Some pretty good news hit the books this week. The inflation numbers we’ve been dreading to hear every month seem to have peaked for the first time in over a year. We can’t be sure, but it seems that fuel prices are downward trending, going under $4.00 a gallon for gasoline on average in the U.S. and used car prices are down as well.
Airfares are also finally declining and then there’s the new jobs report that shows they are growing. All these are indicators that better times may be around the corner. But what about prices on food? Where are we now and is that good news too?
Prices on Food Are in a State of Chaos
Inflation has been strangling just about all of us for so long that last year now seems like “the good old days”! The biggest battleground in the middle of inflation has been gas, rent, and food—just the three biggest basics that we deal with and cause us the most grief and worry when it comes to prices.
Kitchen-table food cost budgets across the United States have climbed every month this year. Groceries in total are 12.2% higher now than they were just last summer, the biggest year-over-year spike in 43 years.
Federal data shows that fruits and vegetables now cost 8% more and staples such as bread and cereal jumped 14%. Do you need butter or margarine? They are up a whopping 26%.
Despite the good news this week, if you were grocery shopping, you didn’t feel better, did you? Buying the things you and your family needs and wants has been akin to going to war. You’re bleeding money and that’s forced 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 on 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 family. Whether they’re going with store brands, cutting back, or simply doing without, all are making it clear that there are real changes in the way they shop for food.
It’s kind of funny to say this (in a warped way, that is), but just last week I heard an interview being conducted on CNBC with the president of Kroger, one of the largest supermarkets in America. What he said shocked me. Kroger is surprised that people are changing their shopping habits!
It seems that Kroger saw a major increase in people buying store and generic brands rather than traditional name-brand favorites over the past two quarters. It surprised them, but not me and I am guessing not you either. How could it?
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. Bonanza time if you actually find something you like and make it a part of your regular shopping list!
There are some items that it may make no difference at all to switch from brand to generic or store brand. Bacon, cheese, bread, canned items, the list could reach from here in New Jersey to Cleveland, Ohio really.
I myself have never been brand loyal. I was just raised that way. But now, due to inflation, it’s become a big deal for way more of us and that is changing shopping habits for reasons we all understand!
What Are Real People Saying About Prices on Food?
Getting back to The Washington Post’s survey, real people are saying what they are doing about food prices. Since it’s not advisable to just 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.”
Smart Shopping During Inflationary Times Can Teach You Big Lessons
I guess I have stood on my soapbox numerous times over the past 8+ years talking about being a better shopper and the best ways to save on your food budget. Assuming you have a budget (why do I have to ask that question?), food shopping is more of a challenge than ever.
What I used to call “tricks” are not really that at all. They are just the tools you need to use to save money. In fact, I have written posts on every angle of that many times, but I am not certain that it always gets through. I think now it may have at least started to take root.
A Quick List of 9 Tools You Need to Save Money on your Food Bill
- Make a food budget. Make food a realistic percentage of your budget (typically averages 10% for most folks) and track those expenses regularly (at least monthly) and adjust when necessary.
- Shop your pantry first. You will surprise yourself when you find you already have what you need.
- Meal plan in advance. Planning helps you buy the needs and use what you buy.
- Always buy needs and limit wants. Think nutrition and practicality and stay away from costly treats the best you can.
- Get a loyalty discount card. Free cards are ways to get automatic coupons and discounts as well as “specials” not available to everyone else. Put it on your key chain or your smart phone so you always have it with you.
- Clip coupons. Cut paper and online coupons and get digital coupons to save money. Don’t be lazy, just find them.
- Shop at different 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 another store when it makes sense.
- Stock up when you see a deal. Self-explanatory, just don’t do that with perishable items unless you can use or freeze them.
- No brand loyalty. Try store brand and generics which are mostly made at the brand-name vendor factories and find a good cheaper substitute to save.
Inflation may have begun to slow, and in some areas gone lower, but prices on food? They seem to be going nowhere right now and that is a huge problem. You can sit and moan, but that isn’t going to help.
What you need to do is change the way you shop, go to school when you look at the weekly ads, and learn where the deals are best. There are very few things that you just can’t wait for and numerous substitutes (lower priced alternatives) are available.
Shop locally for fruits and veggies, especially in season. Support your local farmer and save money that way too.
It is a challenge today, but you can get really good at food shopping now that can benefit you for a lifetime! Oh, and bring the kids along so they can understand and learn all about it too!
How are you dealing with food inflation? Are you shopping differently now? What are your best money-saving tricks to save on food?