The Rising Cost of Food: How to Eat Well Without Going Broke
Food prices are going up. That's not news. Everyone's complaining about it. However, it's a little-known fact that in the US today we are spending a smaller percentage of our income on food than people did in 1960.
The graph at the bottom of the page contains the most recent data we could find.
It's well known that Americans have been spending more money on food at home due to Covid related restaurant closures. We also know that supply chain problems, Covid breakouts in the meat industry, the increase in wages, global transportation problems, and crazy weather have all impacted the price of food in the past 18 months.
However, good food doesn't have to be expensive. If the food prices continue to go up and impact your checkbook, here are some ideas for dealing with it.
- Meatless Mondays have become common in households trying to eat less meat. Since meat is often the most expensive part of the meal, planning a day or two per week without meat will save money. Great protein substitutes include beans and pulses, which are even less expensive if you buy them dried and cook them yourself instead of canned.
- Plan meals in advance. You can make your shopping list and limit yourself to buy what you need at the store by planning ahead. The important thing here is to stick to the plan during the week.
- Only buy what's in season. Out-of-season produce can get expensive because it has to travel a long way to get to your supermarket. Buy what's in season, and you'll get fresh, good-tasting produce.
- Eliminate food waste. The EPA estimates that Americans waste 80 billion pounds of food each year. Much of this is produce that goes bad before it's consumed.
- Use your freezer. You can freeze many fresh items at risk of going bad for use at a later date.
- Prep food in advance. Millennials have food prepping down to a science. They prepare meals for the entire week on weekends. You can store prepped food in individual portions, and it's convenient just to grab and go on your way out the door for work.
- Eliminate unhealthy snacks and prepared food. Processed foods and snacks are expensive. Cutting back on these items or eliminating them can save a lot of money. You can avoid seeing these items in the store by only shopping the perimeter where you find meat, dairy, and produce.
- Eliminate single-serving foods. Purchasing items in individual serving sizes raises the cost because of additional packaging. Buying items in family size or regular size and portioning them out can save a lot of money.
- Eat your leftovers. Many people don't like eating leftovers, but they make great lunches. Many things taste better the next day. Leftovers are the easiest lunch to pack for school or the office.
- Eat at home. The cost of eating at home has gone up, and it only makes sense that the cost of eating in a restaurant has followed suit. Limit your visits to a restaurant to once or twice each week. Remember to ask for a doggy bag!
- Buy frozen veggies. Vegetables are generally frozen shortly after being picked at the height of freshness. They are often more nutritious than the veggies in the produce aisle that were picked a week before and transported hundreds or thousands of miles.
- Eat a meal or a snack before heading to the grocery store. Hungry people buy more impulsively, causing the total grocery bill to go up.
These suggestions all assume that you cook. If you aren't cooking your meals at home, that would be the first change to make. You'll start saving money immediately.
* Photo Credit: Maria Lin on Unsplash