‘It’s belt-tightening time’ – how to save as food inflation soars to over 11% a year

Going to the grocery store wouldn’t be cheaper.

Rising food costs helped push inflation up again last month, despite lower gas prices. The food index alone is up 11.4% over the past year, according to the latest CPI figures — marking the biggest jump in 12 months since May 1979.

The Food at Home Index, a measure of price changes at the grocery store, rose 13.5% — also a 43-year high.

In the face of higher prices, consumers have been cutting back, according to Mark Hamrick, chief economist at Bankrate.com. However, he said, “Food, at its most basic level, is not discretionary.” “That’s the hard side of the conditions we’re in.”

Prices of staples such as eggs, milk, cereal, bread and butter made some of the biggest increases, further straining family budgets.

Inflation has also caused many food and beverage companies, including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, to raise prices for beverages and packaged goods. Some are also downsizing their packages – also known as “shrinking” – or bartering for less expensive components, a tactic now called “shrinkage”.

Why food is becoming more expensive for everyone

Said Edgar Dursky, founder of Consumer World, who has a track of downsizing popular products, such as Charmin, Quaker Instant Oatmeal, and Honey Bunches of Oats.

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The Federal Reserve has already taken aggressive steps to combat rising inflation, and a survey released earlier this week by the Federal Reserve of New York showed that consumers are becoming less afraid of rising prices — although they still expect inflation to be 5.7% annually. from now on .

“Consumers are prepared for continued price hikes for the foreseeable future, but there is also a tendency to believe that things may return to normal,” Hamrick said.

In the meantime, he added, “it is prudent for individuals to continue to be vigilant about their family budgets.”

To that end, savings experts share their top tips for cutting back on grocery spending as food inflation shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

“It’s belt-tightening and it’s been a while,” Hamrick said.

5 tips to save on groceries

  1. Sales audit. Generic brands can be 10%-30% cheaper than their “premium” counterparts and just as good, but this is not always the case. Brand-name brands may offer bigger discounts than usual at the moment to maintain loyalty, so it pays to be aware of price changes.
  2. Plan your meals. When you plan your meals in advance, you’re more likely to buy only the things you need, said Lisa Thompson, thrift expert at Coupons.com. She added that if planning isn’t your thing, at least shop with a rough idea of ​​what you’ll be cooking next week to help stay on track and avoid impulsive purchases.
  3. Buy in bulk. When it comes to the rest of the items on your list, you can save even more by buying in bulk. Joining a wholesale club like Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s will often give you the best price per unit on condiments and non-perishable goods.
  4. Use the cashback app. Ibotta and Checkout 51 are two of the most popular apps to earn cash in the store, according to Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews.com. The average Ibotta user earns between $10 and $20 a month, but more active users can make up to $100 to $300 a month, a CNBC spokesperson said.
  5. Pay with the correct card. While a general cashback card like the Citi Double Cash Card can earn you 2%, there are select grocery rewards cards that can earn you up to 6% at supermarkets across the country, like the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express. CNBC’s Select has a full roundup of the best food shopping cards along with APRs and annual fees.

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