In case you’ve been avoiding the grocery store for the past few months, prices on literally everything have skyrocketed. In fact, food prices have risen more than 10 percent just in the last year alone, according to a news release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is at least 8 percent higher than the average year over year.
This has put millions of Americans in a very difficult position as they attempt to put food on the table for their families and exacerbated the search for deals and steals at their local grocery store. “A few dollar increases across the board on many foods suddenly gets noticed and you start to wonder how to save here and there on groceries,” says Jerry Bailey, DC, LAc, certified nutritionist, acupuncturist, chiropractic, and functional medicine physician at Lakeside Holistic Health.
“Often when buying foods at a store we look for coupons to cut costs on certain foods; however, the typical items being bought with coupons are calorically rich but nutrient-poor, which means empty calories with little vitamins and minerals to drive your energy and metabolism.”
There are many reasons for the rise in food costs. For starters, COVID supply chain issues have complicated the transit of food across the world, which has impacted every aspect involved in food growing and selling. “Farmers run on a very tight budget with a small profit margin and increases in any aspect of costs can sink the ship quickly, so the increases have to pass on to us the consumers. It is a cycle that we are all a part of,” Bailey explains.
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As a result of food inflation, you’re probably left wondering how you can still put nutritious food on your table without breaking the bank. Luckily, it’s possible and it all starts with trying to waste less of what you buy. “The food you don’t eat is like throwing money out the window as you drive, or better yet like taking dollar bills and putting down the garbage disposal,” explains Bailey. Here, he and other nutrition pros share their best-kept tips for how to waste less food and save more money as a result.
1. Plan ahead
Well before you step foot in the grocery store, Brittany Michels, MS, RDN, LDN, CPT, recommends creating a budget so you know how much money you have to spend on food. Additionally, she recommends planning out your weekly meals and snacks, including when you’ll put those leftovers to go use, and making a budget-friendly list by only including the foods you’ll need.
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2. Buy dried goods in bulk
Bailey recommends buying your rice, beans, oats, and other foods that need to be prepared in bulk. “Not only does it save having to make these on your own versus buying premade rice or canned beans for use, but you get a lot more food for less money and can easily store them in a sealed container for extended periods without going bad,” he says. “Plus, by not purchasing canned items you save exposure to harmful chemical linings in those cans and unneeded preservatives.”
3. Check for coupons
You might not use an old-school circular (or you might!), but you can search online to clip coupons that you can use or at least know that you can use when you arrive at the grocery store. You might be surprised to learn that something on your list is on sale, perhaps just a different brand than you would normally buy. If you haven’t already, Michels recommends signing up for a store discount card for added savings.
4. Look at the use-by date
When purchasing fresh products, such as meat and produce, always make sure to check the use-by date to see how long this specific item can sit in your fridge before it goes bad. This can help ensure that you actually put it to use instead of letting the date come and go and having to wind up throwing it out. Also, Michels recommends choosing the largest size that can be used before spoilage. “Larger containers cost less per serving as long as you can finish it,” she adds.
5. Buy in-season fruits and vegetables
When you buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, meaning that the time you are purchasing it is when they are traditionally grown and harvested, you are not only saving money, but also getting higher nutritional content than you would if you purchased produce out of season, according to Michels. She also recommends checking the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen list, which can indicate which produce you should be buying organic and which you can buy conventional.
6. Store food right away
Upon returning home from the grocery store, Michels recommends storing your food right away and prepping any items that you know will be hard to get throughout the week—i.e. cut up vegetables or fruit for snacking or hard boil eggs. “Pre-portion snacks if you notice that planned snacks are exhausted before week-end,” she adds.