With the price of groceries these days, you better shop around! I can’t type that without hearing backup singers bahdododoing in my head. But I digress. Food prices are erratic right now. Gone are the days you can count on any specific store having the lowest price. A combination of supply chain issues, product shortages, and inflation have led to unpredictable shopping in 2023.
I recently ran out of Pickapeppa Sauce. When I pulled it up on the Walmart site, it was $10 (marked down from $13.95) for a 5 oz bottle. A search on Amazon found the same item for $7.89. Both of those seemed high so I looked at Kroger through Instacart. Kroger was the cheapest by far at $4.99.
Today, I need cranberry juice. I want the kind that’s nothing but 100% cranberry without any added grape or apple juice. A 32 oz bottle is $7.18 at Walmart, $6.39 at Kroger, and $9.99 at The Fresh Market and Natural Grocers. The choice between $7.18 and $6.39 is less than a dollar. That difference may not change my mind about where to purchase it. On the other hand, $2.81 seems like a pretty big difference.
But the math isn’t that simple. I often have 30 items to purchase at one time. If the price of each one is as erratic as these two examples, I can end up spending $30 – $60 more per shopping trip than if I shop at 3 or 4 different stores.
To comparison shop, I also have to factor in the amount of time I spend reviewing prices. Admittedly, online shopping reduces the amount of time this takes, but I can easily eat a dollar in time trying to save a dollar in cash.
For years, I had the luxury of ignoring grocery prices for the most part. And I got used to the fact that gluten-free items would be expensive in comparison to their gluten-containing counterparts. Now, I find myself questioning every purchase. Do I REALLY need those crackers? Do I NEED French bread from the store or do I have time to bake this week?
Last weekend, I hosted a birthday party. After searching four stores for two slabs of ribs, I checked a local barbecue restaurant. It was cheaper to buy the ribs there already smoked than to buy them uncooked from Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, or Kroger. I could save cash and cooking time by purchasing from the restaurant. That made my decision easy.
If you have a limited amount of time to research prices online, you may want to consider a price comparison app. I haven’t used any of these so I can’t recommend one, but online reviews and a look at their description can help you determine which app may fit your shopping style.
The other thing I do is limit shopping. I do this by:
- growing vegetables and herbs
- using as much of a food as possible (leaves, stems, trimmings)
- eating and repurposing leftovers
- minimizing spoilage
- eating what I have instead of what I want
- trading food from the garden with neighbors
- keeping basics on hand
- doing pantry challenges
While I can limit shopping, I am not fully self-sufficient so I will continue to purchase from grocery stores, Amazon, discount, and big box stores.
As long as prices continue to fluctuate drastically, you better shop around.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”