9 ways to keep your food budget in check as inflation rises
As the cost of food rises, it can be tough to keep your grocery budget in check. But with a little organization and foresight, you can ensure that your budget stays on track.
It's no secret that food prices have been rising recently. For example, in Ireland, food prices increased by 3.50% in April of 2022 compared to the previous year's same month. This is part of a broader inflation trend, with overall prices rising by 7%.
Several factors are driving these price increases. One is the rising cost of food production due to climate change, energy prices and the increasing global demand for food. Second, Brexit didn't help, which makes imported food more expensive. Third, the ongoing war is detrimental to people and the food chain. And finally, there's simply the fundamental law of supply and demand: prices go up as more people want to buy food.
Whatever the reasons, higher food prices are a reality that we're all going to have to deal with. Luckily, there are some things we can do to help offset the impact on our budgets. For example, we can grow our food, buy in bulk, or shop around for deals. But, whatever we do, we must be mindful that food costs will only go up.
Here are nine tips to help you stay within your budget despite rising inflation rates.
1 Have a grocery budget
If you're concerned about the cost of groceries, it may be helpful to develop a food spending plan. You can understand how your spending compares with suggested averages by comparing your budget with the Household budget survey. For example, the HBS estimates weekly food spending for a household in Ireland is €117.18. However, remember that these numbers are just averages - some families may spend more or less depending on their circumstances. In addition, the cost of groceries can vary depending on where you live and the time of year. So, if you're trying to save money on groceries, it's essential to be mindful of these factors and adjust your budget accordingly.
2 Be open to more cost-effective foods
With the cost of groceries constantly rising, it's essential to be mindful of what you're buying. Opt for cost-effective foods that will stretch your budget further. Meat prices are among the most expensive food items due to inflation. Having meat-free meals is one way to cut back on grocery costs. Build meals around low-cost staples such as rice, dried or canned foods, potatoes and eggs. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables often cost less than fresh. Swap name-brand products for generic versions can help save even more. With a bit of planning, you can make your grocery budget go a lot further.
3 Meal Plan
Meal planning is a great way to save time and money. By meal planning, you can ensure you have all the ingredients you need on hand, and you can avoid impulse shopping or relying on takeout during the week. Instead, search for recipes that use ingredients you already have at home or plan meals using your grocery store's weekly sales flier to save even more. Then, stick with your list, and try going to the grocery store on a full stomach to avoid tempting impulse buys. Plus, you'll likely end up with leftovers that can be repurposed into future meals, saving time and money. With some meal planning, you'll be surprised at how much money you can save.
4 Take inventory of your pantry
An extra step to saving money and eating healthier is to meal plan each week. This involves taking inventory of what you have in the pantry and fridge and searching for recipes that use those ingredients. So if you're looking to save some cash and eat better, try to see what you have at home already.
5 Compare prices
Comparison shopping is a great way to save money on groceries. When you compare the price of grocery products by weight, you can quickly see which option is the best value. For example, if you're looking at two bags of rice, one that costs €5 and one that costs €10, you might assume that the more expensive bag is twice as big. However, if you check the weight, you might find that the €10 bag is a better value because it's twice as big.
6. Buy in bulk
Bulk shopping can also help you save by buying from stores, such as beans, canned goods, and pulses. When you buy in bulk, you can often get a better price per unit than purchasing the same products individually. So, next time you're at the store, take a few minutes to compare costs and see how much you can save.
7 Come prepared
Going to the supermarket without a game plan sets you up for failure. Without a grocery list, you'll forget half the things you need and spend twice as much money as you intended. And if you have no idea what you'll make for dinner, you'll either end up eating out or eating something boring that you already have in your pantry. So to save time, money, and hassle, it's always best to come prepared. Make a list of everything you need and have a few meal ideas in mind before you even step foot in the store. Then, you can stick to your budget, eat healthily, and avoid those dreaded last-minute trips to the supermarket.
8 Shop the seasons
Seasonal food is, by definition, produce harvested during a specific time of year. Seasonality varies by region, but generally, fruits and vegetables are at their peak ripeness and flavour when they are in season. Seasonal food is also typically more affordable than non-seasonal produce since it does not have to be shipped from far away. There are many ways to enjoy seasonal food, but one of the best ways is to shop the seasons. Seasonal produce can often be found at farmers' markets or in the produce section of your local grocery store. By taking advantage of seasonal offerings, you can enjoy fresh, delicious food at a fraction of the cost.
9 Reduce food waste
Food waste is a huge problem in Ireland. Every year, Irish households throw out €700 worth of food yearly!. That's a lot of money! And it's not just the financial cost that we need to worry about. Food waste also has a substantial environmental impact. For example, food rots in landfills emit methane, contributing to climate change. So what can we do about this problem? The good news is that we can help reduce food waste in our homes. A straightforward way is to plan our meals in advance and only buy the ingredients we need. This will help us avoid overspending and prevent perfectly good food from going to waste.
Food prices are rising, but that doesn't mean you have to break the bank to eat well. By being smart about your grocery shopping and planning, you can ensure that your budget stays in check. I'll be sharing more money-saving tips with you soon, so stay tuned! In the meantime, apply these tips and keep your grocery budget under control.