While inflation and fuel prices finally seem to have leveled off, wallets and purses everywhere are still reeling from food prices. Hopefully these are indicators of better economic times around the corner. But why is a trip to the grocery store still busting our food budget each week?
Prices on Food Are in a State of Chaos
Inflation has been strangling ourr economy for so long with the biggest battleground in the middle of inflation has been gas, rent, and food—just the three biggest basics that cause us the most grief and worry when it comes to prices.
Grocery bills across the United States have risen to an almost unbearable level and federal data shows that fruits and vegetables cost 8% more, and staples such as bread and cereal jumped 14%. Do you need butter or margarine? They are up a whopping 26%.
Buying the things you and your family needs and wants may make you feel like you're bleeding money and has forced you – and many consumers – to make different choices in the grocery aisles.
News Reports Tell the Story
The Washington Post asked its readers to share how they’ve adjusted to the runaway prices of food specifically while the cost of everything else was climbing too.
The goal was to find out what, if anything, shoppers are doing to fight inflation and feed their families. Whether switching to generic items, cutting back, or simply doing without, all are making it clear that there are real changes in how they shop for food.
Under normal circumstances, any smart shopper would try store brands just to see the differences and try to save at least a small amount of money when they do. And it's a win-win when you find an item you like and make it a part of your regular shopping list!
There are some items that may make no difference at all to switch from brand to generic or store brand. Bacon, cheese, bread, canned items, the list is quite long, really.
Perhaps you were raised in a household that was fiercely loyal to your favorite brands, but now, due to inflation, it’s become more important to keep your bill at a reasonable level than pay more for specific brands.
What Real People Are Saying About Food Prices
The Washington Post’s survey revealed what real people are saying and doing about food prices. Since it’s not advisable to stop eating, the only recourse we have is to shop smarter and change our shopping habits.
Here are just a few of the general comments The Washington Post gathered:
- “I don’t buy cottage cheese anymore. I used to be able to find the brand I like on sale, two for $5. Now, it’s always $4.39 a piece.”
- “I’d like to think that the free market is a believable concept. I don’t want to think that other entities along the food chain are taking advantage of the situation, but it just kind of seems that there is no other explanation that fits.”
- “I shop now at Walmart and Sam’s Club because they are 10% to 15% cheaper.”
- “We do without a lot of things that we used to buy.”
- “Typically, now I buy a lot of ground beef and chicken breast because it’s less expensive.”
- “Now I don’t buy all of the wants. It’s more of what we need.”
- “I used to buy whatever I felt like buying, and now I am not eating as much. I’ve cut down on the size of the meals.”
Inflationary Times Can Teach Big Lessons
Assuming you have a budget (and make the effort to stick to it), food shopping presents more of a challenge than ever. What one may call “hacks” are not really hacks at all, just tried and true methods to live frugally and save more money.
And, during times of inflation, many are forced to become more frugal and develop habits to save that stick with them even after the hardship has passed.
Hacks To Save Money on Groceries
- Make a food budget. Make food a realistic percentage of your budget, track your expenses regularly (at least monthly), and adjust when necessary.
- Shop your pantry first. You'll often be surprised when you find you already have what you need.
- Meal plan in advance. Planning helps you buy only what you need and ensure you actually use what you buy.
- Always buy needs and limit wants. Focus on nutrition and practicality and avoid costly treats when possible.
- Join store loyalty programs. Members are often given access to automatic coupons and discounts as well as “specials” not available to everyone else. Put it on your key chain or your smartphone, so it's always with you.
- Clip coupons. Cut paper and online coupons and get digital coupons to save money. Yes, it takes extra time, but the savings add up.
- Shop at multiple stores. Shop around and find the best deals every time you shop. Every store has specials, and you will save if you change your habits and shop at another store when it makes sense.
- Stock up when you see a deal, as your budget allows. However, avoid deals on items you likely won't use.
- Ditch your brand loyalties. Stick to generics which are mostly made at brand-name vendor factories, and find a good cheaper substitute to save.
- Shop locally for fruits and veggies, especially in season. Support your local farmer and save money that way too.
Inflation may be slowing but prices of food? They seem to be going nowhere right now, and that is a huge problem. Complaining about sky-high prices won't help, but implementing some of these tips and changing the way you shop for food will have a big impact.
It can be challenging, but getting good at food shopping can benefit you for a lifetime!
How are you dealing with food inflation? Are you shopping differently now? What are your best money-saving tricks to save on food?
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.