Do Rising Food Costs Change Your Buying Decisions?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  108 comments   :  20,648 Views

I am a creature of habit.  If you took a look in my grocery cart each week, you’d see many of the same foods- bread, produce, milk, cheese, etc.  I stick with the same foods and the same brands for a few reasons.  One is that I’m slightly lazy, and don’t like to take the time to comparison shop for the best deals.  My goal is to get through the store as quickly as possible (especially when my kids are with me), so once I find a brand I like, I stick with it.  Another reason is that once I find something my kids like (our sandwich bread, for instance), I don’t usually deviate from it for fear that I’ll hear: “This is different.  I don’t want to eat it.” 
I know there are things I could be doing to save money here and there, but I choose to cut back in other areas of our budget instead of on the food bill. I pay attention to sales and will stock up on things if they are a good price.  But honestly, I don’t pay a lot of attention to the regular price of the foods I buy.  I probably should, since the cost of items like ground beef, eggs and chicken has gone up significantly in the past year.  Have you noticed?  Has this trend affected what you’re putting in your grocery cart?
Although it’s still cheaper to eat at home rather than eating out, some of the foods with the biggest price increases were previously considered “budget-friendly”.  The average price across all foods went up 4.5 percent (compared to 2.9 percent over the past 30 years), which might not seem that bad.  What’s unusual (and tough on your wallet) is that many of the basic foods we buy on a weekly basis saw huge jumps in cost.  In 2011, the price of eggs, ground beef and milk each went up an average of 10 percent.    According to experts, "there are plenty of good reasons for the unusual increases. Bad weather was a factor in the cost of eggs; fewer animals in the pipeline and export demand made for more expensive beef, pork, and dairy. And record high prices for soybeans explains the high cost of cooking oil."
The USDA predicts that food prices will go up again in 2012, although not quite as much as last year.  This year’s heavy-hitters on your wallet are predicted to be beef and products made from wheat (due to high temperatures and low rainfall in the Great Plains.)  I know those changes are likely to increase my grocery bill. 

How do you handle rising food costs?  Do you cook more often instead of going out to save money?  Do you change what you buy at the store?  Do you cut back in other areas to compensate for the increases?  Does your diet suffer because of it?



Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
See More: news, trends, food, budget,
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!
NEXT ENTRY >   Tunes That Keep Me Moving and Grooving


  • 58
    I quit eating meat almost a year ago now and I almost always eat at home. I buy large frozen packs of tilapia, buy grains from bulk bins, eat dairy very sparingly and still manage to have delicious, exciting meals. It took a long time for me to learn to eat this way, but since I have, my grocery bill is literally about a third of what it used to be. Also, I go out with my partner every Friday for happy hour. We get appetizers for dinner or sushi, a couple of drinks and it's less than $30 for the whole thing. I feel grateful that I changed my eating habits before the prices skyrocketed. - 2/4/2012   12:57:53 PM
  • 57
    Agree with PINEGIRL10 - buying less meat and spending my money on what will nourish me and my family. Hard to let go of money on "stupid food". Don't get me wrong, I like a lot of "stupid food"! But as my cravings change and I see the wonderful results of eating healthy, I want to spend my budget on the good stuff and save the high calorie/high fat treats for special occasions. - 2/4/2012   12:42:33 PM
  • 56
    I've started buying powdered milk. Actually, I started buuying it when our fridge needed to be fixed last summer, but I've continued to buy it because it saves a lot of money. It doesn't cost a whole lot less per litre, but I don't have to drink it all in a week or two to beat the expiry date - a single bag lasts me a few months because I can drink it at my own pace, which is usually just half a cup a day in my cereal. - 2/4/2012   12:31:36 PM
  • 55
    I've stopped buying meat, and stopped buying canned goods. I limit my food choices. . and I don't eat as much fruit as I used to. I buy dried beans, grains, etc in the bulk section. I do buy fresh vegetables - cabbage and carrots usually. - 2/4/2012   12:20:40 PM
  • 54
    I am new to sparkpeople but this article really hit for me. My husband and I homestead and I write a blog about it
    m and rising cost of the food has been a big challenge for us. During the summers we grow a lot of our own fruit and vegetables and I can lots of those for winter but we still buy a lot of stuff at the grocery store and it is tough. Even the cost of things like flour and sugar have gone up. I make a lot of stuff we eat, like bread, from scratch and I have found that if you can take 5-10 minutes out of your day and cook some of the staples you can really save big. Canning tomatoes making soups and making bread have been big money savers. I use a bread machine, which doesn't make the prettiest loaves but does make them with minimal effort and time and they always taste good. My family's favorite is a simple oatmeal bread that cost a fraction per loaf of store bought bread and tastes way better without all the preservatives. Those things can be made at home and take very little time. I am really into saving time (and the number of dishes I have to wash). Thanks for the article! Very interesting. - 2/4/2012   12:19:40 PM
  • 53
    I have cut down a lot on both meat and processed food. I shop the sales and often buy store brands. I cook a lot from scratch--- it's not really that much more difficult and it really does save money. I buy most of my fruits and veggies at the co-op, because even though they are a little more expensive, they are organic, and I can buy just the amount we need so there's no waste. - 2/4/2012   11:34:03 AM
  • 52
    I go through the sales flyers and on internet for the ones that don't come here and try to only buy sales items. I am on a fixed income and cannot afford to buy things at the higher prices. I also will buy generic or store brands unless they are having a sale that will bring the name brands down to at or below the cost of the store brands. I usually buy bread at an outlet store for half what the groceries sell it for, but that has doubled in price, too. I thought Walmart and Target would have better prices, but Walmart Thursday was charging more than the other stores. Target had some closeouts that were a good price, so I got a couple of them.
    Unlike many of the people who go to farmers markets, I cannot find lower prices at them here. Mostly they are about twice as much. Last year I also found that produce in season cost more than that out of season. (Of course, it wasn't as good -- oranges imported from Chili were terrible and they continued to import the tomatoes instead of getting local, so they weren't any good). If they continue increasing prices I will be eating crackers or bread and water like a friend of mine is. - 2/4/2012   11:30:32 AM
  • 51
    I buy store brands whenever the quality is acceptable, raise a big garden and can and freeze fruits and vegetables for the winter months, rarely eat out, use very little prepackaged mixes, and cook from scratch. I have seen the price of almost every grocery store item climb steeply in the last few years and, like the story of the ant and the grasshopper, plan ahead. - 2/4/2012   11:19:38 AM
  • 50
    The price increases have hit us hard, but I too have learned the hidden cost of those "cheap" junk foods. We do have some processed foods in our diet, but what I do to save money is cook at home, and save leftovers for lunches and other meals. We also have soup night every week, which saves some serious money. It really is cheaper than eating out or picking up snacks, in more ways than just the wallet. I'm near my goal weight, and managing my fibromyalgia better than I would be otherwise in a very stressful time. - 2/4/2012   11:11:35 AM
  • 49
    I eat at home 98% of the time, only on a rare occation do I eat out. I can control what I eat. I still buy the same products even though the prices have gone up, I do buy store brands and use coupons. I lost 100lbs in 2004 and have been able to keep it off, no amount of eating out or going off my plan is worth gaining any weight back. The older I get the harder it becomes to keep my weight down. - 2/4/2012   11:11:25 AM
  • 48
    Food is one area where I spend freely. I refuse to go without something that is good for me. I will cut back in other areas before I cut the grocery budget. - 2/4/2012   11:10:10 AM
  • 47
    My food budget has actually helped me eat better. Of course, I watch for sale prices on my staples, and rely increasingly on frozen fruits & vegetables to avoid spoilage,

    But--and this is important--I have come to see a direct connection between may wallet and my health...! I REFUSE to waste my hard-earned dollars on junk food, fast food, or processed food with too many additives. That stuff just isn't good for me, and I refuse to buy or consume it if won't actually nurture and feed my body!

    While I've been eating a progressively better diet, teaching myself to cook more things, and trying new stuff, I'm actually spending less now than I did some years back, thanks to not throwing money away on things that used to seem comforting or indulgent. - 2/4/2012   11:07:28 AM
  • 46
    I buy my produce at the local farmers market for about 65% less than it cost at grocery stores. I always look for store brands & genetics of the foods we eat- 9 out of 10 times the ingredients & weight are identical to the name brand stuff & the store brands are cheaper. I shop @ Walmart because they will price match to any local grocery store adds, this has also saved me $. Still, I do not have the extra time to do couponing. I have a family of 4 normlly, however have taken in additional 3 family and it is difficult to feed us all on $150.00 a week. - 2/4/2012   10:56:38 AM
  • 45
    The other day I was going to the store to pick up a couple of things and found $20 worth of dented vegatable cans. We got 5 bags full. I usually eat a can of vegetables myself every day so thats gonna help. I am buying smaller cuts of meat to stay within my price range. It will probably save me money in the long run because I am not throwing away the left overs. I also do the beans and rice fillers to make most meals go farther.

    We are also thinking about getting a quarter of a freezer beef. - 2/4/2012   10:39:33 AM
  • 44
    I have noticed almost weekly increases in food and other items. I have just started a business in the past year and I am extremely sensitive to increases in the cost of food and other household items. I eat healthy. I am buying almost no meat. I try to buy local and in-season items. Lots of beans and grains in bulk. - 2/4/2012   10:27:04 AM
  • 43
    There is just two of us. I do like to watch for sales but the most important thing is to only buy what we can use before its gets thrown out. - 2/4/2012   10:14:25 AM
  • 42
    I bought a small used like-new freezer a couple of years ago for $75 and am amazed at how much I have saved with it. The cost of running it is minimal compared to the escalating food prices. I make many meals at once and freeze them, a big savings on the stove's energy. Plus I always have a quick company meal on hand. I buy large packs of meat, fish and fowl on sale and freeze in single portions. Lots of money saved with that little $75 freezer! - 2/4/2012   9:45:15 AM
    I still buy pretty much what I want in terms of "types" of food, but unless I really notice a difference, I am not real brand loyal. So, if I need something, and a particular brand is on sale, I will buy it over the brands that are not on sale. I always carry a calculator with me, so I can figure out which item is cheaper per ounce (helpful when mulitple sizes exist, or the different brands come in different sizes). HOWEVER, I find where I made changes is in how much fresh produce I buy. I am single, and found myself over-buying "bargain" prices on produce, but then finding them spoil before I could eat it. So, I am doing more "just in time" purchases on fresh produce and buying more realistic quantities. And, although I know you can freeze some items for later use, freezing doesn't really work for lettuce. :) - 2/4/2012   9:37:15 AM
  • 40
    I look for sales (there are sites on the internet- all you has one that lets you shop local sales by submitting the item you are looking for) and by in bulk when I can. Sam's Club often has great prices on chicken and boneless pork loin. When it goes on sale I buy a lot, then divide it up into freezer bags. Aldi's usually has milk and eggs cheap, so I go there for those. I try to plan my trip so I'm not driving all over- using gas defeats the purpose of saving on food. There are also good deals online like at I subscribe to blogs such as barginbrianna and commonsense with money that help me stretch my dollar. - 2/4/2012   9:07:28 AM
  • 39
    I live on a fixed income, so yes I definitely choose items on special, seasonal fruits and veggies. I often will switch to store brand due to lower cost.

    Dianne - 2/4/2012   9:04:21 AM
  • 38
    I definitely buy less beef and more eggs/chicken/pork for protein - plus more non-animal protein like beans and nuts. I splurge on fresh berries, though! - 2/4/2012   8:56:38 AM
  • 37
    I raised five children, so I've always been frugal, so nothing has changed for me in that department. I watch peoples' carts at the store and am still amazed at the junk food they buy. - 2/4/2012   8:54:18 AM
  • 36
    I joined a food co-op and because of buying in bulk, I am able to save on fresh, often local, organic produce. - 2/4/2012   8:27:19 AM
  • 35
    I check the weekly specials online for the 3 stores I pass on my way home and make my shopping list around what's on sale. There are certain items I always use and I'll check each store for an unadvertised special on those items. I stock up on brown rice when it's BOGO - 2/4/2012   7:55:04 AM
  • 34
    I've gone back to coupons. Stocking up when things are on sale. Less convenience foods, less eating out. Being vegetarian is already a money saver. Plus we don't drink milk or eat cheese. - 2/4/2012   7:50:33 AM
  • 33
    I plan my shopping around sales and coupons, stocking up on things we use when they're on sale. I refuse to purchase certain things -- meats, cereal, coffee -- unless there's a good sale, and then I buy enough to get us through to the next one. - 2/4/2012   7:39:16 AM
  • 32
    The rising costs of food have certainly had a big impact on our family...but not always in a negative way. For instance, we replaced sugared cereal with Malto Meal, Oatmeal, and Cream of Wheat. We now grow some of our herbs and vegtables and we joined a farmer's co-op to get still more fruit and vegtables which are fresher and don't contain chemicals. We do eat less meats - which is healthier in the long run. We have tried many of our store's brands of foods rather than spend for the national brands. - 2/4/2012   7:27:40 AM
  • 31
    Sales and coupon clips plus I am a member of BJ's and purchase some items there. Some things in larger sizes are a better price of course some are not. Just have to be careful and pay attention. Other than these three buying tricks I really don't do much else. I too have picky children and we proud ourselves in eating healthy so not much more that we could do. Oh wait, I plant a veggie garden in the spring/summer. But I live in NY so that option is seasonally. - 2/4/2012   7:18:55 AM
  • 30
    I've been noticing the prices of certain food items increasing lately. Nuts have gone up exponentially. So, the increasing prices have made me think twice about certain items I might buy. Whenever I see a sale, I stock up to save. - 2/4/2012   6:42:52 AM
  • 29
    I keep myself to a tight budget. I allot around $50 a week. If I plan to do a stock up sale, then I spend less on other groceries and use the extra money for stock up. For example this week they offered a meal deal. 6-7 lbs of 93% lean ground beef cost $27.37. But I got free 2 cans of tomato sauce, 1 can of kidney beans, chili spices, hamburger rolls 12 buns, liter of coke, 10oz bag of Lays chips, 1 can manwich. This left about $22.63 for things like eggs, bread, milk. I spent over $8.00 my budget this week but the things I bought will last 2 weeks so next week I should spend $8 less to keep within my budget. I have been cooking more, using coupons more, cutting back on everything to the bone. Establishing the stock up mentality has helped to ultimately cut costs. I buy mostly sale items because of it and can forgo the higher price because I can wait until the next sale. I double up savings by buying on sale and adding a coupon to it as well. One time I did get $300 of groceries for $100. I was stocking up and couponing with sales. This meant of course less trips that month to store since I still needed to stay within my budget. Fugality has always been a NEED not want in my life. - 2/4/2012   4:47:12 AM
  • STREO2004
    The prices of food, you are correct, the basics of what we all use weekly have gone through the roof. I still buy what my family prefers & what we find healthy for us, but I purchase a lot of sundry items @ Walgreens. Check their ads & the coupons in newspaper. Toothpaste, Shampoo's, NUTS, for $1, I'm talking 10oz Emerald Nuts- Jumbo Cashews- $1.25. We decided that $4.59 for 81% lean beef was toooo much for hamburger, so we have switched to ground turkey in most cases, saving $1.20 per lb. Lots we can do as beef is just going to continue to go up this year is the forecast. The turkey is much better for us anyway. Good Luck Everyone, work it is all I can say. I do now shop differently than in the past. - 2/4/2012   2:25:53 AM
  • 27
    The Spark menu planning and shopping list have helped tremendously. I eat much healthier and don't throw away as many spoiled foods. I've also stopped spending money on empty calorie high priced snack foods. Buying only what I need allows me to splurge on higher priced items I never used to purchase like all the different nut butters. - 2/3/2012   11:34:20 PM
  • 26
    Yes definitely noticed an increase in all foods.but i'm wanting to lost weight. so i buy the foods that i eat like organic bread,silk pure almond vanilla.thats only 90 cal. and its a lot healthier for me .i do use a lot of coupons - 2/3/2012   11:30:05 PM
  • 25
    I shop sales, especially for meat. Our meals are directed by what's on sale when I hit the store. I find I'm buying less organic produce, which makes me sad. Nutrition comes first, but within that I am very price conscious. The kids would be happy to live on mac and cheese, top ramen and white bagels, but that just ain't gonna happen. - 2/3/2012   11:08:57 PM
  • 24
    Rising food costs have actually forced us to eat healthier! We have a garden every year for fresh produce, we buy a big bag of popcorn and pop it either on the stove or in paper bags in the microwave,and we have incorporated more beans and fish into our diets. We joked for a while that with the cost of meat, we would soon be following a more mediterranean diet... now we are studying more on it!

    - 2/3/2012   10:21:33 PM
  • 23
    I think this high price of food has made me a much better consumer. I will not change our healthy food for prepackaged meals. I shop with our budget in mind. I am actually hoarding dried beans , levtils etc. When I use them i find measuring our serving is a bonus because there is leftover food to add to another meal. I plan to have some left over for future use. That saves time and money and we are eating healthier with portion control. Quality will not suffer but quantity can. Pat in Maine. - 2/3/2012   10:03:17 PM
  • 123ELAINE456
    The food prices here Oregon are out of sight. Im slowly changing my diet and what I buy and what I don't buy. We have this service for Senior Cititzens that delivers groceries once a week (they call us on tuesdays for our order and delivers our order to us on thursdays) Which helps out a lot. And on the other hand the shoppers pick anything they want(they dont pay any attention to prices, best buys etc. ) so it costs you a lot more than if you could do it yourself. Im home bound a good part of the time because of my health so it makes it very hard on me because of it. But when I can I stock up on food that is on sale, in bulk ect. Cannot wait until the fammers martkets open up that I can start freezing a lot in fruit and vegetables/ But this is some of the things I do to save money on food etc. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. - 2/3/2012   9:20:03 PM
  • 21
    I do a lot of shopping for staples at Walmart, also Aldi has very good prices. - 2/3/2012   9:16:20 PM
  • 20
    I've started doing my produce shopping at a farmers market to save on fruits , veggies, and eggs. I only eat a small amount of meat; a nearly vegetarian diet has saved me a lot of money. I do more cooking from scratch and pack lunches and snacks when I go to work. - 2/3/2012   8:42:04 PM
  • 19
    when I go grocery shopping I feel like crying and leaving the store because the prices are outrageous... at least here in California anyways. I find I am using less milk because it is $3.20 a gallon which I just can not afford. Cheese is through the roof so I avoid it as much as possible. I eat less meat and I only eat 1-2 meals a day if I am lucky because I can't afford the increases. I have a very strict food budget so I am constantly stocking up on pasta roni, rice a roni, hamburger helper, tuna helper, and pasta because I can find those items for $1.00 or less each. I buy hamburger in bulk like today I bought 5lb roll of hamburger meat for $15.00 and 2 weeks ago it was $11.00... $3.00 increase in 2 weeks seems crazy but it is happening more. I definitely compare prices and get the cheapest items I can... - 2/3/2012   8:25:43 PM
  • 18
    I have done a few things since costs have gone up and income has gone down. 1. Buy bulk: Rice, Beans (Mexican Market), Wheat Berries (Grind my own flour), Oatmeal, etc... 2. Think outside the box. If your favorite grain is Rice and the cost of Rice is going up, research other options you might like. It is healthy and fun! I discovered Quinoa last year and find it tastes good, excellent in a vegetarian dish because it is a complete protein and is filling. 3. I always try to make my own and freeze: Bread, Pet Food, Condiments, Sauces etc. You know whats in them and you can make the quantities you need. You can also buy dry beans pre-soak, cook and freeze in meal sizes. This is tons cheaper then canned and healthier too. 4. Menu planning. Reduces waste and impulse buys. 5. Subscribe: CSA (look it up) Organic veggies are great! Amazon also has a subscription service with free shipping. I get my vitamins through this.Best price. 6. Buy a part of an animal and split. 1/4 cow or 1/2 pig. You can save a ton on meat this way, plus get steak and other cuts you might never be able to afford otherwise. 7. Include more vegetarian meals in your diet. This was hard for our family, but we have been pleasantly surprised. We have breakfast for dinner one day a week and usually have a rice and bean dish as well. - 2/3/2012   7:39:15 PM
    I haven't felt the pinch yet, but I'm paying a lot more attention to sales, even cleaned out a few closet shelves so I can take advantage of case lot sales. Also, I'm reading labels carefully and refuse to spend money on junk food. - 2/3/2012   7:36:53 PM
  • 16
    Back when it was my kids and I, we could go through a gallon of milk a day easily. A difference of a dollar a gallon was significant, especially when the "allowed" price went up notably. I could save $7 - $10 a week just on milk just by shopping at a different store. (Since I was afoot, there were no extra fuel costs in doing so - just time.)

    From where I live now, there are two very close supermarkets, but both are somewhat specialty and have odd lacks (only carrying 4% cottage cheese, for example). The next closest is right smack dab in the middle of downtown on the first floor of a luxury apartment. Guess what prices there are like? The last two are bus rides away, but better selections at one and better prices at the other.

    I may have a bigger budget for food now, but that doesn't mean I willingly overpay. My diet suffers more from not having a wide selection of single-serving microwave meal recipes than food costs. - 2/3/2012   6:41:39 PM
  • 15
    I live within 2 miles of 4 different major supermarkets, plus Walgreens, CVS, and Wal-Mart. So I can do pretty good if I plan it well. I use coupons and shop the sales and map out my list by which store has the best prices. Since they are all so close and all on the same major road it's no big deal, but I do pity people who don't have so many options. But no. I haven't changed what I buy, just where I buy it. - 2/3/2012   6:00:34 PM
  • ANNEV2012
    I buy what's good for me and my family. I don't care about the cost. - 2/3/2012   5:59:02 PM
  • 13
    I think a big problem is that there is a lack of choice if you live in an urban setting. In my neighborhood, a long standing independent grocer is closing creating a "food desert" for many of the elderly and underprivileged folks in the community. They will have no choice but to trek out to one of the supermarket chains with higher prices for those on a limited income. Years ago I remember a Cosby show episode where the kids banded together with some elderly people to go on "strike" against the supermarket in their neighborhood that subjected them to price gouging and poor quality goods. I am lucky that I can shop where I please but for convenience sake I often shop at the market closest to me - and I can tell you from experience, compared to the suburbs, the cost is higher and the selection and quality often diminished. We as Americans need to know where our food is coming from and fight back against huge agribusiness that have a monopoly on the marketplace. We need to support local, small growers when possible, and boycott the big chains when necessary. There are dozens of former Monsanto employees holding high ranking positions within the federal government agencies that control how food is labeled, priced, and sold to Americans. Do you really think they are not going to be biased? We need to have more transparency in our food chain.
    - 2/3/2012   5:15:13 PM
  • 12
    Since I use meat as a 'condiment' more than as the main attraction, I've not felt the pinch too much, and since I get 90% of my meat from local farms, the price change hasn't been as drastic. Same with eggs. Dairy (like Gk. yogurt) is where I've seen the biggest increase, and where I've made the biggest changes.

    I'm looking into making my own yogurt then straining it to approximate Gk. Found a site that discusses making it in the crockpot. That would simplify a LOT of things! Keeping my fingers crossed. That's an experiment for two weeks from now. - 2/3/2012   4:52:40 PM
  • 11
    This month, I have started to buy meat packs (I'm picking up my first one today). The butcher has many different packs with a variety of meats at decent prices. I expect the one I'm getting today to last us (family of 2) for 2 - 3 months. So all I have to get are the other basics to compliment the meals and the items I use often like rice, I buy in bulk. My goal each month is to keep my grocery bill below $250 and so far, I've been doing a good job. - 2/3/2012   4:46:32 PM
  • 10
    I like to buy things that are staples, rice and beans and then produce that is versatile and will make a variety of dishes (carrots, celery, cabbage, peppers. I usually eat oatmeal for breakfast that I can find on sale with coupons and flavor it myself. - 2/3/2012   3:50:56 PM
  • 9
    I switched to all organic, Paleo-friendly food at the beginning of December. My husband balked initially, because he was afraid our grocery bill would go through the roof. Instead, even though we shop almost exclusively at Whole Foods, our grocery bill has gone DOWN, because we're not wasting money on processed crap anymore. - 2/3/2012   3:45:56 PM

Please Log In To Leave A Comment:    Log in now ›