As consumers continue feeling the squeeze of inflation, many are looking for ways to cut spending at the grocery store. Food prices rose 3.7% between September 2022 and September 2023, according to the latest consumer price index (CPI) report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While not as steep as the 11.2% surge in food costs from 2021 to 2022, the ongoing price hikes still strain household budgets.
Certain items saw particularly sharp increases over the past year, including eggs, flour, bread, chicken and milk. As families shop for their Thanksgiving feasts, these inflated food prices become impossible to ignore. Though costs may remain high for the foreseeable future, consumers can employ savvy grocery strategies to reduce the toll on their wallets.
Switching to generic brands, substituting alternate proteins and buying certain items in bulk are just some of the ways to limit spending. Getting creative with meal plans and leftovers also helps cut waste and costs. With some thoughtful adjustments at the supermarket, families can still enjoy bountiful holiday meals despite inflated prices.
Here are eight ideas for how to shop smarter and keep your food bill manageable in November and beyond.
Eat More Plant-Based Meals
Vegetables and high-protein legumes are historically less expensive than meat and poultry, so it may be time to consider eating more plant-centric dishes rather than relying on a traditional “meat and potatoes” diet. There are plenty of food hacks that can let you enjoy your favorite dishes with some creativity and spices, like marinated cauliflower steaks.
Doing so can really add up — as CNET reported, a survey found that veggie eaters saved $23 a week on average compared to meat eaters.
Bake With Alternative Flours
It comes as little surprise that the index for cereals and baked goods are currently up. Part of the reason we’ve seen such price hikes in this category is because of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Both Ukraine and Russia are some of the world’s biggest exporters of wheat. This part of the globe is known as the “breadbasket of Europe,” according to Saveur, and until that conflict calms, prices for wheat-based products like breads and cereals are likely to keep going up.
But, if you like baking at home, you can find some options to make fresh goods and save money, too. Rely on alternative flours, said an expert baker who talked with Saveur. Spelt flour is a great option, as is rice flour — for the latter, just make sure it’s finely ground to avoid a textural issue.
Make Your Own Soda and Juices
The price of nonalcoholic beverages is still on the rise. So rather than buy bottled soda, make yours at home using a kitchen tool like Soda Stream that lets you add syrups and fizz-ify water for that same tasty, bubbly effect. Now that the cost of fruits has finally gone down, it might also be beneficial to make your own juices at home with a blender or juicer, rather than buying bottled versions at the grocery store.
Buy in Bulk
As the CPI has shown over the past year, prices are constantly fluid when it comes to groceries, so when prices are good, it’s best to stock up on that item where possible. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly possible with the two categories that have gone down in price for October — fresh fruits and vegetables and dairy don’t have a long shelf life. But if you’re at the store and see deals on cereals, bottled water or other items that have had price hikes in 2023, it’s a great idea to buy more and store.
Costco memberships are also great for this purpose, as the warehouse store thrives on an ethos of bulk buying. As GOBankingRates previously reported, you can save close to $100 per shopping trip versus buying at a traditional grocery store, which far outweighs Costco’s $60 annual membership fee.
Use Your Freezer To Stock Up
One way you can bulk buy for perishables is using your freezer to preserve the items until you’re ready to use them. Fish is one great example. As the Times UK noted, “frozen fish is just as fresh, if not fresher than fish on the counter, some of which has been frozen previously.” Meat like ground beef can be an option for freezing, too. And if you see frozen items on sale at the store, the idea that they’re not going to taste as good or be as nutritious is just a myth, added the article.
Focus on Store Brands
Name brands bear no significance when it comes to food — a generic label pasta will usually taste just as good and cook just as well as a national brand. When grocery shopping for shelf items, look toward store lines to save extra money. Doing so can save you up to 30% on your total grocery bill, according to MoneySaving Expert.
Find Coupons and Download Loyalty Apps
Coupons can really add up, but if you fear wasting a Sunday cutting out promos from the newspaper, fear not. Digital coupons, store app-based loyalty programs and other ways to save are becoming the trend and can really add up. According to CreditDonkey, the value of digital coupons will be $91 billion by the end of this year — getting your fair share could be a serious piece of savings pie.
Shop on Wednesdays
Choosing the right shopping day every week can really help you save at the grocery store. And that day seems to be Wednesday. As Forbes said, “Wednesday is often the last day that sales from the previous week are valid, and the first day that sales for the next week begin. By shopping on Wednesday, you are likely to find deals on more items on your list.”
Of course, checking with your preferred grocery store on its sales rotation is key.
Laura Beck contributed to the reporting for this article.
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