Grocery prices are on the rise — up more than 40% since this time last year. Here are some tips to help you save money when shopping for groceries.
If you’ve noticed your grocery bills getting higher and higher each time you check out, you’re not alone. According to the United Nations food price index, global food prices rose for the 12th month in a row in May, up nearly 40% since last May. Here in the U.S., that also holds true, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the prices of groceries increased overall by 2.6% in the month of April alone.
That was the biggest one-month increase since 1974!
“There is a significant impact on families today because of an increase in the cost of living, including the rising cost of groceries,” says Judette A. Dahleiden MS, BS, RN, CLC, WIC Director at Catholic Charities of Buffalo.
We asked a few experts to share their strategies for saving money while food prices are still high.
Here’s what they suggest:
1. Treat saving like a strategic game
“Consciously trying to cut down on grocery bills will require additional time and effort. While this effort may be triggered by a financial imperative, its success will depend on actually enjoying it by casting such effort as a strategic ’game of savings,’” says Debabrata Talukdar, a Marketing professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo’s School of Management.
2. Make a budget and stick to it
“People need to look at their budget and see what they’re spending now because if they don’t, they’re going to see they have $3,000 or $4,000 on their credit card, and they’re not going to know how that happened,” says economist Fred Floss, who is the Chair of the Economics and Finance Department at SUNY Buffalo State College. “Instead of going out every week, limit it to twice a month. Calm down the spending a little bit and make sure you can afford to do these things.”
Set a reasonable budget that includes enough for making healthy food choices.
3. Be flexible
“Match your weekly grocery shopping list with the weekly ads of the local supermarket and other stores. You plan your weekly meals on this match. If there’s a dish that is on your preferred list but the ingredients are not on sale in one week, you just need to be patient,” says Talukdar.
4. Make a shopping list and avoid impulse buys!
Every time I go to the grocery store, I end up spending way more than planned. That’s why I signed up for Instacart. I can see the total as I add to my cart and only buy what is on my list. Within the first month or two, I saved the equivalent of the service’s annual fee simply by eliminating impulse purchases. Plus, I can easily switch between stores to compare prices. Several stores offer online ordering and curbside pick-up at little to no cost, which is another great way to avoid impulse buys.
5. Find coupons
“Nearly 90% of relevant grocery product coupons are in the weekly store flyers and in the Sunday papers. Also, if you do an online search, you will find multiple online sites (see below) where you can get printable coupons. Sign up for store and manufacturer newsletters and check their websites for coupons. And, if you are really into this game with the market, you may want to call a manufacturer and say you would love to try its product and would like a coupon,” says Talukdar.
Floss adds that stores will also likely keep prices lower on products that have coupons because they know that the customers who are using coupons are more price-sensitive.
6. Buy generic or store brands
While I’m very particular about my brand of peanut butter, I go generic whenever I can because most items are pretty similar and cheaper. I also like to go to the farmers market for my fresh fruits and vegetables. You might be able to get organic produce cheaper at farmers markets, but non-organic might be more expensive. Plus, there’s the added benefit of supporting local farmers and the jobs they provide.
7. See if you’re eligible for benefit programs
Dahleiden says many people don’t think they’re eligible for WIC benefits, but they might be. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program For Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is a nutrition program run by the USDA in which families have access to benefits that help them eat healthier foods. In addition to the regular benefits, says Dahleiden “Families enrolled in WIC receive farmer’s market checks once each year/per person who is eligible for WIC benefits. Families also receive a seasonal $35 fruits and vegetable benefit that is added to the EBT card during the summer months, through September. This also helps families whose food budgets are tight to obtain healthy, tasty fresh foods.”
Resources to help you save: