Within the last three years, the cost of groceries saw a price hike of 18.4 percent since 2020. Restaurants follow, being 15.6 percent more in 2023. 2022 saw the largest increase for both.
There are several reasons for the steep increase, such as inflation, labor shortages and supply chain issues, still coming from the start of the pandemic.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, food prices are expected to continue to increase, more slowly in 2023 than in 2022 but still at above historical average rates. In 2023, all food prices are predicted to increase 7.9 percent.
With the push to more health conscious, but grocery prices only increase, making healthier purchases seem unaffordable. Have no fear, there are ways to buy your favorite healthy choices, and still stay on budget!
While the same healthy food options do not fit every person or household, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a healthy diet is one that helps to protect against malnutrition, and diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Healthy dietary practices should start early in life and should include limiting the intake of sugars and salts. The best advice is clean eating, which is eating primarily unprocessed and unrefined foods.
We all know the obviously tips, such as try the store brand instead of the name brand, which most often, you can’t tell a difference in taste. But there are also small, everyday changes we can take, to make a great overall impact. For example, drink water instead of sodas or other high-sugar drinks. Take a reusable water bottle when on the go. Another tip is instead of buying so many small containers of flavored yogurt, buy the larger size plain yogurt, and add your own flavors by mixing in fruits. Not only is it better for the environment, and will save you money, but healthier too, adding the fresh fruits.
Buying organic does not automatically mean it’s the healthier choice, but it does mean more expensive. So before making those high purchases, do you research. For example, were those organic apples sprayed with pesticides?
There are a lot of resources, helping us stay on track, and on budget. One is MyPlate, from the U.S. Department Of Agriculture, who suggests to first start with a plan. Making a meal plan can help you get organized, save money, and choose healthier options. When creating a meal plan, you first start by taking inventory of what you already have, so that you can buy less. They also suggest avoiding the candy, chips, cookies, and pop aisles, it will save you calories, time, and money.
Additionally, get creative and make original recipes from leftovers. Add rice to soups or stews, frozen vegetables to pasta dishes, or turn tacos into quesadillas. This will save you time and money. Always plan meals according to their prep time and the amount of time you have on each day. Save the ones that take longer for days off or when family members are free to help. Make larger meals with enough servings for leftovers.
When making your grocery list, organize it by the layout of the store, so that you can grab each item in its order. This will help minimize purchasing items not on your list. Most grocery stores have apps that allow you to make a grocery list, and even tell you where the item is located in the store. This is helpful because each time you add an item to the list or cart, the app will inform you of related coupons for you to clip.
This leads to another big saver, coupons! While paper coupons are still helpful and recommended, we may lose them, or forget to take them to the store. Utilize the store’s app to search and clip coupons. For some stores, it can even help save you money on gift cards and gas too.
When it comes to what specifically to buy, of course fruits and vegetables are a great, healthy choice, but they don’t often stay fresh long. Thus, buy a mix of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. Eat your fresh foods first so they don’t go bad, then use the frozen ones for items that do not require fresh, such as soups and smoothies. Frozen fruits and vegetables are always safer than canned, as canning requires more processing, and is likely to have less nutritional values than frozen foods. They also typically have added sugars and sodium, describes UCLA Health hospital. If you do need to buy canned fruit, look for canned peaches, mandarin oranges, or pineapple chunks, which are packed in their own juices, and thus minimizes the added sugar. Always choose fruits that are 100% fruit juice, and vegetables with low-sodium or no salt added.
Another healthy meal option is grains. According to the Mayo Clinic, whole grains provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Whole grain foods help control of cholesterol levels, weight, and blood pressure. These foods also help lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions. Types of whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, bulgur, buckwheat, oatmeal, whole-grain cornmeal, whole oats, and whole rye. Rice and pasta can be budget-friendly, grain options too. It can also apply to snacks, like switching to whole-wheat crackers.
When it comes to meat and chicken, buy in bulk, so that you can freeze whatever you don’t use. Most uncooked meat and chicken products last in the freezer for up to one year. Additionally, consider meatless alternatives. Not necessarily the impossible burgers, or packaged, more expensive such items, but bean-based dishes. Beans are inexpensive and a great source of protein and fiber.
One last tip to know before hitting the grocery store: Eat a snack or meal before you shop. When you're hungry, everything looks tempting.