6 Ways to Combat Rising Food Costs

By , SparkPeople Blogger

This summer was hot, with temperatures averaging in the 90s for months here in Cincinnati with no rain for weeks on end. The heat took its toll: Gardens wilted, fields dried up, and farmers struggled. With summer fading fast, you might think that the worst is behind us, but a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests otherwise. The drought that plagued much of the country this summer will mean higher food costs for all of us in the next year. While it's still too soon to say exactly how much the costs of specific foods will rise, the effects will be seen as early as this fall.

According to the USDA, the first price increases will be seen in beef, pork, poultry, and dairy--especially milk--in the next couple of months. In 10 to 12 months, we'll see the prices of processed grain products rise. Retail food prices rise on average between 2.5-3% a year due to inflation, and next year that increase will be between 3-4%. That means your gallon of milk that cost $3.43 in July, according to the Consumer Price Index, could cost 10 to 13 cents more next year. If you bought a gallon a week, that would add up to an extra $6.76 a year.

The good news is that those increases should be mostly in a few areas. The bad news is that those sharper increases are in foods most of us eat quite often--and they're the foods that already are costly: eggs, meat, and dairy. Rather than dwell on the negative, let's focus on finding ways to combat those rising costs while still enjoying the foods you like.

1. Portion control. This helps both your waistline and your bottom line. A pound of meat yields four adult-size servings, or four ounces raw and approximately 3 ounces cooked. One egg is one serving. And a cup of milk (8 fluid ounces) is a serving. By measuring your foods and eating smaller amounts, while supplementing with less costly items, you'll stretch your food dollars. Read more: 4 Ways to Stretch the Meat

2. Forgo convenience foods. Frozen pizzas, canned soups, and other ready-to-eat foods are convenient, but they come at a price. You will save money and cut back on sodium, sugar and fat by making your own at home. Learn more: Create Your Own Frozen Dinners

3. Eat less meat. Skip the meat in favor of less expensive plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, or tofu a few meals a week. Learn more ways to and add meatless protein.


4. Shop with a list. Every food dollar matters more than ever, so now is the time to cut back on impulse purchases. Make a list, plan your meals ahead of time, consult the sales fliers, and clip coupons. Tell everyone in the family: If it's not on the list, it's not going in the cart. Read more: 4 Steps to Plan Meals and a Healthy Grocery List

5. Buy in bulk. Smaller packages cost more per unit, so buy big and repack food at home to save money. Buy a gallon of milk and freeze half, choose family-size packages of meat, or opt for the larger blocks of cheese. For items such as nuts, flours, and dried fruit, shop the bulk bins so you can get as much or as little as you need. You're not paying for marketing and packaging costs, so the bulk items are cheaper. No matter what you stock up on, just be sure it doesn't go to waste. Cook it, freeze it, or share it.

6. Speaking of which... waste less food. Did you know that 19% of what goes into landfills is food scraps? Put your leftovers to work. If you can't eat them within a couple of days, freeze them (and label them). Get into the habit of eating dinner leftovers for lunch the next day. And have a casserole night, like I do. Every Friday night, turn the odds and ends from our fridge into dinner. Usually we have a grain or two, several kinds of veggies, and assorted proteins. I pick a theme, mix it together and top it with a sauce. Last week we had a quinoa and lentil dish with roasted broccolini and eggplant, which I served with a quick lemon vinaigrette.

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How are you keeping food costs low?

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LIS193 3/21/2020
Great article Report
KHALIA2 2/13/2020
Great Article! Thanks for sharing!!!! Report
I buy in bulk and freeze it in smaller packages. Report
Plant a garden! Not only will you get food, but you'll also get exercise! Report
Grow your own greens, tomato, garlic, herbs. Learn to make spaghetti red sauce and use a scanner to store it. Pick apples and make applesauce, a great family activity, and can it to store. Canning is very rewarding. Report
great tips Report
Thank you for these great tips! Report
It can be expensive one after shopping cart is full of produce Report
Learning how to preserve foods is also a good way to cut costs (and it’s healthier than most commercially produced preserves). Homemade pickles and jams are relatively easy to make and great for cutting back on salt and sugar. Blanching and freezing or simply canning vegetables and fruit or berries is another cost saver. Yes, it’s quite a bit of work, but worth it in the long run.

I also find that older recipes (Depression Era, for example) are cheaper to make because they usually use common ingredients that are in most pantries and don’t require special trips to the store.

Making large batches and freezing half is also cost effective (and time saving). One pound of ground meat can go a LONG way if veggies and beans are added to the dish.

Leftovers can also make great homemade soups that are healthy and filling.

We can learn a lot about frugal cooking from our grandparents. Report
This is a great article....................Thank You. Report
I also find shopping at Aldi helps the budget as much as any of these tips. Report
These are all great ideas Report
Groceries are a costly necessity. Having kids in the home makes it so hard for some of us to diet. Report
Missed a big one: Grow your own food! Growing vegetables is not hard and even a tiny garden plot can yield substantial savings in food. Report
Thanks for this article and the tips included in it. Report
My food scraps go to the chickens. When the veggies start to look dicey but not rotten, we get to enjoy them second hand through the eggs. Report
Participate in a food co-op. I have done so for about a year now and was able to cut my food budget with this. My co-op is mainly for fresh fruits and veggies, but they occasionally offer things like organic EVOO or raw honey in bulk quantities for so much less than retail. Report
Such a scary thought when you're feeding 6 people on average and use nearly 3 gallons of milk a week without taking anything else in to consideration even. Report
I find that making menus for the week helps me save money and I only buy what I need instead of just grabbing anything
which always use to mean having junk for snacks instead of healthy stuff now I can plan healthy meals and snacks and spend less money !!!! Report
These tips are helpful to my wallet and my waistline!! Report
It seems that no matter what, prices will always go up. Report
I also use all those strategies to save money except eating more beans (can't stand them). I also grow my own tomatoes in the summer, and some strawberries (not enough of those). We have planted several fruit trees and I look forward to their bounty soon. Also, using my bread machine all the time saves me 2/3 of the cost of bread and I can add extra fiber and whole grains. Report
I have been living by many your suggestions for years. I feed myself and my mentally challenged brother who is also diabetic. Meat is essential in his diet since plant protein also drags along carbs which don't always work in his diet. I am fortunate to live in a rural area where I can have vegetable gardens. We are self sustaining with the vegetables I can and freeze every fall.

Enjoyed reading the article however. I have been buying meat for a few months now and freezing in meal portions. Only buy if it is on sale and then in quantity. The only thing we usually don't buy on sale is milk and eggs as they rarely go on sale.

At this point we are stocked for at least 6 months. I make all our bread and have many cloned recipes for things like creamed soups for making casseroles. Homemade TV dinners are always in the freezer and we do many times eat left over meat in the same week but made into something different.

It all works but does take time to plan. I do a monthly menu and except for a couple of things that we really like or leftovers we don't eat the same meal twice in a month.

Even 40 plus years ago when both my husband and I worked and were bringing up a family we ate much the same way. No packaged food all cooked from scratch. It is a way of life for me as it is the way I grew up as a child. Report
Shop in different aisles---For example in the Mexican aisle you can find WAY CHEAPER vanilla extract the alcohol content is a bit higher but I find that intensifies the flavor more (next best thing to buying the delicious yet SUPER EXPENSIVE vanilla bean) Also check out the rice cakes and cookies they have in this aisle (sometimes there is an Asian/International food aisle too and I'm talking about like an ACME or even Food Lion) if you want to treat the family to some sweets. For nuts PRICE CHECK. Nuts are usually in two places at a store in the baking aisle and next to the produce. Sometimes the nuts in the baking aisle are cheaper sometimes its the nuts next to the fruit it really depends on the nut and the season. For example during the Summer Pecans are cheaper in the baking aisle because not many people make pecan pie in the Summer.

Also LOTS of people are opposed to not eating meat. I get it. I have iron based anemia I NEED RED MEAT. PERIOD. BUT that being said I love Meatless Mondays! There are loads of ways to get lots of nutrients and sometimes this is not about saving money but just because its something you should do for your environment and your health. Also when buying beef if at all possible BUY LOCAL. Please support your local farmers they have a hard enough time competing with the corporate giant farms and they could use the support or your community to help keep it a community and not a toxic waste land of golf courses or w/e crap the developers move in. Buying a cow from a farm sounds like a lot of meat. IT is. BUT share with four of your neighbors and invest in a freezer you will have enough meat to feed a family of four beef 2 nights a week for 6 months. You can do the same thing with pigs, sheep, turkey, ducks, and chickens. If you know 4 people you can really reign in you meat budget. Also not listed on there and unfortunately not an option for me anymore as I have moved far too inland but take the family fishing on Saturdays. You will be surprised.

So there you have it a long winded list of ways to control your meat, nut, and sweets budget. Report
These are great tips for the most part (and for most people), but as one person said, it is hard to buy in bulk for single people. Fortunately, I have a freezer because I used to feed my dogs by the raw feeding method, but whenever I get it very full the freezer starts dying.

As for reducing meat and getting your protein from sources like beans, there are many who cannot eat things like beans and soy. I can eat several nuts, but those cost a lot more than meat. So what is a person supposed to do who can't eat those plant-based proteins? Or rice and pasta because of the high carbohydrates in them? There always seems to be a way to lower the food bill, but for many people it is NOT a healthy way to eat since they cannot eat the cheaper things. Report
I am doing fine not eating meat, eggs and hardly any dairy... Report
I'm seeing quite a few people seemingly upset about the idea of eating less meat. For my family, it became a necessity about a year ago. We do eat less meat and more lentils and beans with rice because that makes a complete protein. We stay away from junk food (unless you consider popcorn junky) and pre-made foods. I'm grateful for fall and the fact that we have a number of friends who eat a lot of junk food and leave all the really expensive fruits on their trees to us (yay!). If you're upset about cutting back on meat, don't do it, but don't knock it either. For those with growing teenagers and a paycheque that hasn't grown in five years, it might be necessary. At one point we went four months without a single bit of meat - and we're healthier than most people we know. Believe me: after you get used to it, it's not bad, it's just part of your life. It won't be like this forever. That's a fact. Ha! Who knows? If you have to go more vegetarian, you just might decide you like it better. LOL.

For single people - if you have single friends you can trust, buy bulk together then split and freeze your portion.

Also for meat for families - see if you can find a nearby college with meat-cutting courses. Often you can get a quarter of beef or side of pork butchered and cut fresh from the farm for way less than even a bulk-food store. I used to do that too until they stopped the courses at the college. Report
We always plan on left overs for at least 1 of not 2 meals a week.

I heard the news last night report that milk could be as much as $6 a gallon before year end - government subsidies to dairy farmers apparently expired yesterday (I think that is the date they said) so the tax dollars we pay for subsidies will no longer go to help sustain food production, however you will notice that what we pay in taxes to the government will not go down either - they will just find new ways to spend our money - probably give it to people who don't do anything but live off the government. To clarify I do not mean the dairy farmers were getting a free lunch either - they have a job and work hard- I mean those who don't do anything but live off the government and play the free lunch system - ie. welfare! (now stepping off soapbox about "free lunch" recipients).
Not my intention to offend anyone, just wish eyes were opened to where some of our tax dollars go. Report
your tips might be useful for a family but have little to offer a single person. As buying in bulk usual means wasting food for us, as things go bad long before we have a chance to use them. And standard just freeze it doesn't work unless you have more than the top of your small apartment size fridge to freeze in. Report
So two of the six answers are simply eat less. Are we back to WWII rationing? Will hoarding food be next? Now shop with a list [and stick to it] I agree with. Quit throwing food away, that I agree with. Report
I've been learning recently how to make my own stuff like peanut butter. Super easy and its cheaper. I feed my boyfriend and me on a very small food budget and there are times when at the end of the month were living off bulk pasta and sauces. Report
Eat less and eat lower quality? I think not. My portions are already good and I'm not meaning to "eat less meat" to save a dollar. Shopping with a list is a great idea. Also, pay attention to house brands, they are lower priced then national brands and often made with the same ingredients: I noticed this first with cocoa powder. Report
I solved the meat problem but I live in a very rural area. I'm hunting for deer and elk -- 400 pounds of deer & elk meat, $95 for tags and 50 cents per pound for butcher equals meat that will last a year (more with the elk added), is grain-fed, no extraneous chemicals, lean meat and equals about 75 cents per pound. But like I said, I can hunt just walking a wee bit down the gravel road next to my home. I live in a picture-book town of 400. Wish the weather had not damaged the garden -- I'd be all set. Report
My busy life lends itself to lots of crockpot cooking, so I already use less meats in those dishes. Also most Asian recipes use meat as a flavoring rather than the main event. I'll stick with the soups and stews and stirfrys to stretch my grocery dollars. Report
Great article...good to know I'm already doing a lot of these. :-) Report
Good blog. Being from the Deep South, I'm used to cooking beans, peas, and lentils. I use a little salt pork or lean ham, but they're just as good without. Just remember to add love to anything you make. Report
Meat, eggs, dairy, then processed grain foods? Looks like I'll be fine. I eat a whole foods, plant-based diet. :) Report
good tips Report
Very Good. Many positive things to try. Thanks. Report
Great tips! Thanks for sharing. Report
I have tried to scale down my cooking. We do have a leftover night most weeks. I also have put the extra into the freezer. Also when I want melon, my family does not enjoy this so I share the melon with a friend so it does not go to waste. This is a great article. Report
I never cook more than we eat at one meal as I don't like to reheat food. Report
I stopped eating left overs for lunch to stop weight gain. I freeze left overs for another dinner.

Great article.