Consumer Price Index: 8 Ways to Reduce Spending on These High-Inflation Foods

Close-up of fruits in shopping cart with couple using smart phone at grocery store.
londoneye / Getty Images/iStockphoto

When it comes to the cost of food, there’s a bit of hope to be found in the latest Consumer Price Index, released today, Nov. 10. Trying to maintain a well-balanced diet is starting to become less of a balancing act for your bank account

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The CPI, released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is a measure of monitoring consumer inflation by looking at the increases in the cost of goods across 15 categories. The news has been grim the past 10 months of 2022, with consistent price hikes in most sectors that, up until now, maintained a steady rate of about 8.2% inflation. 

However, October showed some improvement, with the total cost increase in all categories coming down to 7.7% (this is the first time it’s been under 8% since February, as has reported). Decreases have been seen in the cost of natural gas, used cars and medical care. 

And though the category of food didn’t decrease, there were only slight hikes for the first time in a while. For the “food at home” category, aka groceries, it rose just 0.4%, which the CPI report notes is the smallest increase since December 2021. The “food away from home” category, aka dining out, rose a bit as well, by 0.9%, following patterns in August and September. In total, this brings the total food index up by 0.6% for the month of October, down a bit from 0.8% in September.

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However, though these are small gains in trying to abate the ongoing inflationary impact on the cost of groceries, the reality is prices are still high (year-over-year, we are paying 10.9% more in groceries, per the CPI) and going up slightly in a few major food groups..  

As the CPI notes, those price jumps are still seen in the group of meats, poultry, fish and eggs (up 0.6%), cereals and baked goods (0.8%) and nonalcoholic beverages like bottled water and soda (up 0.5%). On the converse, a couple food groups went down in cost, including fresh fruits and vegetables, which finally came down by 0.9% and dairy prices decreased by a nominal 0.1%. 

So while some small progress is being made, and hopefully continues to track in the favor of consumers, having a strategy in mind for how to save at the grocery store is key. Here are eight ideas for how to shop smarter and keep your food bill manageable in November and beyond.

Eat More Plant-Based Meals

Now that the fresh fruit and vegetable index has come down by almost 1%, and meat and poultry prices are still up by 0.6%, 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 last November, a survey found that veggie eaters saved $23 a week on average compared to meat eaters.

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Bake With Alternative Flours

It comes as little surprise that the index for cereals and baked goods is up again in October. 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,” says 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, says 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 (a significant 2.4%, per the CPI) 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. 

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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 2022, 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 previously reported, you can save over $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 think of bulk buying 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 notes, “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, adds 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 cooks just as well as a national brand. When grocery shopping for shelf items, look towards store lines to save extra money. Doing so can save you up to 30% on your total grocery bill, says 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 Credit Donkey, 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.

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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 says, “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 their sales rotation is key.

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About the Author

Selena Fragassi joined in 2022, adding to her 15 years in journalism with bylines in Spin, Paste, Nylon, Popmatters, The A.V. Club, Loudwire, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and others. She currently resides in Chicago with her rescue pets and is working on a debut historical fiction novel about WWII. She holds a degree in fiction writing from Columbia College Chicago.
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