You may have noticed that a recent trip to the supermarket has ended with greater pain at the checkout. Though the cost of food had already been inching upward in recent times, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the rise in the price of many groceries, causing consumers to leave stores feeling a little lighter in their wallets. Overall, the cost of groceries grew 2.6% in the month of April. But that doesn’t mean you can’t eat healthfully while still keeping your food budget in check. Try these tips and tricks when spinning your wheels at the grocer to keep that number at the end of your receipt from soaring.
Why pay more for well-marketed national brands when store brands of everything from pasta sauce to frozen vegetables to canned fish may offer a cost advantage? “In many cases these products are nutritionally comparable or even superior to big brands,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of “Read It Before You Eat It — Taking You from Label to Table.” She notes, “But it’s still important to compare nutrition labels.”
America’s favorite meats like chicken breast and salmon aren’t necessarily the most cost-effective. Often, you can get more protein for your buck by opting for less popular animal proteins such as chicken thighs, mussels, bone-in pork chops, canned sardines and top round steak. Purchasing and cooking a whole chicken can yield plenty of juicy meat at a significant cost saving per ounce.
Without the added cost of packaging and advertising, those bulk bins offer a viable option for less expensive versions of staples like oats, flour, nuts, and seeds. Plus, you can purchase only what you need, which cuts down on costly food waste.
Price increases in the meat, poultry, fish and egg categories have been among the steepest. Taub-Dix says making meatless meals more often using plant-based proteins including tofu, lentils, and beans can save you cash. “But some processed plant-based items like packaged meatless burgers aren’t the cost saver you’d expect and you have to read labels carefully so you’re getting a product that is comparable to its animal-based counterpart,” she adds.