Grocery Shopping on a Budget: 10 Ways to Keep Rising Food Costs in Check

Christine Ryan Jyoti

In fact, animal proteins overall have seen high cost increases this year. The most recent data for March 2014 shows this category was up 5.1%, compared with the same time last year. Eggs, in particular, are seeing a big jump in prices, which were up almost 10%, partly due to large export volumes to Mexico—which experienced an avian flu outbreak—that have squeezed the U.S. supply.

Vegetarians aren’t immune from wallet-squeezing this summer, either. An ongoing drought in California is impacting almost every type of fruit and veggie that makes it to your dinner plate.

According to a recently released Arizona State University study, nine types of produce are likely to see a serious price hike this summer: lettuce (at a whopping 34% increase!), avocados, broccoli, grapes, tomatoes, melons, peppers, berries and corn. Packaged salads are also expected to jump by 13%.

Bottom line for your grocery budget? The USDA expects food costs will go up 2.8%.

In addition to the drought, the growing season has had a slower start due to cooler and wetter than normal weather. And Hurt suspects this could impact grains and oilseeds, which could affect prices for cereals, baked goods and vegetable oils.

Bottom line for your grocery budget? The USDA expects your food costs will go up 2.8% over last year.

How Can I Keep My Grocery Bill From Ballooning?

Now that you know how much prices might go up, you can still work to keep costs down. These 10 hacks from consumer savings experts can help you have your cake (and pork chops and berries) and eat it too.

1. Make Wednesday your food shopping night. Roughly half of retailers update their sales circulars for the upcoming week on Wednesdays, says Gord Crowson, senior vice president at And if you shop on Wednesday, most of the items on sale will be in stock. Sometimes the sales are even posted a day earlier, he adds, so you can do your homework and prepare your list in advance.

Shopping at night also gives you the added bonus of reduced prices on perishables. Prices tend to drop a few hours before closing, so stores can move product quickly.

“These items are perfectly good, as long as you are going to eat them soon or freeze them,” Crowson says. Savings of 50% or more are the norm, so you could score a sweet discount on fruit, veggies, meat, seafood and fresh bakery items.

RELATED: 8 Easy Ways to Get More From Your Food Budget

  • ksgirl73

    I have to disagree with #1. I’ve never seen reduced prices on perishables on a Wednesday night.

  • Valerie

    Great article! There has been a lot of press about meat prices going up, but not a lot of discussion explaining why (droughts and sickness) and not a lot of discussion on produce going up in price even more significantly! Thanks for being well rounded and giving us some hints!

  • elisha reverby

    ummmm it’s not all thanks to mother nature that costs have gone up – it is thanks to human consumption, bad habits and climate change due to those bad habits. dont blame nature. we all need to take responsibility for this mess!

  • elisha reverby

    and p.s. you can blame the disgusting and inhumane practices of factory farms for the viruses and disease that lingers on our meat supply. whoever wrote this article needs to face reality.

  • Lara Rosenblum

    I think this is fine for people who have a lot of time to dedicate to grocery shopping (e.g. prep the night before for a sale the following day to know what’s on sale) – but as a working mother who is trying to feed her family healthy, non-antibitically enriched, pesticide-free foods, this is not helpful at all. Where is the advice on knowing the difference between sustainably farmed vs. organic food (and the fact that USDA ORGANIC labeling is pretty much a scam, since KRAFT is on the board of USDA ORGANIC?) – this is not mentioned here. Also, when I shop at Trader Joe’s, it is already deeply discounted and generally has a good selection. Some stores are better than others – where is the advice on the 5 best nation-wide supermarkets?

  • angela1a

    Excuse me but right off the bat, you sound very ignorant. it isnt Mother Nature wrecking havoc with the food supply, better read some more.