Sticker shock used to apply to major items like electronics and cars, but in the last year, sticker shock has reared its ugly head in ways that hit consumers on a daily or weekly basis.
From April 2021 to April 2022, food prices increased 10.8%, with the Bureau of Labor & Statistics reporting that this is the largest 12-month percentage increase since November 1980. Prices for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs increased 14.3%, fruits went up 7.8%, and vegetable prices rose by 11%.
There’s not much we can do about the cost of groceries, but there’s a lot we can do about the choices we make when purchasing food. Below are five tips for saving money on your weekly grocery shopping run.
Buy vegetables and fruits in season, and load up on them! Produce is always cheapest – and at its peak flavor – when it’s in season. It’s easy to spot at the store, too, as it’s usually showcased in a front display or advertised prominently as a good buy. Corn on the cob, watermelon, mango, tomatoes – these are just a few vegetables and fruits at their cheapest during the summer months. (Check here for a list of seasonal foods.) While other food staples have become much more costly, seasonal produce has seen more modest increases, with the added benefit of adding bulk to your diet. So exchange processed foods and snacks with their healthier alternatives and you’ll save money and calories.
Shop store specials. This is a great time to explore your shopping options and compare prices. Don’t have the time? You can easily do this from home by Googling your local stores or downloading cost-comparison apps. You can also add each store’s app to your phone and subscribe to their weekly special alerts. Buy sales items in bulk and plan meals around those items.
Speaking of planning meals, doing so will save you a ton of money! Every study shows that planning out your weekly menu, creating a list of the needed items, and sticking to that list when you shop will automatically save you money. Otherwise, you are more inclined to make impulse purchases, to buy items that will go bad before you eat them, or to miss important items that will create another trip – and likely more unnecessary purchases.
Avoid buying convenience foods. Convenience doesn’t come cheaply, and unless you are really strapped for time, it’s rarely worth the extra cost. It takes a minute to pull lettuce apart for a salad, so do you really need to pay twice as much to buy it bagged? It takes seconds to shred a carrot, so why pay for the less tasty pre-peeled version? And those frozen meals that only need to be popped in the oven may be easy, but they’re filled with preservatives and salt, and the amount you pay per ounce is exorbitant compared to the cost of the ingredients. Better to make a large salad or a crock of soup at the start of the week and have a healthy lunch each day.
Use coupons and loyalty cards for extra savings. If your store offers them, use them, as the benefits rack up over time. Whether it’s points towards gas (and who doesn’t need that now?) or special coupons only available to members of a loyalty program, the savings add up. Find out if your store offers double-coupon days or senior citizen discounts and take advantage of those as well. Coupons can be found all over the internet, so it’s easy to print them or simply scan the codes upon checkout.
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