Written By: Tania Garcia | Marketing Intern | 5 MIN READ

Wondering why the food prices at your local grocery store have increased so much? Of course, one easy answer is that this is simply the result of inflation. However, that is not the entire a reason. The reality is that inflation definitely played a role, but the increase was also affected by COVID-19, as well as international trading and events that have impacted our economy tremendously over the past few years. All of these disruptions ultimately caused changes to the food supply chain increasing the overall price, which also varies depending on the specific food groups and where you are located. 

So how do you continue to eat healthy in this new economy? While it is a common misconception that healthy equals more expensive, Kelly Haws, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing at Vanderbilt University, explains that oftentimes people confuse the idea of eating ‘healthy’ with other food labels that increase the cost, like ‘organic’ or ‘gluten-free’. The real key to healthy eating is to eat more whole foods and fewer processed ones, says Alissa Rumsey, a registered dietitian and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Regarding the recent food price increases, as it turns out, fruits and vegetables had the smallest price increase being 9%; followed by meats, poultry, and fish at 10%; dairy products at 12%; and grains and bakery products having the highest increase at around 13%. This does not disregard how much food prices increasing have affected families across the country, but demonstrates that focusing on eating healthier is still feasible. 

Here are some tips to keep in mind when grocery shopping to make nutritious meals that are still within your budget: 
  • Plan Ahead. Look up recipes ahead of time and plan out what you and your family will eat for the week. Make a checklist of all the ingredients you will need and check what ingredients you have at home before visiting your local grocery store. To find healthy and budget-friendly meal ideas, visit https://www.commonthreads.org/recipes/.
  • Consider ALL Costs. When creating your budget, include all costs including groceries but also transportation and gas. Be sure to think through what ingredients you need, determining if you can buy all of the items in one visit from one store, instead of having to take multiple trips. Use the USDA’s Low-Cost Food Plan as your own personal food calculator to help you build your budget.
  • Buy In-Season Produce. Pay attention to when certain foods are in-season and locally sourced. Not only will they be fresher, tastier and more nutritious, but most importantly they will always be less expensive. 
  • Canned & Frozen. Buying canned and frozen foods are shelf-stable and comes in handy when certain foods are not in season. Just because they are canned or frozen does not mean that it isn’t a healthy choice! Many food items are preserved and frozen at peak freshness maintaining their nutritional value, making them a perfect option when shopping. Be mindful of the sodium levels when picking canned foods, always choose ‘low-sodium’ options when available.
  • Healthy Swaps. An assorted box of chips is usually cheaper compared to a bag of apples. However, eating one apple is usually more filling and nutritious than an entire bag of chips. Making this small swap helps you to portion out healthier snacks and meals better throughout the week. Try out this Nutrition Comparison Tool to find the best item swaps for your home.
  • Buy in Bulk : Buying in bulk is a great option to reduce the price of food per item. Although, while it may be cheaper when thinking long term, this also means paying more money upfront. Planning ahead and meal prepping is key when considering this option as to minimize unnecessary food waste. Targeting shelf-stable items is a great way to buy in bulk. Make the purchase count!

Food prices have greatly increased and with no signs of decreasing in the near future. Use these tips and tricks to stay healthy while you shop smart and prioritize budget-friendly foods and meals, keeping in mind that food prices will differ depending on where you live. No matter what your situation may be, we have a large variety of recipes created with all budgets in mind Happy grocery shopping!