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How to battle bumped up prices

This guest editorial was written by the Alexandria Echo Press, a Forum Communications Co. newspaper.

Full grocery bag / studio photography of brown grocery bag with
Full grocery bag / studio photography of brown grocery bag with fruits, vegetables, bread, bottled beverages - isolated over white background
Romario Ien - stock.adobe.com

If you’ve been to the grocery store lately, you may notice that your bill keeps bumping up.

It’s not just happening in Minnesota, but across the country.

Food prices are up 8.8 percent compared to March 2021, according to the latest Consumer Price Index report.

With inflation on the rise, shoppers are looking for ways to stretch their dollars further, according to Joe Redden, a professor at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. He’s an expert in marketing strategies and consumption and his research focuses on how to help consumers extract more enjoyment without changing the product, how to reduce consumer boredom, and how to encourage healthier eating.

“As prices increase, shoppers’ overall budgets are going to tighten,” Redden said in a recent U of M newsletter. “Some items, like fresh produce, will be harder to replace with cheaper options, so shoppers will need to find ways to save money in other areas, like processed food.”

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Redden shares these five ways to be a savvier shopper as stores respond to inflationary pressures:

  • Check unit prices. There’s often a belief that larger package sizes are cheaper per ounce, but that’s not always the case. Looking at the unit prices will help find the real deal on the shelf.
  • Taste test. You may be paying a lot more for a brand-name item that you do not enjoy much more (or perhaps even less) than a generic product. Some generic and brand-name products are even made in the same facilities, but with different branding. Doing a blind taste test may surprise you and could lead to big savings.
  • Shop in-store rather than online. Grocery store websites or apps may not be conducive to your shopping goals. Online, a store may have the incentive to show you higher-priced items that the store makes a greater margin on and it may be harder to find the value product. In-store, all the options are in front of you.
  • Be patient. Name brands often have agreements with grocery stores to give trade dollars if they promote their products in the store. A promotional sale will eventually happen. Wait for the right time to fill up on your Oreo fix.
  • Mix it up. Stocked up on your favorite food when it was on sale? Research shows repeatedly eating the same thing can lead to less enjoyment or satiation. Switch it up to keep it fresh. Pair your yogurt with different fruit or granola, or find a way to incorporate it into other recipes. Also, reduce your portion sizes of more expensive foods, while increasing those for less expensive foods.

Here are more money-saving tips from the Minnesota Department of Health:

  • Plan menus using weekly store ads and coupons. Before going to the store, make a list from your planned menus and stick to it.
  • Avoid temptations to buy extra. Eat before you shop and shop without children along.
  • Buy generic or store brands.
  • Buy from bulk bins in just the amounts you need – especially spices, nuts and grains.
  • Limit expensive convenience foods. Try making your own.
  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season. Frozen or canned are good choices too.
  • Shop at local farmer's markets or food co-ops.
  • Plant a garden or pot with tomatoes or herbs. Some communities have community gardens.
Related Topics: INFLATION
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