Shilo Lewis was shocked by how much her last grocery store haul cost.
A cart full of ingredients for sandwiches and tacos – enough for four lunches and a couple of dinners for her and her husband – plus an 18-pack of beer cost her just under $100. The 49-year-old snapped a photo of the haul and posted it on Facebook Wednesday in disbelief.
“If it keeps going up, I don’t know how so many people are going to be able to continue to eat,” she told USA TODAY, adding that she and her husband had to stop at a food bank to stock up on more supplies after the trip to Safeway. The food is meant to last them until Oct. 15, when her next paycheck comes in.
“We’ve been struggling”
With grocery prices up nearly 17% over the past two years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people are turning to social media to share how much money it takes to feed a family.
One user on X, formerly Twitter, posted a photo of a grocery store haul and said it cost more than $270.
Another X user said a haul with cereal, chicken breasts, pancake mix and more cost over $200.
Some posts received pushback, with social media users pointing out various non-essential foods in the photos posted online. But the posts make clear that people across the country are noticing higher costs in grocery store aisles.
Lewis, a substitute teacher in Terrebonne, Oregon, said she’s looking to find a full-time teaching job to help bring in more money and make grocery shopping easier.
“We’ve been struggling since 2020, when everything shut down,” she said, noting that she and her husband are still behind on certain bills. “The water seems to have gone up. The electricity has gone up. The gas prices. … The only thing that’s not really going up is the wages.”
A recent Bankrate study shows that workers aren’t set to recover their lost purchasing power caused by inflation until the end of 2024.
Inflation:Inflation rises for second straight month in August on higher gas costs
“You’ve got to watch” for sales
While many of the grocery haul posts are commiserating about prices, some show how money-saving tricks like couponing can help shoppers save.
Aires Withers of Cloverdale, Indiana posted a photo of her grocery haul on Thursday, noting that coupons and rebates helped her pay just over $53 out of pocket for food worth more than $100.
The stay-at-home mother of two said she purchased a butchered cow and pig earlier this year and grows produce like tomatoes, corn and cabbage to combat high grocery prices. If her HOA allowed it, Withers said her family would be raising chickens for eggs and meat.
“You can really see the difference (in grocery prices compared to) how it was a year ago or just even a few months ago,” she said. “When I shop, I tend to just buy what’s on sale. So if you’re trying to save, you really can’t be picky what you’re buying. You’ve got to watch for the sale prices and just stock up.”
How to save money at the grocery store
Barbara O’Neill, a financial educator, author and distinguished professor emeritus at Rutgers University, shared a number of tips for how shoppers can save money on their next grocery store run.
- Take advantage of sales and coupons. Whether you find them in the paper or online, O’Neill said coupons can make a big difference, especially if you layer them with a rebate or with items on sale.
- Change your diet. Avoiding processed foods and high-cost items like certain meats can help lower costs. O’Neill said shoppers can also research ingredient alternatives to lower costs. When egg prices were high, for instance, she suggested using applesauce as a binding ingredient in recipes.
- Use store-brand products. Many times, they are made in the same production plants as the brand-name foods.
- Consider a wholesaler retailer membership. Buying in bulk at places like Costco and Sam’s Club can help reduce costs in the long run.
- Join your grocery store’s reward club. Memberships can include exclusive deals.
- Make a list before you shop. It’ll help you cut back on unnecessary purchases. O’Neill also suggests accounting for impulse buys when setting a budget.
- Buy seasonal produce. Consider cutting back on processed foods, which tend to be more expensive, and opt for fruits and veggies that have not been pre-cut.“The more processing or preparation a store has to do, like chopping up fruit versus selling a whole cantaloupe, you’re probably going to pay more per pound,” O’Neill said. “So if you do a little bit of the slicing and dicing yourself that will save you some money.”Taking a look at the price per ounce can also help shoppers determine whether to buy produce fresh, frozen or canned. Oftentimes, the best deal will depend on what’s in season.
- Pay with a credit card … as long as you plan to pay it off. O’Neill said as long as you pay your bill in full, buying groceries with a credit card – especially one with a good rewards program – can help consumers make money.
Overall, small changes to shopping habits can add up, O’Neill said, especially if the shopper puts the money they saved into a high-yield savings account or invests it.
“People need to fight back against inflation,” she said. “The more you can claw back savings in all your expense categories, the easier it’ll be to deal with all this inflation. Small steps matter.”
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