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Stretch Your Dollar at the Grocery Store Amidst Rising Inflation

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Food prices are up 33.7% since the start of 2021, according to Fox Business calculations. That is a staggering amount, considering wage increases have yet to keep up with this increasing cost of goods. These increasing prices have affected the overall price of goods in the U.S. and worldwide.

For instance, according to Reuters, although core inflation is cooling, food prices could hamper the progress of the lower inflation rates that are taking place in the overall economy. 

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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the Consumer Price Index (CPI) — tracking the change in average price paid by consumers for groceries, housing, energy, and other consumer needs. It reflects the real-world impact of inflation on consumers and how that changes from month to month.

The CPI shows grocery prices increased by 10.4 percent from December 2021 to December 2022, far ahead of the overall rate of inflation, which was 6.5 percent. CPI reports in December 2023 that the total increase in food for the year was only 2.7 percent, which is on top of the gains in the two previous years.

Other factors at play cause price increases. For example, the avian flu outbreak, which began in April 2022, affected the cost of eggs.

Other factors include the disruption of the global supply of grain commodities caused by the war in Ukraine. The conflicts in the Middle East will further exacerbate the issue.

Additional causes are workforce disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many employees could not work due to illness; employers were forced to reduce their workforce due to pandemic restrictions.

Understanding the various economic forces at work, from global conflicts to supply chain disruptions, gives a clearer picture of “why” grocery prices are high. However, knowledge alone isn’t enough to ease the strain on wallets.

How to Minimize This Economic Strain

As savvy consumers, there are ways that you can adjust your buying preferences and lower that grocery bill. 

  • Avoid buying premade or frozen complete dinners. Many high-end grocery stores make premade dinners, including spaghetti dishes, macaroni and cheese, salads, and subs. These premade choices are much more expensive than making them yourself; remember that most are easy to prepare.
  • A bit of preplanning can save money. Prepare a meal plan for the week before shopping. Meal plans will help you avoid buying items needlessly and impulse buying. 
  • Speaking of impulse buying, learn how grocers set up their aisles. Grocers, as a rule, place higher-priced items at eye level. Look up to the top shelf and down to the bottom shelf to find the best buys.
  • Never shop when you are hungry. Eat a meal before you shop, and you will buy less.
  • Shop alone. You will purchase more when shopping with a significant other or the kids.
  • Don’t shop during peak hours or on peak days. It can be challenging to compare prices when the aisles are crowded.
  • Shop the store’s perimeter. Usually, produce, meat, and dairy are on the perimeter. These products are better sources of nutrition and often the most economical in the store. The center aisles generally have more processed foods, which are the most costly.
  • Take advantage of loyalty programs, sales, and coupons.
  • Buy generic. Generic items are often comparable to nationally recognized brands.
  • Buy cheaper proteins such as beans, lentils, and tofu, which are more cost-effective than meat.
  • Buy in bulk or shop at discount stores. Bulk purchases can save lots of money. If it is too much to use within a few days, freeze the rest in single-serve packages. 
  • Buy produce in-season. In-season produce will save money and is a sustainable choice. Avoid purchasing precut or prepared fruits and vegetables; buy whole produce and cut it yourself.
  • Consider shopping at farmer’s markets or farm stands to reduce the grocery bill.
  • Consider starting a kitchen garden to grow herbs and vegetables. Growing your own is a rewarding process that can save lots of money. Container gardens can be as small as a bucket on your terrace or patio. A few tomato plants in buckets can save on your bill.
  • Repurpose leftovers. Make ham and beans with a leftover, meaty ham bone. You have a meal that costs pennies per serving and takes only twenty minutes to prepare.

What other improvements will help you navigate paying the bills and affording that grocery bill while maintaining the health and nutrition of your family?

Cook Your Meals at Home

Cooking meals allows you to bring your creativity to play and saves money. You can make delicious meals in less than thirty minutes. These taste so much better than any preprepared meal from the store.

Embrace the cook once, eat twice (or more) mentality. Cook a whole chicken tonight, chicken tacos tomorrow, and then chicken soup or broth. 

If you’re adventurous, try canning, freezing, or dehydrating. 

Take advantage of cheaper fish sources, like canned salmon or tuna. Salmon patties take less than thirty minutes from start to finish and are just as delicious as their fresh counterparts for a fraction of the cost.

Tuna casserole is a complete, one-pot meal made in under an hour, and you can substitute the tuna with various proteins and vegetables.

Eat Out Less

Although occasionally everyone needs to treat themselves, try to limit eating out to save some money on your food budget.

Key Takeaways for Maximizing Your Grocery Budget

Navigating the rising costs of groceries requires a blend of informed shopping techniques, strategic planning, and creativity. 

Embrace practices such as meal planning or take advantage of sales and loyalty programs. Find budget-friendly alternatives like in-season produce and less expensive protein sources. All of these suggestions will significantly reduce your grocery bill. 

Furthermore, understanding product labeling and experimenting with home cooking and gardening can save money and lead to a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. 

No matter the reason, these tips can save you money in any economy or in otherwise challenging financial times. Apply these clever shopping strategies today to take control of your grocery budget and navigate the grocery store more efficiently.

More Budget-Friendly Meals

This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Beth Neels

Author: Beth Neels

Title: Owner

Expertise: canning, game meat cooking, smoking

Bio:

Beth Neels is an entrepreneur, blogger, photographer, author, and recipe developer. She founded Binky’s Culinary Carnival in 2014, focusing on “Crafting delicious recipes with sustainable ingredients.” She has been featured in multiple online publications, including MSN, Reader’s Digest, Associated Press, and Parade.

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