September 26, 2012

Get Cooking: Tips For Beating Rising Food Prices

The cost of food is going up and increases are likely to continue

While we do strive to not buy anything, we currently have to buy our food. Since 2008 that has been getting a lot more expensive. This trend is not likely to reverse soon, if ever.

At the same time that a lot of stuff you don't need gets less expensive, everything you need (really need, as in survival) is getting disturbingly more expensive. Big screen TVs? Less expensive. Gas, electricity, rent, and food? More expensive.

That people are concerned about food is evidenced here on our blog. A post on reducing food waste is one of the all time top posts on NBA, showing that many are doing everything they can to stretch the food budget in inflationary times.

With the US drought forecasted to inflate prices another 5% next year, I thought it was time to share more of the tips that Linda and I use to keep our food costs down.


The average family of four spends about $237 dollars per week, or about $12,300 dollars per year, on food consumed at home. The same family spends $5200 dollars more on food consumed outside of home. A 5% increase means an added $875 dollars per year on food for our fictional family.

Money Saving Tips

With some simple solutions and planning, one can mitigate impending food price increases. These are some of the tips we use to stretch our food dollar, and maintain a whole food diet.

  1. Limit, or eliminate eating out. I know how tempting it is to take what seems like the fast or easy route to filling the tummy, but fight that impulse. Meals eaten out cost 6 to 10 times more than a similar meal cooked at home.
  2. Skip pre-packaged frozen meals. Convenience foods sacrifice taste and quality for ease of use. Plus they cost up to 4 times as much as home cooked meals.
  3. Do your own washing and cutting. Pre-cut/pre-washed, or grated foods will cost you twice as much.
  4. Learn to cook your favourite foods. When we quit eating out that didn't mean leaving behind all our favourite restaurant meals - we just learned to cook them at home. It has been fun, and satisfying.
  5. Buy generic for certain items. Some products such as flour, sugar, cereals, salt, and milk are indistinguishable from their pricier brand name counterparts.
  6. Plan your grocery shopping trips to avoid impulse buying. We always shop with a detailed list from which we do not deviate. This alone can save up to $20/month for the average shopper prone to impulsive edible purchases.
  7. Don't waste the food you have bought. This seems obvious, but a large amount of food is wasted in the average home. If you haven't already, see our post on reducing food waste.
  8. Eat less meat. Some products, like meat, will probably rise in price more than 5%. Explore non-meat alternatives like beans/grains, tofu, nuts and seeds. They are less expensive, and better for you.
  9. Bake your own bread products. Buying two loaves of hearty, healthy bread can cost as much as a 10 kg (20 lbs) bag of flour. You can make a lot of bread with that much flour.
  10. Take advantage of sales. Closely watch flyers for weekly specials, and stock up when the price is right. When we find peanut butter on sale, for example, we purchase several jars at a time to add to our well-stocked pantry.
By following these money saving tips it may be possible to make up that forecasted 5% rise in food prices, and then some. It is not that difficult, and besides saving money, these tips will help you to eat more healthfully, and have more fun in the kitchen.

What is your favourite money saving tip when it comes to the purchasing and preparation of yummy, nutritious food?


  1. Wow! I am always looking for ways to spend less on food, but if we spent $237 a week on food we would be broke! I spend about $50 a week for the three of us and an additional $30 over the course of the month for things like eggs, etc. I have made my own bread in the past but have yet to find a recipe that my husband enjoys the consistency of. He is pickier than I am, so I am still buying store bought bread. I do buy it on sale and freeze if possible. I buy very little meat or dairy and things like rice, flour, oatmeal, or pasta can be used in so many different ways. We still eat out on occasion, but we all find when we do we end up with an upset stomach. I would love to hear any other ideas for saving money. We are a minimalist/simple living family and that includes our food.

  2. I agree with MarieG we don't spend nearly that much on food. We are a family of 3 (all adults) and spend around $300 on groceries a month. Our dining-out budget is about $50 per month. I find the more time you are willing to put into food preparation the less your grocery bill will be. We are really big gardeners and make most meals from scratch. In the end you have to decide if you want to put in the extra time/work or spend the extra cash. We get so much more pleasure from our garden & cooking then from grocery shopping that the choice is easy for us. Of course if I still had small children then the choice is so much harder.

  3. I bought a breadmaker some years ago. I went as far as measuring the amount of electricity it uses to determine the cost of a homemade loaf. Turns out to be just under half of a store bought bread. To boot the homemade loaf tastes great and is healthier than the store bought loaf.

    1. Great investigation into the cost of bread, and bread making. We also came up with the same answer- baking at home saves money. It is also nice to be able to know exactly what is in your bread, and as you say, it tastes so much better.

      And the smell! Yum.

  4. Marie and Mary,

    The average given by USDA data do seem to quite high. We certainly spend nowhere near 1/2 of the number given for the two of us. The average I quoted was for a "Moderate Food Plan", and there is one more level above that!

    I did a little more digging and came up with a bit more info about how they came up with the numbers used.

    From: USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion

    The categories under Cost Of Food are: Thrifty, Low-Cost, Moderate-Cost, and Liberal. Food Plans "represent a nutritious diet at different costs". In addition to cost, differences among plans are in specific foods and quantities of foods.

    All meals and snacks are purchased at stores and prepared at home. Food Plans are based on 2005 dietary guidelines and the "MyPyramid" food intake recommendations.

    Costs are based on 2001-02 data and updated to current dollars using the Consumer Price Index.

    Weekly costs for food for a family of four in all 4 categories are: Thrifty - $145.20, Low-Cost - $161.00, Moderate-Cost - $236.50, Liberal - $287.20

    from: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, US Average, January 2012

    Weekly food costs for Linda and I are more in line with yours. We spend about $50.00 dollars a week on groceries. Perhaps they need a new category for those of us living simple, minimalist lifestyles.

    Linda and I also really enjoy having the time to grow fresh food, and cook our own meals. Indeed, the time we take to do so allows us to save money and deeply experience life.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. To be honest, we do not save when buying food. We only buy fresh, biological and ecological food, fresh from the farmer or a bio store. This is more expensive than the normal grocery store, but so much healthier. As we do not eat meat and make everything from scratch, our bill is still reasonable to us. We save in other areas of our life, but good and healthy food is a high priority for us.

    1. Since good food can be our medicine, and is more gentle on the planet, you really can't go wrong spending money on quality fare. Your priorities are in the right place.

      By not eating meat and cooking everything from scratch, you are probably still saving money over buying prepackaged and restaurant foods.

      I love the sound of a bio store! Where do you live that has such a place?

      Good food, and good health to you.

    2. hi Gregg,

      Sorry, I just read your reply. I live in Germany and next to all the very cheap stores (Aldi, etc., I think they start in the US now as well..)there is also a growing number of bio stores. I am very lucky, I have one in just 5 minutes walking distance. You get everything from food to natural cosmetic, dog food, etc. It is more expensive, but in the end I think this is the real fair price for real and fair food.

      Good health to you, too. I really love your way of living!


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