of anything.
You might need to get creative. The Kitchn.com offers 100 ways to turn pantry staples into a meal. But you also might find that you have enough food squirrelled away to lower your grocery bill for a week or two — and maybe more.
Build a shopping list based on store sales
Never go to the store without a shopping list that you’ve built based on the meal plan you’ve created for the week. The foundation for that meal plan should be what you have on hand and what’s on sale at the store. Grocery stores usually announce their weekly specials on Wednesdays. You can pick up a flier in the store or find a digital version online.
So, if you have pasta and chicken broth in your pantry and chicken breasts are on sale, then this one-pot lemon pepper chicken recipe might be perfect for a weeknight meal.
Embrace low-cost proteins
That roast might be tempting, but eggs, dried beans, canned tuna, peanut butter and chicken legs also provide plenty of protein to keep your family satisfied at a much lower cost. EatThis.com has a list of 15 cheap protein sources.
Buy in bulk
But think carefully before you do. Don’t buy items in bulk that you can’t use by the expiration date or freeze for later use. And definitely don’t buy items in bulk that you don’t really need or like just because it’s a good deal. But buying large quantities of items that you use regularly — a cut of meat that you can store in the freezer or your family’s favorite breakfast cereal or snacks — is a good way to cut your costs on items that you normally enjoy.
Do it yourself
Grocery stores charge a premium for things like pre-cut fruit and vegetables, hard boiled eggs and shredded cheese. By the uncut, uncooked and un-shredded version and save yourself some money. According to one report, taking the time to cut up your own food can save you as much as $100 a month.
You may love the supermarket down the street, but the store a couple of miles away may have better deals. Start checking out the weekly sales circulars for several stores in your area, so you can compare prices and ensure you’re getting the best deal for what you need.
Look for day-old, discounted products
Grocery stores often slash the prices for items like day-old bread, bruised apples and other produce and dairy or meat products that are too close to their best-by date. That food might not look beautiful, but it’s edible. You can turn that bread into French toast, the apples into homemade applesauce and stick the meat in the freezer for when you need it.
Skip the brand names
Instead of buying brand-name products, pick up the store brands instead. According to Consumer Reports, you’ll save an average of 25% on nearly identical products.
Understand grocery store traps
U.S. News & World Report covered 10 grocery store traps, including enticing end caps, strategically placed products and tempting items near the cashier, that all can add up when we check out. Even oversized grocery carts can encourage us to buy more than we really need.
As you look to cut your grocery spending because of rising grocery costs or a tighter budget, you’ll need to plan and be careful as you walk the aisles. It may be hard to avoid the temptation of your favorite ice cream brand or that high-priced beef in the butcher department. But being careful with your grocery shopping — saving money wherever you can — is a smart way to cut your costs and stay within your budget.
If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, CESI is here to help. Our counselors are available to assist if you are experiencing job loss, temporary loss of income or financial hardship during this time. Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.
Consumer Education Services, Inc. empowers people to overcome their financial challenges and lead financially-healthy lives.
CESI is NOT A LOAN COMPANY