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Ask Chuck: Fed up with grocery prices

Ask Chuck your money question

Dear Chuck,

We have a budget, but the cost of groceries and eating out is ridiculous! Something has to change. What can we do? We are exceeding our food budget every single week.

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Fed Up with Grocery Prices

Dear Fed Up with Grocery Prices,

A man shops for groceries.
A man shops for groceries. | (Photo:Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)

You are correct. Something does have to change for almost all of us who are being pinched by the price of food. I am fortunate that my wife, Ann, who does research on all of my articles, is also a great grocery shopper, so I asked her to contribute her insights, which greatly helped my reply. 

Has greed taken over the food industry?

Hmm, supply-chain issues have been resolved, cost pressure from the war in Ukraine has eased, stores are stocked with inventory, compulsive pandemic shopping has ended, and employees gained higher wages, so why are grocery prices still inflated? Have you heard of “greedflation”?

Eggs are 70% more expensive than they were a year ago, with many stores limiting purchases to two dozen. Other staples remain elevated in price, while only a few things have come down. Several explanations are possible. Mergers in the food industry have resulted in few competitors. Profit hoarding, or as some call it, “greedflation,” occurred when corporations amplified disruptions to their benefit. See the staggering numbers here or in the graphic from Time Magazine below.

Businesses know that people will pay more for what they want, so getting them to forfeit profits will be tough. The ultimate solution will come when leaders are willing to sacrifice millions (billions) of dollars in bonuses, perks, and salaries for the good of the nation. Inflation tends to be “sticky” or hard to get rid of. Don’t count on it going away soon; so in the meantime, you must get proactive.

Ideas from Ann, my money-saving-grocery-shopper extraordinaire

One obvious way to reduce your bill is to go on a diet. Seriously!

Reduce your consumption of sugar, meat, soda, juices, alcohol, and prepackaged foods/snacks. Compare unit prices using a calculator if necessary. A shopping list app or shopping guide may be helpful. In addition, avoid eating out for a month, and see how much you save. Here are some other helpful hints:

  • Keep a running grocery list by recording items you need.
  • Create a list of favorite meals and frugal recipes.
  • Inventory refrigerator/pantry, read online sales flyers, and then make a meal plan and list.
  • Join store loyalty programs, buy store brands, and use grocery reward credit cards or cash.
  • Do not shop when hungry or with children.
  • Know prices, stock up on sale/clearance items, and use coupons.
  • Reduce waste, freeze leftovers, and pack a lunch.
  • Cook from scratch, grate your own cheese, and chop your own vegetables.
  • Skip costly cereals by cooking oatmeal or pancakes from scratch.
  • Shop scratch-and-dent or salvage stores.
  • Grow herbs, plant a garden, or shop at farmers’ markets.
  • Reduce the purchase of meat, or raise chickens/rabbits.
  • Shop for cheaper in-season produce.
  • Don’t pay for bags; bring your own.
  • Make Sunday meals special as a way to give thanks.
  • Plant a garden, and grow your staple vegetables.

Wonder what you should be spending? The USDA compiled a Thrifty Food Plan Cost guide.

The internet offers many budget-saving recipes. Bon Appetit even has a list of cheap dinner ideas.

Become an expert at saving money on groceries. Meet regularly with friends to share cost-saving tips and recipes. Notify one another of sales, and share items you find. Learn to make all that you can from scratch, from salad dressings to snacks. Involve the whole family and praise each other’s attempts to fight this battle. 

Try not to complain, especially in front of your spouse or children. Remember the Israelites whom God rescued out of Egypt? He provided for their every need, yet they failed to meditate on His goodness. They did not give thanks. Instead, they wept in self-pity and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.  But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” (Numbers 11:4–6 ESV)

Being mindful of this, focus on what you do have. Ask God for help. Then give thanks, and celebrate discounted items or delicious cost-saving recipes you find. Enjoy potlucks with friends or neighbors. Enjoy a “Cheapest Meal Competition”— that must also be delicious! Try memorizing Psalm 100, and give thanks at every meal. Pray for those who literally have no food or can only afford one meal a day.

Thank you, Ann.

Economic cycles

It has been said that the best cure for high prices is high prices. People tend to pull back spending when it no longer makes sense; thus, demand drops until prices also decline. By becoming more frugal during this time, your spending habits will help accelerate a price adjustment in the long run. Thank you for the question.

The Crown God Is Faithful devotional can offer some inspiring and practical Biblical wisdom in such uncertain times. You can subscribe to receive daily devotionals that will help transform your finances and provide much-needed encouragement. May it be a blessing!

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Economic Evidence for God?. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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