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Food inflation is rising. Are you prepared to handle the increasing food prices? According to the USDA, food inflation for 2021 is already at 2.1 percent for at-home food, and restaurant food has risen 3.3 percent (find the details here). However, those numbers are expected to rise a lot more as supply chains are disrupted and understaffed labor force.
The average cost of groceries for a single adult for one month is around $67. However, lifestyle, eating out, and the types of foods you eat can all affect how much your food actually costs. Can you afford to feed your family now? What about next year when the cost of food has increased even more?
These statistics simply say that the cost of food is going up and will continue to go up. And with recent historical events, it can be hard to find the foods we like. So how can we stay ahead of food inflation?
In this article, we’ll talk about how you can mitigate the rising costs of food. While one way to avoid paying more for food is to stockpile it, there are many additional ways to continue to eat well at a reasonable price. We’ll talk about how to shop the sales, plan your meals, cook from scratch, avoid food waste, and even grow your own food. But, first, we’ll take a look at how sale shopping can help you save money on groceries.
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Shopping sales at the grocery store is a great way to save money on food. However, most grocery stores will have ‘loss leaders.’ These are a few low-priced groceries that are heavily advertised to get you to shop in their store with the expectation that you’ll also buy plenty of full-priced food while you are there. These loss leaders change from week to week.
One way to really save money is only to shop the things that are on sale and stock up. For example, if chicken breasts are on sale the first week of the month, stock up on the number of chicken breasts you’ll need for the next 4 to 6 weeks until they are on sale again. Then, separate the breasts into usable sizes and freeze them until you need them.
Different stores usually have different loss leaders each week, so if you have the time, you can purchase other items at different stores, so you really save. If you are very organized, you can create a price point book to keep track of all the best. Find directions to create your own here.
Use Unit Price to Find the Best Deal
When you look at grocery store price tags, you’ll see the price per item as well as the unit price. Comparing unit prices helps you to compare apples to apples rather than apples to oranges.
For example, if you are looking to purchase granola bars, you might find packs of 8, 12, and 15. If each box of granola bars has a different price and a different number of items in the box, how do you know which is the best deal?
First, you look at unit price. The unit price might be price per pound or price per item. In this case, look for the box that has the least cost per item to get the best deal on your granola bars.
Meal planning is a great way to save money at the grocery store. Planning your meals ahead of time will prevent you from overbuying and wasting food that goes bad and underbuying, which means you don’t have enough ingredients and end up getting takeout instead.
The best way to meal plan is to look at the sale flyers for your grocery store and see what’s on sale that week. Before shopping, I like to sit down with the sales flyer and look through it for dinner ideas. Then I make a plan based on what’s on sale.
If ground beef is on sale, I may plan to have tacos on Monday and use the leftovers to make chili on Tuesday. Then, of course, I’ll choose breakfast cereals based on what cereals have the best deal, too.
Purchase Store Brands
Some people are squeamish about using store brands because they’re worried about them tasting different or bad. However, manufacturing reps have told me that factories will put the same foods in the same cans and give them other labels. So what’s inside the can is the same whether it is name brand or store brand.
If the idea bothers you, consider using name brands for stand-alone items (such as canned green beans) and store brands for ingredients, like dry onion soup.
Shop Your Pantry
We probably all have several weeks’ worth of food just sitting around in our pantries. So before making your meal plan, check your pantry and try to use up foods that will expire or go bad.
Cook From Scratch
As the cost of food goes up, the price for prepared food and prepackaged food also increases. But you can keep your costs down by cooking from scratch.
For example, restaurants can charge a 300% markup on the cost of the food to make a profit. So a meal you might spend $15 on at a restaurant, you could probably make for $5 at home.
Make your own coffee, too! You can spend anywhere from $1 to $5 on coffee if you buy it at a restaurant or coffee shop. But making your own coffee at home is less than 20 cents per cup. (A little more if you use pods like Keurig K-cups.)
You can make a variety of meals from a simple set of ingredients. Also, you can buy dried goods in bulk without worrying about them going bad too quickly. For example, you might purchase a cake from the store for $12.99 or more.
You can make a cake from a mix and a container of icing for about $2.25. With inflation, that cake may cost you almost .30 cents more by next year, but the cake you make yourself will only cost around .05 cents more. As the cost of food rises, you’ll save exponentially by cooking at home.
Avoid Food Waste
According to the FDA, it is estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the food supply in America is wasted. If you can cut out that much food waste, you can save 30 to 40 percent on your food budget!
There are lots of ways to reduce food waste in your home.
Be creative with leftovers. For example, don’t cook more than you need and throw out leftovers. If you cook too much ground beef, save it to use for another meal in another way.
Don’t over-buy. It’s easy to buy too many groceries, and before we can use them, they spoil. Also, fresh foods, like lettuce and cucumbers, often go bad before we can eat them up.
Use food waste in other ways. Children notoriously take too much food and can’t eat it all as they learn what their stomachs can handle. So all of our table scraps go to the chickens rather than the trash can. It saves us money on chicken feed, and we get eggs in exchange! Vegetable scraps get composted to feed the garden, too.
Grow Your Own Food
If you want to save money on food inflation, a great way to start is to grow your own. For example, the cost of lettuce is rising fast due to environmental factors, the risk of salmonella, and the rising costs of transportation and the supply chain.
You might pay $2.00 for a pound of lettuce, or you can purchase 150 lettuce seeds, which will give you much more lettuce than that.
If you are looking for a quality source of protein, you might raise meat rabbits. According to Family Farm Livestock, it costs around $5 a pound to raise meat rabbits and around $4.50 per pound to raise meat chickens. This includes feeding and processing. Rabbit meat currently costs around $5 to $7 per pound, and chicken breasts are about $4.50 per pound.
So although there are no significant savings now, as the cost of food increases, you’ll begin to see big savings by raising your own protein. You can even reduce the cost per pound by using creative feed sources and doing the processing yourself. Either way, you will get healthier food for your efforts.
Eat High-Quality Food, Not Processed Food
Processed food always costs more per pound than whole ingredients. For example, 4 ounces of apple chips are $13.98 at Walmart, while a 3-pound bag of apples will run you less than $5.00. But, of course, if you pick your own apples, you can save even more. You’ll also be getting healthier food with no preservatives and fewer calories.
While food inflation is a concern, you can still mitigate its effects and stay ahead of the rising cost of food. With a bit of planning, a little cooking, and a little creativity, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the increasing costs of food.
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