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How to save money at the grocery store amid rising prices

Avoid sticker shock in the checkout line with these simple tips.

From bacon to eggs and chicken, American consumers are seeing their grocery bills rise rapidly. In fact, prices have been skyrocketing at a faster rate than in decades. The Consumer Price Index for food increased 10.1%  year-to-year from May 2021 to 2022, the highest rate increase since 40 years ago in 1981, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Moreover, in the first quarter of this year, consumers were spending 6% more but buying 2.5% less according to The Food Industry Association. Most meat eaters are also seeking smaller portions at 52% reporting their cart downsizing. About a third of those meat eaters said they’ve stopped buying chicken and 38% reported cutting beef from their shopping carts altogether.

“I am literally going to more than one store, I just got buns somewhere else because they had a good deal,” Joey Schramm, a shopper in Illinois, told TODAY's Erin McLaughlin.

“I always get my filet mignon at Trader Joe’s. It’s up to like 25.99,” Alyssa Sutton, a shopper in New Jersey, told McLaughlin. “I mean, it really jumped.”

Most consumers are actively trying to save money amid worries about rising grocery prices. According to FMI, more shoppers than not are doing so by looking for deals and making substitutions or product changes. Further, about a half are changing where or how they buy groceries at 48% and a fewer share, 35%, are buying more store or generic brands. 

For shoppers feeling the pinch, even in this inflation-fueled climate there are ways to save at the checkout line.

1. Download grocery savings apps

It’s recommended to utilize technology to help find items at the best prices. These include local grocery store apps like Kroger’s Clicklist or Whole Foods and third-party platforms such as Flipp or Southern Savers. 

You should also take advantage of rewards programs — like Target’s Circle Rewards program — whether it’s to instantly save a few dollars on sale items, or get cash back on future purchases.

2. Take advantage of BOGO deals

Kristin McGrath, editor of savings website RetailMeNot, recommends shoppers start looking into their local supermarket circulars to find buy-one-get-one-free deals on staples that will remain fresh or can be frozen and used at a later date.

“Even if you don’t need two of an item right now, if it’s something you can save, this can help reduce your next grocery bill,” she said.

3. Consider store brands

While prices are pretty much going up across the board, McGrath said it’s worth giving store brands a chance.

“Those are still going to come in under then what you might pay for a popular name brand, but they’re not skimping on quality,” she said.

4. Look for cheaper cuts of meat

Swap that T-bone for a sirloin. With meat prices spiking, especially beef, exploring cheaper cuts of meat is one way to potentially trim a few bucks off a grocery bill.

Jayson Lusk, an agricultural economics professor at Purdue University, told TODAY that feed prices for livestock are up, as well as export demand, which are two factors driving up the price of meat. He recommended exploring different cuts of meat to cut down on grocery prices.

It's also worth noting that items that include descriptions such as “grass-fed” or “cage-free” typically cost more.

5. Reach for frozen produce and canned foods

“I create menus that my family loves and I save money every single month,” said personal finance expert Gina Zakaria, who boasts more than 1.8 million followers on TikTok. Zakaria insists that even in this inflation-fueled climate that it’s possible to save.

"One of the greatest proteins you can get are canned beans," said Zakaria. "You can get rotisserie chicken."

“Just look for frozen veggies,” she added. “You’ll find that they are much less expensive.”

6. Batch-prep ingredients

Find ways to optimize your purchases based on your own eating habits. For families that regularly use a particular fruit or veggie in their meal prep, there are ways to make sure that what you’re buying isn’t going to waste.

“I will buy three or four pounds of onions, come home, chop them all up at once in the food processor, put them in freezer bags and freeze them,” Zakaria said. “Then I have onion for a month.”

7. Make a plan from home

Experts suggest shoppers keep in mind what they have at home already before heading out to the store. Folks may find themselves better off by making a meal plan that includes ingredients they have sitting in the back of their pantry or getting frosty in the freezer. Build a shopping list from there.

8. Coupons aren’t as helpful as you’d think

It may be surprising to hear that experts say not to waste your time with coupons. There’s a tendency with coupons to buy things that you don’t normally use, meaning that those items typically end up gathering dust or expiring before you figure out what to do with them. 

You’re better off making a meal plan that includes ingredients that you already have and build your shopping list from there. That way, you end up with things you actually like and need.