What to Know When Grocery Shopping During High Inflation

Have you found yourself scratching your head and double-checking your total at the check-out line lately? Throughout 2021, we experienced a rapid increase in costs, from vehicles to furniture to everyday items we purchase at our local grocery stores. In fact, we experienced the highest spike in prices for consumer items since 1982.

So, with inflation on the rise, how can you grocery shop without breaking your budget? What are some ways you can stretch your dollar to ensure you and your household have what you need?

In this blog, we’ll provide you with insight into the recent price climb for grocery items and offer tips to help you save and make the most of your food budget.

How Much Have Prices Gone Up for Grocery Items?

The U.S. Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) January 12 summary reveals that nearly all consumer items have risen in price over the last year, with some things like beef increasing by over 18%.

In December alone, the food at home index, essentially groceries, increased by 0.4% after a 0.8% increase in November. These monthly percentages may not seem outrageous at first, but month-after-month increases in 2021 are what led to the staggering sticker prices we see today.

So, which of your favorite grocery items have gone up the most in price?

Annual Price Increases for Grocery Store Items (December 2020 – December 2021)

  • Crackers, bread, and cracker products +11%
  • Uncooked beef steaks +21.4%
  • Bacon +18.6%
  • Eggs +11.1%
  • Fresh and frozen chicken parts +11.5%
  • Uncooked ground beef +13%
  • Fresh fish and seafood +10.2%
  • Oranges, including tangerines +9.9%
  • Roasted coffee +6.9%
  • Baby food +7.9%
  • Dried beans, peas, and lentils +8.1%

The items listed above experienced some of the most significant increases within the food-at-home index in the CPI’s January 12 (2022) summary. You can find other food items and details regarding month-to-month increases in table 7 in the summary.

8 Tips for Grocery Shopping Infographic

How to Grocery Shop During Inflation

Recent price changes have affected U.S. shoppers. With inflation at its highest peak in forty years, consumers are now looking for ways to cut back on their spending in grocery stores, especially since there’s currently no end in sight for these price spikes. A recent report from Today shared that experts predict food prices will continue to rise an additional 5% in the next six months.

1. Take Stock of What You Already Have & Make a Shopping List

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average family of four wastes around $1,500 per year on uneaten food. During price spikes, you want to make the most of every dollar and every food item in your fridge or pantry. If you often find yourself throwing out food that’s expired or not finished, then simply doing a quick check of all that you have first and making a shopping list of what you need before heading to the supermarket can make a difference.

Tip: If you have some produce that needs to be used up, throw it in a blender, and make a smoothie!

2. Plan Your Meals

Planning your meals can also help you be more intentional in how you shop. When you know what you’ll be cooking during the week, you can buy what you need to make those meals and avoid purchasing random items.

Keeping your meals simple or cooking what you know for certain will be enjoyed by you or your family may help. Also, consider the ingredients you often use and which ones you rarely use. For example, if you use a lot of garlic in your cooking, you’re more likely to use it all up before it spoils. However, if there is an ingredient that you only use in one of your dishes, then there is a greater chance of you not finishing it before its expiration date.

Side note: Consider rice and pasta recipes as these items are relatively cheap. While rice prices are higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still more affordable than many other forms of carbohydrates.

3. Couponing

Both digital and paper coupons can yield significant savings. The best saving opportunities are often store-specific, meaning that you’ll likely need to shop around at different stores and supermarkets. Along with in-store coupons, loyalty programs at stores like Walmart, Kroger, or Costco will offer all types of exclusive deals. Just be sure to use coupons to purchase things you need and will use, not just because it’s on sale.

But don’t just take our word for it — check out Confessions of An Extreme Couponer! Briana Hernandez from the TV series, “Extreme Couponing” shares her tips and tricks for couponing in this blog.

4. Buy Non-Perishables & Frozen Foods

Buying non-perishables can result in wasting less food due to their longer shelf-life and frozen food can be significantly cheaper than fresh food. Fresh fruits and vegetables have become more expensive, increasing in price by 5.2% in the last year. You can spend less and benefit from the same nutrients and minerals by opting for frozen instead of fresh fruits and vegetables. If you have to purchase fresh, stay away from pre-cut or pre-sliced, as these items can cost significantly more.

5. Consider Store Brand Products

2017 study from IRI found that 75% of participants believed that store brands are the same quality as major brands. Unless you find a significant difference in quality, you can save considerably by opting for store brand products. According to Consumer Reports, store brands can save you 25% or more!

6. Buy in Bulk

According to Ramsey Solutions, there is no need to buy in bulk if the “bulk” of it ends up in the trash. However, if you’re confident that your household will finish a product before it expires, then you can save by buying in bulk due to a lower cost per unit.

7. Try International & Ethnic Markets

You may be surprised by some of the food prices at international markets around you. According to The Penny Hoarder, you can find a wide variety of foods, including meats, that are not only cheaper but sometimes even fresher. If you’re a meat lover, trying one of these markets may be worth a shot. Who knows — you may be able to find your favorite cut of meat at one of these stores for a lower price.

8. Mobile Apps for Saving

Mobile apps such as Flipp and Ibotta can also help you save on your grocery bill. With Flipp, you can plug in your zip code, and the app will tell you what items are on sale at grocery stores near you. Ibotta can allow you to get cash-back rebates on numerous items by just taking a photo of your receipt and sending it through their app. You can receive payment through PayPal or a gift card — you choose!