Beating Grocery Prices
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Grocery prices are scary. According to the United States Department of
Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS), food purchased at
grocery stores or supermarkets was 8.4% higher in March of 2023 than
in March 2022.
The ERS says grocery store food prices are expected to grow more
slowly this year, but are still above historical average rates. They
predict that overall food prices will increase another 6.6% in 2023.
With these numbers in mind, it takes some careful shopping to cut
grocery costs while still trying to eat healthy. Here are some shopping
tips shared by Cooperative Extension’s SNAP-Ed (Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program – Education) programs:
- One of the best ways to stick to a budget is plan meals ahead of
time. Then take inventory in your kitchen of the items that are
needed for the week or the month.
- Make a price book. Keep track of the prices of foods you use most
often. Note the price at each store where you shop. When a food
in your price book is advertised on sale, you will know if it’s a
good deal or not. If it is—and you have extra food money—you
can stock up. When you know regular prices, you can also quickly
spot when a “buy one, get one free” sale is really a good deal—or
- Make a list. Why? You’ll spend less time in the store. For every
minute in the supermarket, you spend $2.17. Also, if you have a
list, you’ll eliminate extra trips to the store for items you’ve
forgotten and this will save gas, too. If you’re the type that’s
tempted at the grocery store, you may want to consider ordering
on-line and have someone else shop for you.
- Where you shop can may cost you money. Bulk food store may
not always be a good choice. You may be tempted to buy foods
you don’t need and can’t store properly. Also, large food
packages make it too easy to eat larger portions.
- Clip coupons for foods you use most often. Most coupons are for
name brands, and you may find less-expensive store brands.
Coupons for basic ingredients such as vegetables, fruits and dairy
products are not common. Also, check weekly store ads for sales,
coupons and specials that will cut food costs. Don’t forget that
many stores now have on-line offers. If your grocery store has a
membership card, sign up for even more savings.
- Avoid spending traps. Only go down aisles that have food that is
on your list. Learn the store layout so you can find food quickly.
Basic foods are around the edges of the store. Look at the high
and low shelves for bargains and healthier choices. More-costly
and less-healthy food are usually places at eye level.
- When purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables, buy those that are
in-season. This produce typically has more flavor, is fresher and
usually costs less. For foods not in-season, canned or frozen
vegetables can offer costs savings. For canned items, choose fruit
canned in 100 percent fruit juice and vegetables with “low
sodium” or “no salt added” on the label.
- Buy vegetables and fruits in their simplest form. Pre-cut, pre-
washed, ready-to-eat and processed foods may be more
convenient, but they often cost much more than fruits and
vegetables that are purchased in their most basic forms. Whole vegetables and salad greens are usually less expensive and stay
fresh longer than cut-up vegetables and salad mixes.
Here in Brunswick County, the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service offers
educational classes to assist families that receive SNAP (Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. These programs focus on good
nutrition, cooking, stretching food dollars and being physically active.
For details on classes near you contact Angie Lawrence at our office in
Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science team member and can be
reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center 910-253-
2610 or by email at Cheryle_Syracuse@ncsu.edu