AARP Eye Center
With inflation hitting 7.9 percent in February (a 40-year high) and food costs soaring the same amount year over year, getting groceries for you and your family is a lot pricier these days. Just how much depends on which state you live in. Food prices tend to be local, driven by supply and demand. That results in a price disparity from one city to the next.
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.
Supply chain issues left over from the pandemic, skyrocketing gas prices, increased labor costs and strong consumer demand are all contributing to the surge in prices for everything from produce to poultry, with no end in sight. “The supply chain is not quite smoothed out yet, and the war isn’t helping,” Ilyce Glink, founder and CEO of financial wellness program Best Money Moves, says of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “When it comes to food, there’s not enough to go around, so prices will be a challenge for a while.”
Saving money at the grocery store may require a bit of creativity in this environment, but it isn’t impossible. There are several ways to reduce your grocery bill, including these seven strategies:
1. Cook from scratch
Ready-made meals at the supermarket are quick and easy, but they can get expensive. Cooking from scratch is cheaper and often a healthier alternative, with fewer additives and preservatives. That’s important for older adults who have to watch their sodium intake or have special dietary needs.
When you cook from scratch, you tend to use the same basic ingredients over and over. If you buy them in bulk, you can save more. Often there are leftovers that can be used for additional meals. The key to saving when cooking from scratch is to understand the concept of cross-utilization, says Julien Saunders, author of Cashing Out. That occurs when you have one ingredient that is applied in multiple ways.
Take artichokes, for one example. They can be used in a salad one day, pasta another day and chopped for a sandwich the next. The same goes for fruit. They can be eaten at breakfast, added to a salad and used in a smoothie. “There are tons of ways to use ingredients, aside from restricting them to one meal or one type of cuisine,” says Saunders.
2. Plan meals in advance
Meal planning is a great way to save at the grocery store. If you have a strategy for the week and list the ingredients you need, you aren’t as likely to overspend. “Far too often, people go to the grocery store and treat it like a shopping experience,” Saunders says. “They end up buying a bunch of things they don’t necessarily need. Buying only what you need to make the meal is critical to saving money.”