Food Costs Are Up 10.4% From a Year Ago. Here’s How to Lower Your Grocery Spending

A person shopping in the freezer aisle with a cart full of groceries.

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There are steps you can take to spend less.

Key points

  • Food is an essential expense that’s hard to cut back on.
  • Buying in bulk, planning out your meals, and taking inventory of your current supplies can all help you save on grocery spending.

Many consumers struggled to pay their bills in 2022. We can thank inflation for that. But while it’s possible to cut back in certain areas when living costs start to soar, there are certain expense categories that are really difficult to slash.

Grocery spending is one of them. We all need to eat. And you may have certain dietary needs in your household that force you to spend extra on certain products.

But if food costs are busting your budget and forcing you to rack up debt on your credit cards just to stay afloat, you’re not alone. As of December 2022, food costs were up 10.4% on an annual basis, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And that’s a massive jump.

Still, there are steps you can take to save money on grocery bills this year. Here are some to try to work into your routine.

1. Buy in bulk when that makes sense

If there are certain products you consume regularly in your household, then buying them in bulk could be a huge money-saver. But to be clear, you don’t want to engage in bulk buying when you’re trying out a product for the first time, or you’re buying something with a very limited shelf life.

Say your family goes through certain cereals all the time. That’s the sort of product you’re pretty safe to buy in bulk, because it’s an established staple in your household and it has a pretty decent shelf life (though it would be nice if cereal makers could team up with the Ziplock folks to make open boxes last longer). And so in that case, buying in bulk could be a nice source of savings with little risk.

Best of all, you don’t have to be a member of a warehouse club like Costco to enjoy bulk specials. Look around your regular supermarket, and you’re likely to find a host of items in larger quantities.

2. Plan out your meals ahead of time

The simple act of meal planning could help you spend less at the grocery store. Rather than wing it in terms of cooking, spend time thinking about your meals for the upcoming week, and figure out what ingredients you need to purchase.

But for the sake of savings and efficiency, don’t make those decisions solo — even if you’re the resident cook in your household. There’s no sense, for example, in making a massive pot of vegetable stew if your picky kids are going to reject it and beg for chicken nuggets instead.

3. Always take inventory before you shop

Buying two heads of lettuce when you already have two sitting at the back of your fridge is a good way to land in a position where you’re throwing money away. Before you shop for food — especially perishable items — spend a few minutes taking inventory. It could spare you from spending money on things you don’t need right away.

Food costs may be way up. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to spend less — without having to skimp on the items you like to feed your family with.

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