3 Easy Ways to Save Money on High Food Prices
Men are on the hunt for food and drinks. Not in the wild, but at grocery stores across the country. Research shows the shopping landscape is evolving into a place where men account for nearly half of primary shoppers, and even visit stores as often as women. While their shopping styles are different, men share the same concerns about high food prices and saving money.
No matter how low inflation may appear in headlines, it’s never enough to make you feel better about your own grocery bill. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported the Consumer Price Index decreased 0.1% in August on a seasonally adjusted basis. Nonetheless, household food staples seem to always find a way to pressure budgets. In June, the food component of the CPI posted its biggest gain since September 2014, partly because of egg prices surging by the most since 1973 amid a bird flu outbreak. In July, all six major grocery store food group indexes increased, while fresh fruits and vegetables posted their largest increase of the year in August.
A recent study from The Hartman Group, a consumer research firm, finds household grocery lists are most constrained by budget limitations and busy schedules. In 2014, 38% of shoppers said money issues make shopping more difficult, the highest single concern among respondents and relatively unchanged from 41% in 2012. A busy household schedule was second at 24%, followed by other time-related issues like insufficient time to shop for everything (21%) and insufficient time to fully plan out shopping (20%).
Unlike women, men prefer to simply “search and retrieve” items from shelves rather than browse. Men want to get out of the store as quickly as possible. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t strategies to save money in the process. Let’s take a look at 3 simple ways to save money on grocery shopping.
1. Get organized
Convenience is key for men. In fact, they are more likely to show a preference for club, convenience, and online stores. Yet convenience stores are notorious for having higher prices than other outlets. On average, convenience stores charge 11% more than grocery stores for the same good, and about 20% more than supercenters or mass merchandisers. You are literally paying for the convenience of making a quick stop, likely for a couple items you forgot to pick up during your last regular grocery trip.
Getting organized by making a list of needed items ahead of your regular grocery trip can mean the difference between going an entire week without overpaying at convenience stores and having to spend additional time and money. Taking the old-fashioned list concept one step further, plan meals ahead of time for the entire week and take inventory of what’s inside the cupboards, instead of focusing on a hodgepodge of ingredients and snacks. Quick and easy meal ideas can be found for under $10 at The Cheat Sheet. Other sites such as Budget Bytes also help keep your stomach and wallet full.
2. Use credit cards
This simple way to save money obviously comes with a few important caveats. In order to use credit cards properly, you need to have self control, which can be a rare trait when it involves money. You also need to think of credit cards as plastic cash and only charge what you can truly afford to pay off every month on time. Otherwise, the double-digit interest rates on carrying a balance will wipe out any cash back rewards you earn and then some.
Two popular credit cards are available for responsible consumers looking to save money without clipping coupons. The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets for an annual fee of only $75. You can earn this 6% cash back on up to $6,000 per year in purchases made at grocery stores (then 1% above that). You’ll also earn 3% cash back at gas stations. If the annual fee doesn’t work in your favor, the Sallie Mae Mastercard offers 5% cash back on the first $250 you spend per month on eligible gas and grocery purchases for no annual fee.
3. Embrace technology
Websites like Coupons.com and SmartSource.com offer printable coupons to help you save money on high food prices, but apps also include ways to save money and don’t require the extra legwork. For example, Wal-Mart’s app includes the Savings Catcher. If a local competitor has a lower advertised price on an item you bought at Wal-Mart, you receive an eGift Card for the difference. However, users should note Wal-Mart recently removed the price-matching component on produce and bakery items since they don’t have consistent uniform product codes.
Wal-Mart’s app is one of the most popular mobile apps in America, but several others are available. For example, Shopmium, Favado, Southern Savers, and Checkout 51. Try different apps and see which ones work best with your lifestyle and shopping habits.
Follow Eric on Twitter @Mr_Eric_WSCS