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How to Save on Food Costs

Updated on May 22, 2017

Rising Food Costs

Ways to Stretch the Food Budget

Have you noticed the prices at the supermarket have gone up? The rise in the cost of food brings the need to plan ahead as much as possible and to be more selective about the food we are buying.

Keeping Food Prices Low

The owner of a meat shop in Baltimore said he had to raise the prices of most items 20%. He said although he understands the complaints of his customers, if he didn't raise the prices he wouldn't be able to stay in business.

Because of McDonald's low prices, their sales boomed during the recession, however, they said they will likely increase the price of their Big Mac and other items over 2%. Many grocery stores said they have been lowering their overhead costs as much as possible to avoid raising their prices. Others have said it might become too difficult to continue and remain profitable without raising the price on some items.

Food markets are not always able to perceive future projections. "Sometimes you can ride out some of these cost increases and sometimes you can't. It is too early to tell if we can this time", stated a spokeswoman for one store. A family-owned supermarket said they juggle rising food costs on different items and also decide to no longer stock certain higher priced items.

Tips to Spend Less

We can make adjustments to our food budget by purchasing more generic food label items and seeking the items that are on sale. The less costly cuts of beef can be marinated in a vinegar, water and salt brine overnight to make them tender or less tough. There is a variety of dried beans that are very affordable. Beans can be flavored with a ham hock or bone, and chopped celery, carrots and onion.

  • Sale Ads

Grocery stores send out mailer ads once every week. They are received in the mail and also located near the entrance. The ads are useful for comparing prices between the stores and between various brands. They show food items that are reduced in price for the week and serve as a guide when making the grocery list and planning meals.

Buying items you use often in quantity at the reduced price saves money over the long run. Large quantities of various meat products on sale can be separated into smaller packages and frozen. A large quantity of corn on the cob (non-gmo) at harvest time can be parboiled and frozen. Boil for 7 minutes, transfer to a bowl of ice water for 7 minutes then allow to drain. Seal in freezer bags and store in the freezer ready to cook.

  • Vegetable Gardening

You may decide to start a garden and grow vegetables that are generally expensive such as organic tomatoes, snow peas and fresh spinach.

  • Compare Prices

Check the prices of the item to find the brand most reasonably priced and compare the ounces, volume or size. Still, however, keep your preferences in mind so you are happy with the selection you take home. Many store brand products are just as good as the name brands. You may wish to stock up on larger quantities of items that are on sale.

Your local meat market may have a website displaying their current sales. Compare their prices to the sale ads of the other stores. The Farmers Market may have great sales on vegetables such as potatoes, onions, corn and apples during harvest time.

Food Inflation

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) stated, "Although food price inflation was relatively weak for most of 2009 and 2010, higher food commodity and energy prices have recently placed pressure on wholesale and retail food prices". Another report states the rise in food prices is also caused by an increase in exported foods.

A Four Percent Trend

Although the projection of the inflation rate was predicted at two to three percent, the trend is appearing to be closer to four. The world's food prices rose in January 2012 to the highest level since 1990, the year when the United Nations first began keeping a record of food pricing.

Compared to 2009, the price of beef products increased 6%, pork is up by 11% and the price for poultry has risen a little over 1%. When we compare some of the prices to 2010, eggs have increased 6%, dairy by 3 1/2% and milk is up 5%. The USDA had also anticipated a price increase of 2 to 3 % for bakery and cereal items. According to a Morgan Stanley survey, customers are paying 4% more on their food bill since October 2011.

It is reported that in over half a century, cattle and hog supplies during the past recession had reached their lowest levels. Meanwhile, commodity prices such as wheat, corn and soybeans have risen since December 2011.

Droughts and Transportation Costs

Droughts and water conservation reduce crop yields and increased oil prices raise the costs of transportation and fertilizer. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011 reduced the supply of fish raising seafood prices 6%. Some manufacturers held back raising their prices and eventually had to catch up. The sudden inflated prices can result in sticker shock for some. Kraft Foods, for example, raised prices worldwide by 7.6% in the last quarter of 2011.

In Conclusion

A dollar saved is as good as a dollar earned. It takes a bit of time to plan a food list before the trip to the super market and you also may need to allow more time for food selections. The reward of having more food choices on hand is worth the time and effort. Following the suggestions above will help you stay within a food budget while meeting the grocery needs for you and your family.

Liz Olivia


Submit a Comment

  • Lizolivia profile image

    Lizolivia 3 years ago from Central USA

    Thanks BNadyn, I appreciate your visit and comment. I make only one trip to the big stores each month although the fourth week I have to resupply perishables. I'm presently making the grocery list for this month and plan to prepare a batch of burritos and large pot of chili to freeze in small portions. Organic yogurt can be paired down and frozen while the large Stonyfield is still affordable. I can get obsessed over saving dimes and quarters on food but it's becoming more necessary. The future projection is difficult to predict. Thanks again!

  • BNadyn profile image

    Bernadyn 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida

    I remember at the beginning of this year when the news discussed food prices going up and they certainly have. At the same time, you're right about planning ahead and growing your own food. I just began growing some vegetables in the past few weeks so I'm excited about spending less on those food. We use lots of coupons when we shop and try to plan out meals as best we can for the week to avoid impulse food shopping. Great job on this. :)

  • Lizolivia profile image

    Lizolivia 4 years ago from Central USA

    Thank you! Keeping track of what we spend on food can seem wild and elusive. Although getting more groceries for the money is a process, planning ahead helps to keep it harnessed.

  • Kbdare profile image

    Kbdare 4 years ago from Western US.

    Wonderfully researched Hub! These increases on food products has been very difficult on families with a fixed income, especially when the cost of milk is pushing $3.99 a gallon. However, you have some good points about shopping sales and store brand items. As a budget shopper myself, I've been buying "great value" and "Kroger" brand beans and canned vegetables for years and they taste just as good as the name brand at lower costs. Thanks for sharing, Vote up!!