You’ve probably heard the word “inflation” too many times recently. Maybe you’ve felt the financial sting when you went to fill your car up at the gas station or noticed that a pack of bacon at the grocery store is now around $7.
Inflation has increased by 8.5% following the pandemic, which is the highest jump in 40 years. One expense that is sure to have hurt your wallet recently is groceries. There’s never been a better time to create a budget grocery list.
Let’s look at 10 foods with the highest inflation rate in just one month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Most Inflated Grocery Items (In One Month)
Butter – 6%
Everything tastes better with butter, right? Over the past year, the price of butter rose 12.5%. Dairy items, in general, have been prime victims of inflation. The prices of fuel, fertilizer, and feed are causing dairy farmers’ costs to rise. A worker shortage in this field is also increasing labor costs.
Salt and Other Seasonings and Spices – 4.8%
Certain spices can make or break a meal. Chicken parmesan wouldn’t be a tasty dish without its signature Italian seasonings. Since the price of salt and other spices has increased by 4.8% in just a single month this year, it wouldn’t hurt to be light-handed with your seasonings when preparing meals.
Dried Beans, Peas, and Lentils – 4.4%
Dried beans, peas, and lentils are healthy food staples that are usually affordable. Still, the price of these items is creeping up. It’s a good thing beans are easy to stretch! Beans are great with rice, in stews and can even replace meat in some dishes. Try adding beans to your enchiladas, burritos, salads, and scrambles to make the meal stretch and be more filling.
Canned Fruits and Vegetables – 3.8%
Canned vegetables are reliable as a last-minute side for dinner or even a savory casserole around the holidays. The same can be said for canned fruit if you’re looking to make a pie or prepare a simple snack. Thanks to inflation, frozen versions of these foods might give you a better deal for now.
Salad Dressing – 3.5%
Salad dressing has its own aisle in the grocery store these days since there are hundreds of options. The price of salad dressing increased by 13.9% just this past year. A bottle of salad dressing will set you back $4 or more in stores.
Rice – 3.2%
If rice is a regular staple in your kitchen, you may have noticed your grocery receipt grows each week. On the bright side, there are many different types of rice and grains to consider if you’re willing to switch it up and want to cut costs.
Potatoes – 3.2%
The price of potatoes also increased by 3.2% in just a month. You don’t have to give up your homemade french fries and mashed potatoes and gravy just yet, though. Potatoes haven’t skyrocketed at stores like other items on this list – their inflation rate has been pretty steady at 3.4% for the past year. So, while the cost of potatoes is something to watch, there’s a decent chance that prices won’t keep climbing.
Oranges and Tangerines – 3%
The price of citrus fruits like oranges and tangerines went up by 18% last year. Lousy weather and shipping issues at congested ports are just two factors that raised prices. Also, the demand for a bag of juicy oranges drives the price up – some farmers admit to having smaller harvests this year.
Fats and Oils – 2.9%
Do you cook with a lot of fats and oils? According to Food Business News, Oil prices have doubled and sometimes even tripled, and not just at the gas station. Some experts recommend buying oils with a longer shelf life to stretch your dollar.
Uncooked Ground Beef – 2.1%
Ground beef is another food item that is becoming more expensive. You may have even noticed prices at your favorite burger joints going up. Over the past year, ground beef prices rose by more than 13%.
Your Grocery Budget List
Rising costs may be out of your control, but you can still control what you buy at the grocery store with a personal grocery budget list. Here are some alternative grocery list ideas you can try that will be more affordable (or less inflated) than some of the items above.
Margarine and butter are very similar, and you may not even notice a difference in the taste. The price of margarine only increased by 3.2% over a month. Depending on the recipe, you may even be able to use vegetable shortening, coconut oil, or vegan butter.
Seasoning blends are a popular and easy way to get more flavor without purchasing a ton of different seasonings. Seasoning salt can include everything from table salt to savory herbs and spices. Even a basic seasoning blend like garlic salt can help you combine two items on your grocery list.
Fresh Whole Chicken
Try giving ground beef a break and add a fresh whole chicken to your weekly meal plan. You’ll get a ton of meat for a lower cost, and you can roast the chicken or prepare it in the Crock Pot with your new seasoning blends.
Ground turkey is another smart substitute for high-priced meats. It’s versatile, lower in fat, and you can still get your burger fix whenever you decide to grill out. You can also use ground turkey to prepare turkey tacos, meatloaf, and other meals.
Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
The price of frozen fruits and vegetables is much lower than their canned counterparts right now. Frozen veggies can be steamed or prepared the same way you’d cook fresh or canned versions. You can make smoothies, cobblers, pies, or even homemade ice cream with frozen fruit.
Apples and Bananas
If you want fresh fruit but have a budget, choose apples and bananas over oranges and tangerines. These fruits tend to have a longer shelf life. You can store your apples in a bowl on the counter or even in the fridge and use them for snacks, salads, smoothies, or oatmeal.
Dried Beans, Peas, and Lentils
Dried beans, peas, and lentils may have gone up in price, but they’re still affordable if you try different brands. You can find a bag of dry beans or lentils for around $1 to $1.50 at some stores, which is still a steal. See if you can grab a few extra bags for your pantry and prep meals like stews and soups.
The price of lettuce has gone up 12% in stores over the past year. However, prepared salad prices have only gone up 8% and have held steady. Pre-packaged salads are convenient because they’re already mixed and ready to go.
Some salad kits even come with cheese, raw nuts, and dried fruit.
Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar
Yes, salad dressing prices have gone up with inflation. This price jump is an open invitation to start making your own salad dressing at home.
If you like Italian dressing, all you need is some olive oil and red wine vinegar for the base. Then, add some chopped garlic cloves and season to taste with salt, pepper, and oregano. You can also make homemade ranch dressing with buttermilk, sour cream, garlic, lemon juice, and fresh herbs.
How to Save Money on Groceries
As the BLS reports, Americans already spend thousands on groceries every year. But with inflation steadily increasing the cost of several foods, saving money on groceries is even more crucial. Here are some quick and painless ways to help you save money on groceries like a pro.
Learn the Sales Cycle of the Store
All grocery stores have a sales cycle. There are certain times of the year and week when specific items will be on sale. All you need to track these sale cycles is a notebook to record when some of your favorite items go on sale.
Or, you can use weekly flyers to spot deals and pick up on trends. Flipp is a free app that will show all the weekly sales at stores in your area so you can save on purchases. You can view flyers from stores in your area instead of waiting for the paper flyers and ads to arrive in the mail.
Clipping coupons may take some time. Grabbing multiple Sunday papers and your best pair of scissors is probably not high on the list for weekend activities. These days, you don’t have to hunt through the newspaper to save money. There are tons of digital coupons and savings apps.
These apps allow you to simply search for the item or store and pull up coupons and discount codes to apply to your order. Coupons.com and Coupon Chief are two free digital coupon databases that work for you to find store and manufacturer’s coupons.
Use a Rebate App
Rebate apps like Ibotta and Fetch Rewards help you earn cash back for regular store purchases. Both apps partner with many popular chains and local grocery stores to offer rebates on items you use every day.
With Ibotta, you can select the store you plan to shop at and browse the app for offers. Claim the offers you like and then do your shopping as you usually would, but scan your receipt in the app to earn the rebate. It’s straightforward, and helps you earn extra cash on grocery items you already planned to buy.
Fetch Rewards is an app that works the same way for many major grocery retailers.
Buy Generic Brands
Buying generic brands is a classic way to save money at the grocery store that still works. Generic brands are usually pretty similar to the name brands but have a built-in discount. Challenge yourself to buy all generic store brands during a shopping trip and see how it affects your final bill.
Join a Loyalty Program
If you shop at the same store often, try joining a loyalty program. Some stores offer rewards or discount offers, and it’s free to sign up. Double check that you’re signing up for a loyalty or rewards program and not a credit card.
There may be in-store product discounts you unlock with your loyalty account. You also may earn points for discounts and free items.
Join a Warehouse Club
Warehouse clubs are great for buying items in bulk at a discount. Try warehouse club stores like Sam’s Club or Costco if you have a larger family or just want to stock up on a particular item. These stores charge an annual membership fee, but it can be well worth it if you can get a lot of food for less money.
Instead of paying $4 for a bottle of salad dressing at a regular grocery store, you may be able to get a pack of two bottles for $6 at a warehouse club. To make sure you’re saving money, compare the price by the size of the package and see how much you’re spending per pound, ounce, etc.
Decide what you plan to cook so you can freeze extra meat, cheese, and other items.
Protect Your Grocery Bill from Inflation
Food prices are going up, but your grocery bill doesn’t have to skyrocket. Knowing which items have become more expensive at a faster rate is the key. Then, you can prepare your grocery budget and explore more affordable options.
While you’re at it, learn how to eat healthy on a budget, and you’ll be on your way to putting inflation in its place and saving money on food.