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Grocery Prices Are Up; How Experts Save While Shopping

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New government data on Wednesday showed prices on a range of goods in April rose the most since September 2008. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index, food prices were up too.

The most recent CPI data for grocery prices in the North Texas region go through March. Those numbers showed overall grocery prices rose 2.1% between March of 2020 and March of 2021.

That’s less than the national average, 3.3%, for that time period. However, before the pandemic, prices were actually falling in North Texas.

“I'm not talking about huge declines,” said Cheryl Abbot – Regional Economist with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “But, the fact that they were going down each and every month throughout 2019 was pretty surprising. But then came COVID-19.”

It’s an indication that multiple factors, including limited production during the pandemic and rising costs of fuel and transportation, contributed to the change.

Teia Collier of Mesquite said she noticed the difference in her grocery bill. Collier, a mom of three, often writes about budgeting on her blog.

“The actual cost of meat went up so much and then the cost of rice and the cost of cereal,” said Collier.

Tips to help you save while shopping

Tobie Stanger with Consumer Reports says you can find bargains for things like beans and frozen fruits and veggies. If you’re looking for something specific, shop around.

“You can always go online and see what the circulars are,” said Stanger. “They still have paper circulars, but you can find them online as well and you can compare them from store to store.”

There are price-comparison apps that can help, too.

Stanger recommends being open to new brands.

“Think carefully about using the store brands because what Consumer Reports has found is that store brands are often as good quality or better quality than the name brands,” said Stanger. “They can be as much as 25% less.”

When shopping for the best deal, look for the unit price.

“If you can't see it on the store shelf, if it doesn't show you the unit pricing to make a comparison, you can do it yourself on the calculator on your cell phone,” said Stanger.

Plan your meals and stick to a list to cut out impulse purchases. You can also find savings in discount apps and store loyalty programs.

Stanger also recommends shopping in bulk, stocking up on products that go on sale.

Though shopping in bulk can save money, Collier found it wasn’t the best approach for her family.

“I used to shop like that, but we were wasting a lot of food. I was throwing away a lot of food or my kids would eat it all in one day,” said Collier.

Instead, Collier said she hits different stores two or three times a week – buying what she knows her family will eat.

She times those trips to take advantage of sales.

“Talk to your store manager,” said Collier. “There is a markdown day. Every store has one, usually two.”

While those strategies take effort, Collier said it’s worth the time if you’re minding your budget.

“When you have more change to play with, it's this extra sense of confidence and security that you can feed your family well without having to sacrifice for it,” said Collier.

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