Groceries expected to get more expensive
By Susan Salisbury
Cox Newspapers | August 31,2012
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Grocery shopping can be fun, but with the average shopper spending more than $5,000 a year, it’s actually a serious endeavor that can make or break a family’s budget.
Consumer Reports’ shopper survey released in May found the average shopper makes 88 trips and plunks out $5,066 a year.
Of course, the amount spent per week has a lot to do with family size and preferences. A Food Marketing Institute study found that Millenials, those born from 1981 to 2000, spent an average of $69.40 a week last year, while Generation X, born from 1965-1980, spent $107.10. Next highest were Boomers, born from 1946-1964, spending an average of $106.40 a week. Matures, born before 1946, averaged $89.60 a week.
Whatever you spend, it’s probably going to increase if you don’t change your buying habits.
That’s because food prices are expected to rise as much as 3.5 percent this year, and next year, inflation is expected to remain strong for most animal-based products due to higher feed prices. Inflation is expected to be above the historical average for cereals, bakery products and other foods, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service said.
The full extent of the drought in the Midwest and other states and its effects on commodity prices are as yet unknown, the ERS said.
In an effort to ease this pressure on consumers, Environmental Working Group researchers have just released “Good Food on a Tight Budget” – a first-of-its-kind shopping guide to help eaters fill their plates with 100 foods that are nutritious, cheap, clean and green. Washington, D.C.-based EWG assessed 1,200 foods and made the selections based on average national prices.
“Busy shoppers can feel confident when filling their grocery carts with the foods on EWG’s lists that they are doing something good for their health and the environment, while lowering their exposure to the worst chemicals and their costs at the checkout counter,” said Dawn Undurraga, EWG’s nutritionist and registered dietician and co-author of the guide.
The guide’s food lists, shopping list, meal planner and price tracker are designed to help you save time and money, EWG said.
The guide can be viewed online at ewg.org. For a small donation, a hard copy can be ordered.
The guide was developed in collaboration with Share our Strength’s Cooking Matters, which teaches families at risk of hunger how to get more food for their money and better nourishment from those foods.
The guide has lists of foods in each category selected because they pack the most nutrition for the lowest cost: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, dairy, cooking fats and oils, staples and spices.
Then within each category, the very best buys are tagged. For example, the fruit category includes: apricots, avocados, bananas, cantaloupes, grapefruit, honeydew, kiwi, orange juice, nectarines (domestic), papayas, pears, starfruit, tangerines, and watermelons. The top picks are bananas, pears, nectarines, orange juice and watermelons.
The best buys in the vegetable group are broccoli, collards, mustard greens, parsley, Spanish pumpkin, carrots and juice.
It is just a guide, but it is compact at 30 pages, and not overwhelming, with easy-to-understand graphics.
Here are EWG’s top money-saving tips:
1. Plan and save.
Make a meal plan and shopping list. Use the food you have and the deals you find in store ads and coupons.
2. Add more fruits and vegetables to your meal plan.
Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. You can get your five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day for about the cost of a bus ride in most cities.
3. Add beans and lentils to your meal plan.
Pick beans and lentils instead of meat for two or more dinners every week – lots of protein for less money.
4. Skip processed foods like frozen pizza, cookies and soda.
They usually cost more than fresh, healthy food. Canned foods are convenient, but eat fresh or frozen when you can to lower your exposure to toxic chemicals.
5. Cook and freeze large batches.
Save money by cooking at home more and eating out less. Store food properly and throw less away.
6. Grow your own.
7. Stock up to save money.
Foods that last include rice, beans, cooking oil and frozen foods. Buy extra when they’re on sale. Check unit prices -- bigger packages are often cheaper. Buy from bulk containers if your store has them.
8. Spot bargains on fresh fruits and vegetables.
Use the price tracker to find good deals on fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce prices can drop when they’re in season, and they taste best then.
9. Compare labels.
Healthier foods usually have less saturated fat, trans fat, salt (sodium) and sugar. Learn more about added sugar.
10. Look for deals at your farmers’ market.
Some will give you $2 worth of produce for every $1 you spend. Find a market near you at search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets or call Wholesome Wave at 203-226-1112.