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Why Your Food is Costing More—And What to Do About It

Couple cooking together - rising cost of food

It’s not your imagination. If you think your food costs have been rising over the past few years, you are right—and not just because you may be leaning a bit too hard on the convenience of eating out.

Over the past 20 years, food prices have increased steadily—an average of 2.6% per year. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts the rate of increase in 2018 won’t be quite that high, the price of some foods—fresh fruits, eggs and cereals among them—are still poised to increase. What’s more, with high temperatures and droughts blanketing much of the country, the cost of milk and beef also may be higher than expected.

According to some sources, the reasons for rising food costs are multifaceted and include high oil costs, a changing climate and inflation caused by subsidized agriculture that leads to stockpiling and unfair trade advantages on a global scale. While those larger factors may be out of your control, however, there is still plenty you can do to manage food costs for your household without sacrificing your diet or your tastes.

Eat In, Deliciously

The fact that the cost of eating out (“food away from home”) is increasing faster than food prices at grocery stores or supermarkets (“food at home”) gives you one more reason to commit to preparing meals at home whenever possible. When you consider the fact that parents spend an average of $142 per week to feed just one teenager, keeping a packed pantry can have an immediate impact on your budget. Thankfully, the internet is replete with recipes for cheap and easy meals.

Find Your Best Supermarket

As SafetyNet’s grocery price comparison shopping venture revealed, not all grocery stores offer the same savings. It’s worth a little research to learn what stores offer the best deals in your area. Preparing budget meals begins with knowing how to shop smart.

Make Meat a Treat

As Americans become relatively more affluent, they are eating far more meat than ever before. This increasing demand has led to a proliferation of livestock production (and subsequent subsidies). The thing is, it takes more grain (and land and energy) to feed the animals you eat than it takes to fill up on grain-based meals. While animal protein contains all the essential amino acids our bodies need, most Americans are eating far more protein than they actually need. Instead, to save on grocery costs, make meat a treat and turn to inexpensive plant protein sources like beans, lentils, soy and nuts.

Just a few more meals at home each month can result in big changes to your wallet. What will you do with that extra cash?