In 2018, the average family of four in the Bay Area spent $1,200 – 1,600 per month on groceries. In 2022, the average has increased by over 25% to $1,6002,000 per month. Food tends to be one of the top three areas of spending for families after Home and Childcare. How much do you spend?
What is Food Inflation, and How Bad is it in the US?
Food inflation is the gradual rise of food prices over time. We expect it. In 1950, a gallon of milk
cost $0.83. Today, it costs over $3.50.
Recently, food inflation has increased dramatically. Supply chain issues and labor shortages have caused these increases. Food prices are also increasing due to natural weather events. Droughts have created water shortages that ripple through our food supply chain. Ranchers have to sell animals early or slaughter them, driving up the cost of beef, pork, and poultry. Farmers cannot irrigate, which reduces crop sizes.
One of our country’s primary measures of inflation is the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This index measures the change in the price of consumer goods over time. The Food at Home index rose 6.5% in 2021 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Consumer Price Index. The index for meat, poultry, fish, and eggs saw a staggering 12.5% increase. Thankfully, alcohol was up only 2.3%. This is why the same bag of groceries used to cost $50 costs much more.
How to Combat Food Inflation
The best way to combat food inflation is to cut costs on what you’re already buying. Here are five tips to curb food inflation while still getting what you need.
Buy in Bulk
Wholesale membership stores like Sam’s Club and Costco offer deep savings when you buy in bulk. The purchase might sting your wallet, but it will save you from more frequent shopping. If you have the space, buying in bulk for household essentials like toilet paper and paper towels, canned goods, and frozen foods can save you money. To keep that savings, don’t throw a new TV or air purifier in the cart.
Spot the Deals
Deals like ‘buy one get one free can be a gift during times of higher than average food cost. These kinds of deals are especially great when you can freeze it or it is shelf stable. Anything you can find on sale today and use later helps to lower future grocery bills.
Ditch the Name Brands
There is often little to no difference between name-brand products and store-brand alternatives, except the price. While savings on an individual product may seem insignificant, it adds up.
Spend More on What Matters Most
Determine what matters most and spend in those areas. That often means figuring out where you’re not willing to compromise on quality. For example, I’m picky about my nut butters. I’m willing to spring for the $9 jar of almond butter because it tastes better than the generic brand.
Use Apps and Rewards Programs to Save
Apps like Ibotta can get you cashback on grocery items you’re already buying. For a few dollars savings on each trip, it may be worth taking time to find apps that offer cashback or coupons before you head out to the store.
Many grocery stores also offer loyalty rewards programs that are often free to sign up. The rewards may add up to discounts on your bill or fuel points for cheaper fill ups. I use Safeway Rewards and tend to double my savings by using the app before I check out.
Taking small steps to decrease your grocery bill helps reduce food spending. To save money, buy in bulk, spot deals, ditch name brands, prioritize quality, and use apps or rewards programs. Every bit helps when prices are surging, and sometimes many small changes make the biggest impact.