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Do Rising Food Costs Change Your Buying Decisions?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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?



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We plant a garden and do a lot of canning and freezing so veggies, sauces and jams are available all year. Fortunately, my son and daughter-in-law gave us a side of beef for Christmas. Freezers are full. But the fresh veggies and fruit is still so expensive. Be sure to use up those fresh items first if you have them, then eat from the freezer until it is time to shop again.
I just subscribed to All You magazine for all the coupons so I am going to learn how to utilize more of those.
There were a lot of great ideas in the comments here that I also will use. Report
We joined a food co-op about a year ago called Bountiful Baskets, it is in several states. For just $15 you receive two regular laundry baskets full several produce items most of are items we eat all the time and there are some new even strange items but we raised our kids to always try new things and they are doing the same with our grand children so everyone is always excited to taste any new fruits or vegetables that we receive.
As for packaged food from the store read the label you may find the store brands to be healthier. I found store brand bread that listed only five ingredients that’s 5 ingredients that I have in my own kitchen. Best of all my family loves the bread and is made locally.
Instead of nitrate loaded processed meat I like to buy an inexpensive bone-less roast or turkey breast, I roast it in my slow cooker on the weekend, and freeze anything I can’t use within three days. The meat is good for everything from sandwiches, tacos and wraps to stir fries and soup. However, check those turkey breasts for nitrates and sodium. I have also done the same with whole chickens and turkeys in the oven.
Lots of good information and idea sharing here. I too cook a lot at home, I love it. I keep a variety of home made soups in the freezer for my lunches during the week, plus a few larger containers for quick dinners. Also for those who like humus, I make my own usually with a half pound of garbanzos, so I have a lot and IT FREEZES too! One of my favorite grocery store tricks is to buy spinach and baby greens off of the salad bar selection. What would cost over $4 for prepackaged 5oz. of spinach, you can get a container off the bar for under $2. Report
The price of groceries have gone up so much that sometimes its actually cheaper to eat out. The only problem with eating out is it doesn't really cater to healthy eating. Most of their so-called healthy food still has way more calories and carbs then it would if you made it at home. The best alternative for fruits and vegetables would be to visit your local farmers market and even they aren't as reasonable as they used to be. Report
As much as I shop around I still read labels. Not only do I look for deals I also look at the amount of sugar and sodium.

It seams to be the general rule that store brands usually (not always) carry an exorbitant amount of sodium in them......Sometimes as much as twice the amount of national brands. Packaged/convenience foods are full of sodium, fat or chemical to preserve them....Nitrates, nitrites. (not your friend)

At another time of my life I used to eat packages/cups of noodles. During the last couple of years I have stopped eating them. One package/cup of noodles can have in excess of 3000 mg of sodium. That's more than your daily allowance.

Be well.

I have noticed prices are higher, which causes me to price shop more than I ever have before. My husband usually does the price checking. I just buy what I like. Report
I haven't noticed. I only buy about a gallon of milk a month and rarely buy eggs (hubby can't stand the smell of cooked eggs) or beef. Those items are such a small part of the total bill, that I don't usually pay attention to price. I haven't noticed any increase in chicken price--it seems to be on sale often enough that I just buy extra when its on sale and freeze it. Report
great work guys!!!!! Report
I have noticed the prices increase in milk for sure. Milk is ridiculously expensive and when your household goes through a gallon a day, it's a huge burden on the ol' checkbook.

To get around the cost of beef, we don't buy it. My husband enjoys hunting deer and typically gets at least one a year which is enough red meat for our family for the year. If we have a hankering for beef, we raid my mom's freezer because my step-dad happens to be a beef producer and has a ton of frozen beef.

Eggs are a burden for us too. They've gotten expensive! I've started only buying them at certain stores to keep the costs low. My husband and I go through a minimum of 30 eggs a week because we eat boiled eggs for breakfast. Report
We mostly eat at home and bring lunches often. We buy in bulk at Sam's, especially meat, fruit, produce. I'm trying to learn to eat beans, and desire to cut our meat consumption, so this is a great time to find more bean recipes. I plan on beginning a meatless meal once a week soon. Mainly, I cook simply. I love crockpot meals, soups, etc loaded with veggies and lean meat. I'm glad we've gotten away from ground beef/beef in general. Report
I don't buy name brands unless they are on sale & I have a coupon. I shop mainly at grocery stores where I have to do the bagging as the grocery prices are lower for many of the staples I buy. I also try to shop only 1-2 a month - so I have less opportunity to impulse shop. Report
I've cut back a great deal. I don't go in the store as often as I used to. Unless it's milk or eggs we just do without until my next shopping day. I also try to use up whatever I have even if it means making a surprise meal or two. It's really sad and once my son is an adult I will probable cut back on even more items especially meat. Report
We are eating more beans for protein. We buy whatever form of dairy is marked down for quick sale, yogurt, milk, etc. We go by the store at least every other day to see what is marked down for quick sale. Report
To save money, I've been avoiding more complicated recipes in cookbooks which often require new, expensive ingredients. Instead, I've been cooking more simply (and often using my own creativity), with a base of vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts. Most weeks I can pick up what I need at the farmer's market and skip the supermarkets all together. Also, trying to save money has helped me eat much more healthy - skipping the fancy ice creams, cheese, baked goods, etc. Report
Food prices have definitely been changing the way I eat. I've ditched store-bought bread and prepared tubs of hummus and now make my own. I've been learning about what edible wild plants grow in my region, and harvesting them. Report
We do a lot of cooking and have been working on more and more vegetarian meals, which definitely cuts down on cost. Since we have been cutting back on portions, that has had a big positive effect. I take leftovers to work for lunch. We feel it more when the kids are home from school and we are trying to please multiple appetites and higher metabolisms. Report
I'm a vegetarian, but I am really getting hit by the price of milk for the kids, as well as all the other dairy products we eat.

I've had to end up buying less food each week in order to stay to the same $ figure, and I've had to be more savvy with my purchases, comparing prices, looking for BOGOs, buying in bulk rather than the more convenient kid lunchbox serving sizes.

I go to the farmer's market but not to save money - I spend about the same amount as in the grocery store, but I get much better food. Plus they have local honey, which is good for allergies, and local salsa which is good for everything :-D Report
I'm also a gardener. My husband and I built a small hoop house in early November and I've been growing lettuce and spinach all winter here in Kansas. If we had built it earlier in the fall, I could have harvested more. This hoop house consists of 3 cattle panels placed side by side and then bent to make a tunnel, and 6 mil plastic covering it. Very simple design, but it gets the job done! Next winter I don't plan on buying any lettuce during the winter. We'll have regular garden veggies this spring and summer to can and freeze for next winter, too. Report
10% increase ??? A month ago, I went to my usual grocery store and bought eggs for $1.19 per dozen. Two days ago they were 1.81. Every week I get the ads that come with the mail delivery and compare sale prices. I have 4 major food stores around me so I make a list for each store. Sometimes with coupons, BOGO's, and special sales using customer loyalty card... I have saved as much as $50 off regular prices. When items like milk is on sale, I buy 2 to 3 gallons and put them in the freezer. When the milk runs out, I don't have to go spend $3.29, I just pull out the milk I bought at $1.97. I also shop Sam's Club for bulk sizes and separate them in freezer bags. It sounds like a lot to do but when you are on a fixed income that has to feed 3, you cut corners where you can. Report
Since the New Year, I have not bought any meat, and have only bought 2 dozen eggs and 2 gallons of milk. I made the decision to go vegetarian in the past few weeks, and have noticed a dramatic DECREASE in the last month's food budget. Instead of purchasing a lot of animal-products (which are the majority of the foods you mention that are becoming more costly), I've been spending money on buying nearly ALL organic, and purchasing from the bulk bins with whatever is available.

I think the greatest way for all of us to cut back in food-budgeting as prices increase is to focus more on quality vegetables and grains (which, the more people who prioritize organic/quality food, the more production of it there will be, and the more likely it is for costs to decrease over the long-term), and use high quality animal products in small quantities, rather than buying cheaper, lower-grade products to make up a large proportion of every month's grocery bills. Report
The cost of food does affect how I buy it. i rarely buy name brand canned foods unless I have extra to spare. I sub beans, cheese and nut for meat sometimes. I shop at our local discounted store. Some of the cans of foods may be dented (I am careful) They have some deals on cereal, milk, eggs you name it. I do try to buy fresh fruits and veggies when possible. I have found out that Buying frozen last longer than fresh at least to me. We brought a small freezer...hopefully this summer my hubbie and I can plant the garden that has been in the works for years. LOL! Report
I try to reduce waste as much as I can by buying only what I need and no more. If food spoils in my fridge, I feel like I've wasted money. Report
I switched to the discount store, which is affiliated with the high end store I used to shop at, so a lot of the store brand products are identical, but cost less. I still have to go to the high end store to buy a couple of things...some other things I have found substitutes for, and I have cut my grocery bill IN HALF. Report
We shop at Sam's Club, a LOT, because my honey is one of the butcher's there, so I know we are getting good, quality meat. They also routinely have turkey and chicken on sale, and it is so easy to stock up and freeze it! Report
It has gone up a lot! We have increased our food budget this year. We took money from our "entertainment" budget. Each week we make a fancy meal together (Last week was carmelized shallots over veal...188 calories!!!) and this does boost up our grocery bill but it makes it seem worth it rather than another belt tightening measure. Report
We shop at one of the cheapest stores in terms of prices not quality food. We are bargin hunters, always looking for deals. We don't spend a lot of money, so our luxury so to speak is our food.
My husband plants a large garden and we put away food. That keeps us from having to buy lots of veggies. I put away frozen green beans, I can tomatoes, I freeze zucchini and yellow squash, also green peppers. That helps us a lot during the winter months when the garden is barren. Since there are only two of us we don't have to buy too much. Our biggst expense is the protein. We buy in bulk and then put it in smaller packages at home. I tend to buy store brands to cut down on cost. Report
Food costs have risen in Canada as well. Eating plenty of fresh foods is a family tradition I follow and really believe for taste and health reasons. Therefore, I am not ready to cut on my costs for groceries and fruit and veggies. I have chosen to cut down on restaurants and other types of outings. Now that I cook for the whole week on Sunday's it is even easier to balance my budget in that area. Report
We actually started participating in a CSA and then on top of that we go meatless about 4 to 5 times a week so our expenses are actually much lower now than a few years ago! Pretty Cool! Report
Food prices have gone up so sharply and steeply that at almost every visit to the grocery store, I'm knocked off my tootsies by sticker shock. But I still buy mostly from around the perimeter of the grocery store, as mindful of sales as ever... Report
I am a vegetarian and my husband is not, our daughter doesn't like spicy things but my husband and I do. As a result there are very often three seperate meals cook or prepared for each meal. Having said that you would think we spend a lot of money on meals. Not true! We always try to buy local produce at farmers market which is inexpensive. We are very lucky to have friends and neighbors who exchange foods with us. If there is a buy one get one free item at the store and I know we won't finish both before they go bad we give the second item to someone. We get lots of produce from our friends gardens overflow. I can't say enough about dry beans which are inexpensive and make plenty of meals. Before you say "but you only have three to feed". I was a single mother with 4 children for quite a while, I once fed everyone with 53 cents! How? 3 packages of ramen noodles, 1/2 a squash, 1/2 a zucchini, small can of mushrooms and a bit of scallions. Sauteed the veggies, made the noodles and tossed together. They loved it! Report
Most convenience foods at this house are a thing of the past. Now days, I find, I cook more from scratch. Thank goodness, I love to cook! What I save on convenience foods I spend on basics and organics, plus the vegetable garden has doubled in size in the last couple of years. We're eating healthier. But.....I would prefer to find that happy point in the middle of the road.....a part-time job that adds a little to the household income, yet allows time for healthy cooking. Report
I have stopped buying beans in the can. I buy dried bulk now, cook up a batch plain, freeze what I do not use in handy sizes, and cook whatever the recipe calls for. I just laugh at the cost of hummus; making it at home is so easy and cheap. There are loads of "cheap but good" recipes here on SP. My husband and I enjoy eating well at home. We can share a really nice wine with our inexpensive, tasty dinner. If we must adjust for the bad economy, let us find a way to remember that living simple can be full of enjoyment. Report
I am always looking at the sale ads. We try to eat as healthy as possible but sometimes the good fruits/vegies are so expensive. We try to make a huge salad each week and add things to it to make it a meal. We almost always just eat chicken or turkey burger meat as our meats. We also catch our own fish so that is another source of protein. But of course, not at this time of year! We freeze as much fish as we can.

We also eat beans 1 or 2x a month - adding ham pieces as a seasoning. My daughter works at KFC and she brings home left over chicken sometimes - we will debone that and use the meat in our chicken soup or stir fries or salads.

We limit ourselves to eating out on special occasions or I may have to run through the $ menu once in a while because of eating on the run with my father's dr appointments. Report
Rising food costs cause me to eat less, less often, and cut out whatever went up. I can hardly survive now - I PRAY that I don't wind up back where I was due to a diet of Ramen noodles twice a day - for months at a time. I am desperately struggling to survive. I ONLY buy what is on sale, if I have a coupon too. I look for broken packages etc. I am in desperate need of financial help. Report
Definitely think about what I'm purchasing, and never eat out, always cook at home. Prefer it that way. Report
I know a lot of folk don't hunt but venison is healthier than beef, less fat and no added hormones. It's completely free range and you burn calories procuring it. Report
Price has definitely affected my choices...mainly in that I wait for items to go on sale. But, I've also tried--and liked-- some foods that were on sale that I wouldn't have purchased in the past. Report
I have changed my shopping habits but this is not due to the higher cost. It is because of our health. For instance, I spen more on meats, chicken, lamb because I buy at a butcher who only sells non medicated meats and they contain no nitrates. I do not buy canned corn, peas or mixed vegies either. We eat only frozen or fresh so my cost for produce has gone done while my cost of meat has risen. The really good thing is that they cancel each other out so I am not spending as much as I did before. Report
I dine out once, maybe twice a month. I carry my lunch to work every day, I cook in batches, and I still find that food prices are killing me. Every week it seems that prices go up, especially at Kroger. At this point, I really don't know if it's worth it, but I'll keep giving it a go. Report
We eat at home most of the time. I always peruse my supermarket flyers when they come for the buys of that week. On those things we use, I stock up. Often on some items I use alot for dinner for myself, they will be 1/2 price. At such times, I buy quite a few. Also recently on Chunky soups, which my husband uses, they were on a good sale so I bought about 20 cans. Yes, I have noticed the marked increase in food prices; I think we all have. I am glad my children are grown and I just have to feed myself and my husband. Report
The rising cost of food has definitely affected me and my husband. We are both on disability and thus have a fixed income and a tight budget. We both are trying to eat more healthy. I cut coupons and look for the sales. My husband is suppose to do low fat according to his doctor and I'm diabetic so I do low carb. Buying items to suit both of us is not always easy. We are blessed to have great neighbors that have a huge garden every summer and always share with us. Report
I buy very little in the way of food items that there are ever coupons for-- like fresh produce and meat. Anything frozen (fish, vegetables) I buy generic or store-brand. I shop at Aldi's more often than I used to. Very little red meat any more; the price has gotten ridiculous and for the calories, I'd rather have chicken. I watch for meat to go on sale and then I stock up. Homemade soup is fabulous, you can make a huge bucket of it for very little money. Report
Our community has 2 grocery stores. It is very expensive to buy produce or any healthier options for meals now. Report
We only buy the meat that is on sale for the week and base all our meals on what's on sale. If it's not on sale, we don't buy it. We've been going to a fruit/veggie market (they buy seconds from the wholesalers)) for our purchases to cut costs too. But it really pays to watch the store circulars for the deals. I can't stand to use coupons, keep forgetting to bring them with me! Report
I have definitely been eating more at home, except on special occasions. Those don't happen too often. Controlling my portion sizes also helps too. I have a lot more leftovers. Report
You better believe I'm much more careful when I shop for food, and it really bugs me that the prices go up and up when income seems to remain flat. Yes, we eat at home almost every meal, and when we entertain, I have to be really strict with our choices so as not to exceed the budget. So far, I don't think we're suffering nutritionally, but I do think it's been a real adjustment not buying whatever we feel like having. I'm back to cooking the budget types of meals I made as a new bride - in the last century! And sometimes those types of meals aren't exactly "SparkPeople" friendly. Report
Cook more instead of going out. Started shopping less brand name stores where fruits and veggies are cheaper. Reducing a lot of the processed foods where we can.
Sales ads and Bogo deals are great!
I do try to buy things that are on sale, but I don't sacrifice quality, at all. I do like certain brands and do buy them, no matter what the cost. I do check the flyers, more than I used to, though. Report
We shop wisely now. Check out bargains. Try a different brand without sacrificing the quality or our healthy choices. Use coupons, but con't buy just any old item just because we have a coupon. Report