How to save money on groceries

Food prices rose by 1% in February, the largest monthly increase since April 2020. Over the past 12 months, total food prices have risen by 7.9%, the largest rise since July 1981. Grocery store prices rose with an even faster cut.

Every food tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was more expensive last month than a year ago. The prices of meat, eggs and soups have the biggest difference from last year, with double-digit figures until February.

“When it comes to saving money on groceries, consumers have many options, but it requires us to make changes to our routines and some smart decision-making,” says Carman Allison at NielsenIQ.

Here are some tricky tactics recommended by the pros.

Make a shopping list

Grocery stores are well educated in the science of stimulating your taste buds.

The best way to avoid impulsive purchases that increase your food bill? Make a list in advance of what you are there for and buy – and stick to it. Do not be distracted by all the desserts and snacks that are not on your list.

Planning ahead and shopping with a list helps you focus on what you need and reduces the time of surfing around, where temptations can take hold.

Be aware of the store and do not add extra items to your shopping cart while you wait in the checkout queue, where stores tend to add hard to resist sweets and other eye-catching items.

Shop around

Finding the best deals means shopping around and comparing prices on products in different stores. One may have better prices on eggs, but another may be cheaper for fish.

“I’m not loyal to any supermarket. If you have the best price, you’re my best friend at the moment,” said Edgar Dworsky, a former Deputy Attorney General of Massachusetts and founder of Consumer World, a training resource.

But do not just compare prices between the same types of stores. Supermarkets, large stores, wholesale clubs, discount stores and dollar store chains all have different pricing and marketing strategies. Check out cooperatives and farmers markets as well.

“People can save a lot of money if they know how these stores are set up,” says Victor Martino, founder of food consulting firm Third Wave Strategies. He recommends shopping in at least two different store formats.

Look for promotions and offers

Stores publish weekly advertisements for sale items in printed form and online.

Find out when a store releases these offers. Many people place their circular ads on Wednesdays, so it’s often the best day to find deals. Check them out and compare.

If there is a lot, consider refilling with the product.

“When apple juice is 99 cents per gallon, I’ll buy a case or two,” Dworsky said.

And to be sure you get a great deal, take a look at the price history of products on sites like CamelCamelCamel.

Use a loyalty card in the store

Most supermarkets offer free loyalty cards with special offers and savings for members. Some grocery store loyalty cards also offer savings on gasoline.

Use them.

If you do not use a loyalty card, “you’re throwing away money,” Dworsky said. “It’s completely crazy.”

Switch to store brands

Stores’ own branded goods used to be considered cheap knockoffs. But grocery stores have put a lot of time and money into improving their products in recent years.

Own brands are often manufactured by the same manufacturer that manufactures the large products, but they are usually cheaper. Switching to a private label option can save shoppers anywhere from 10% to 40%, according to David Bishop, a partner at grocery consulting firm Brick Meets Click.

Experts believe that Costco’s Kirkland Signature is one of the leading brands for private labels. Other store brands include Great Value from Walmart, Simple Truth from Kroger and Good & Gather from Target.

Beware of “shrinkage inflation”

Smaller cereals in the box. Smaller snack sizes. Ice cream has disappeared in a container.

You do not lose your mind. You actually pay the same price or more nowadays for everyday items but go through them faster because their sizes have shrunk.

The reason? An insidious tactic known as “shrinkflation”, used by consumer brands and grocery stores. The phenomenon has been going on for decades, but it usually becomes more common when companies’ costs go up, such as during the rise in inflation we see today.

However, there is a way to beat shrink inflation, experts say: Compare unit prices – the price per ounce or per 100 – on similar products to see which is best.

Buy frozen meat and vegetables

Meat has seen some of the sharpest price increases during the pandemic.

In February, meat prices rose by 14% from a year ago. Chicken was just behind, up 13%.

“Frozen chicken breasts are of good quality, can be thawed one at a time, and the savings are significant,” says David D’Arezzo, a former Dollar General chief retailer and head of pharmacy and supermarket chains.

Frozen vegetables are also a good option, he said. They do not get bad or spoiled like fresh vegetables, a hit in the wallet.

Another tip for buying vegetables: Buy them in high season. If you buy tomatoes or other products when they are low season, you will probably pay more.

“If you trade seasonally, you can save 25% to 30%,” says Martino at Third Wave Strategies.

Look for ugly products

Look at the day-old product sites or production sites in your area to save.

There are also “ugly” online retailers like Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market who buy and resell quality fruits and vegetables that grocery stores have turned down at hefty discounts.

“Why not pay half the price for a little dirty products?” in Dworsky.

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