I Refuse To Give in to Higher Food Prices

by Katy on February 10, 2015 · 46 comments

Tortilla mix

You’d have to be blind to not notice the not so slow, and certainly steady rise in food prices over the past year. And if I were someone who shopped normally, it would be taking a hit on my family’s budget. But I don’t shop normally. I stock up on loss leader items, hit non-traditional stores like The Grocery Outlet and I buy in bulk. I rarely buy pre-prepared meals and have honed my skills at leftover conversion into both an art and a science.

Just this morning I stopped in at The Grocery Outlet after dropping my son at school and hit the motherlode. Chobani yogurts for 33¢ apiece, packets of turkey pepperoni for 25¢ apiece and my beloved flour tortilla mix for $2.49 per 5-lb bag! (My normal grocery store has stopped selling the mix, and I hadn’t been able to find a store that sold it since!) Needless to say I stocked up for our frequent burrito nights!

And when my receipt spit out from the register I told me that I’d saved $92.87 from my $34.80 bill!

Here’s what I bought:

  • 3 5-lb bags of flour tortilla mix.
  • 2 half-pound packets of sliced ham for sandwiches.
  • 8 packets of turkey pepperoni.
  • 1 bag of cut corn.
  • 1 jar of salsa.
  • 2 pounds of frozen whiting fish fillets.
  • 1 bag of frozen pierogies.
  • 1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts.
  • 1 bag of frozen shelled edamame.
  • 6 pots of Chobani yogurt.
  • 2 packets of frozen chopped prosciutto.
  • 1 fresh orange pepper.
  • 4 avocados.
  • 4 small bags of plain M&M’s.

Higher food prices? I just take them as a fun challenge. And pizza toppings? We’re now set for a good long while!

Have you had to change how you shop to accommodate recent higher food prices? Please share in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

laurie February 10, 2015 at 11:51 am

I sure wish I lived close to a Grocery outlet…sounds like a great place. Anyone know of anything like that in the Cincinnati area?

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Katy February 10, 2015 at 11:53 am

I also shop at Costco, ethnic markets and restaurant supply stores. And those loss leaders? I shop the heck out of those! (This week I’m stocking my freezer with $2-lb butter from my Kroger store.)

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Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom February 10, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Nice shopping trip! I should take a look at the pepperoni prices at our store for our next pizza night.

We haven’t changed our budget for groceries from last year, but we’re always changing up our shopping based on sales and prices.

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Tina February 10, 2015 at 12:29 pm

I feel like I struggle finding the “deals” at grocery outlet. I feel like they are there I just can’t find them.

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John February 10, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Yeah, not everything is a deal at the Gross-Out… you need to know what the standard store prices are to differentiate what is a good deal (same goes for Costco).

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Diane February 10, 2015 at 12:36 pm

I only have it in me to shop in one place, my local HEB. Prices have increased, but I buy only fresh produce, small amounts of meat and fish and basic staples for home cooked from scratch meals. It is getting tougher to eat well on a very modest budget.

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Kate February 10, 2015 at 1:00 pm

My husband has a lot of food issues, so there’s only so much I can do and not poison him. Many of his limitations involve every single inexpensive protein source except eggs and cheese, so one thing I’ve become a wee bit obsessed with is discounted organic meat. Every single time I go to the grocery store I walk by the meat department looking for the yellow stickers announcing 30-50% off close-dated meat. It’s usually already vacuum sealed, so I just toss it right in my freezer in the garage when I get home. I even worked up the nerve one day to ask the meat manager if perhaps the stew meat should be marked down as the other cuts dated that day were. He was extraordinarily pleasant and took them straight back to make new labels for them and I took them all. It’s a little extra work for a big return.

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Jenny February 10, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Could you please show us how to make homemade tortillas? I tried to make them once and couldn’t manage to get them thin enough with a rolling pin.

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laurie February 10, 2015 at 1:10 pm

There’s a great recipe and pictures on Annie’s Eats blog for both corn and flour tortillas…

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Katy February 12, 2015 at 6:02 pm

I really just use the rolling pin. I think it helps that I’m using a mix and not making them from scratch. Also, making corn tortillas really does need to tortilla press.

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Holly February 10, 2015 at 1:13 pm

I stand amazed when I hear people (well, yes, men) on the news say how low inflation is and how the cost of living has barely risen — do these people ever go into a grocery store?? I started keeping a price book 5 years ago and the difference in prices for staple goods is astounding — when could you last get 5 lbs of flour for $.89? Five years ago. One good result is that I have become much more careful with portions and do actually eat less than I used to. Also, I have a recipe for whole wheat flour tortillas that is just flour, salt, butter (or oil), and water — very simple, no mix needed, and hard to keep from eating the whole batch.

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WilliamB February 11, 2015 at 10:31 am

Because “the cost of living” and inflation applies to everything we buy, not just subcomponents such as food. Gasoline, for example, is less, in real terms, than it was 5 years ago.

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Kristen February 10, 2015 at 2:02 pm

You’re so lucky to have a grocery outlet near you! I’ve never seen such a thing on the east coast.

(But we have Aldi, so I can’t get too down in the dumps.)

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Lisa February 10, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Kristen, where are you on the East Coast? In PA and VA there are outlets by a different name. $0.25 yogurt, $2.99 bags of Starbucks, $0.99 Ben & Jerry’s, etc.

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Kim February 10, 2015 at 2:26 pm

Kristen, it’s Kim that goes to BEP Church, we talked the other day at Aldi’s. There is a grocery outlet right over the MD/ PA border in Red Lion, PA, I will have to look up the name. It’s about an hour from here and it has always been worth the drive. In fact my friend from church and I were just saying it was time for a road trip to go there.

There is also a grocery outlet chain in PA called Amelia’s and that there’s a location in Hanover and York. I only go there if I’m in the area.

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Kate February 10, 2015 at 2:31 pm

I’m planning to try an Amelia’s the next time I’m near one. Here in central/eastern PA we also have small chain called Surplus Outlet.

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Kristi February 13, 2015 at 10:20 pm

Actually, I read that The Grocery Outlet bough Ameila’s in 2012. (They send out an email today to those subscribed to Amelia’s email list to be honest). They appear to be at the last steps of re-branding with logos and such, but the gradual changes have all been positive from what I have experienced in the stores (Allentown, PA, and New Holland, PA).

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Carol Rhodes March 3, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Sharp Shopper Grocery outlet is one here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and it is also in Pennsylvania. It is a family owned company. They have excellent customer service. They often have dairy a whole lot less expensive than any where else, yogurts 4 for a dollar, cheese $2 a pound. If we are going to do a stock up, we go to Sharp Shopper, the farmers market, and then Costco, for things I can’t grow in my garden. I don’t always like the quality of some of the fresh veg.

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Katy February 12, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Yes, I have Aldi envy.

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Sarah February 10, 2015 at 2:20 pm

Holy perogies! That’s some good savings! Yes, I have noted inflation in food costs. To combat the costs I make bread and yogurt from scratch, but the hard part is feeding kids food that they will eat. Right now we eat a lot of hummus, carrot soup and pasta. I’ve noticed that one bad shopping trip can really obliterate my budget…so I shop for sales, but also try to be mentally sharp and laser focused on the price per ounce / not by the container!

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Betty Winslow February 10, 2015 at 2:37 pm

What has helped our grocery budget (which has not changed in probably 10-15 yrs) is going from feeding 5 to feeding 2 LOL. But even so, I have to check sales, read labels (hubby on low sodium diet, I have to count carbs), shop more than one store, and cook a lot from scratch.

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Patti February 10, 2015 at 2:44 pm

When prices go up, we change our food habits to match. I am like you and only shop the sales or seasonal produce and have many more meatless meals (especially soups). I have certain limits on the amount I will spend for things – and if the price is above that, we just wait and have it when the price comes down (typically when I find it on sale). We now grow a lot of veggies and freeze them for the winter. I do realize that our farmers have to cover their costs and that if they aren’t able to make a profit, they will not take our food to market so when I hear on the news about drought in California or snow in the Northeast, I realize it will affect our prices and just try to find a substitute until that type of thing passes. And when I see a sale (on something like bacon which we had given up when it went sky high), I buy a bunch and put it in the freezer and dole it out slowly to make it last.

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Mary February 10, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Does anyone else remember how analysts a few years back linked rising food prices to rising oil prices? If that logic is true, then food prices should be decreasing now with gasoline around $2/gal. Hmmmm…still waiting, but not holding my breath. What a racket!

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WilliamB February 11, 2015 at 10:48 am

A common form of market manipulation – deliberate or otherwise – is for prices to rise quickly in response to price shocks, but to drop only slowly.

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Kelly in MA February 12, 2015 at 1:26 pm

when I hear on the news about drought in California or snow in the Northeast, I realize it will affect our prices – See more at: http://thenonconsumeradvocate.com/i-refuse-to-give-in-to-higher-food-prices/#comments

Isn’t it a bit scary that most of what we eat comes from hundreds of miles away? Makes you wonder what would happen with a real collapse of society…

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Kelly in MA February 12, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Not necessarily. If you figure something like ham. There is a fuel cost for the farmer to house the hog (heat, farm equipment, vet services…), fuel cost to get food to the farm (never mind that food has already traveled from the seed company to the farmer to be grown, adding his cost of running his farm equipment- sowing equipment is different then harvesting equipment) also keeping in mind a moderate hog farmer will need several truckloads of feed every week, the average hog that goes to harvest is approx 250 pounds and 6 months old (that is a lot of feed). Then there is the fuel costs of getting the hogs to the manufacturing facility for harvesting, a large manufacturing company harvests about 10,000 head of hog a week. The manufacturing plant has fuel costs as well. Rarely is hog the only ingredient in a ham so all of the other ingredients need to be trucked in from their growers/ manufactures/ distributors. Add to that the cost of shipping the final product all over the country to distributors, the distributors ship it out to operators (restaurants, convenience stores, grocery and retail) and then the operators (more for grocery and retail) have distribution centers that they receive product at and then breakdown into the amounts that they will ship to a single store (for example the average Dunkin Donuts distribution facility services about 1200 Dunkin locations. All of this is factored into the cost of your food and that doesn’t account what you spend to go to the store, buy the food, drive home and then prep said food. Remember that even in the fridge being stored your food is still actively costing you money.

Mary, sorry for the huge amount of information here. I work for a large protein manufacture so I’ve had many of these questions myself. And if you watch markets overall (like pork bellies- literally un-sliced bacon, or the hog markets) the cost of those things is dropping. I see the pricing from my corporate office come through and ham prices are lower now then they have been.

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Kelly in MA February 12, 2015 at 1:51 pm

I was told that for every 50 cents fuel drops the cost of your unprocessed ham would drop just a few pennies. Remember at every step in the chain all off those people need to make some money, at least enough to cover operating expenses.

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KElsey September 30, 2015 at 10:18 am

Wouldn’t that be nice! haha I’d love that!

Sadly, I don’t think it’ll happen either.

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cathy February 10, 2015 at 3:01 pm

Food prices: grrrr. We have multiple food allergies in our household that necessitate buying some specialty food (have you ever priced rice pasta??) and, of course, no one’s allergic to the same thing so it’s nearly impossible to make one dish for dinner that everyone can eat. We also try to eat as much local, organic, and humanely raised food as possible. Add to that a significant decrease in income due to job loss/change. But I’ve actually managed to lower our grocery budget (a lot) over the last couple years.

I keep a price book, which helps me know which store has the best price and also whether or not a “sale” is really a sale. I willingly shop multiple stores and I think adjusting what I buy and from which stores is the primary reason I’ve been able to get our grocery expense down. I always cook at home–mostly from scratch. I didn’t have much of a garden last year, but whenever anyone offered me garden produce, I accepted. What we couldn’t eat fresh, I froze. Eating in season (or frozen to save for later) is also a great way to combat food prices. Now I’m trying to get out of my cooking rut and my best inspiration is cuisines of other countries or regions.

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Penny in FL February 10, 2015 at 3:54 pm

Have you tried an Asian market for the rice pasta? I find it cheaper there, and I also get rice in bulk while I’m at it.

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cathy February 10, 2015 at 6:02 pm

I haven’t looked lately. I’m sure it would be cheaper, but I need to make sure there’s no risk of cross-contamination from allergens. Hard to do if the ingredients aren’t on the package in English, and my past experience is that I’d definitely need a translator!

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April February 10, 2015 at 4:30 pm

There are just two of us in this household, but we have managed to keep our groceries (including common household items like toilet paper, dish soap, laundry soap, foil) around $200/month for the last several years. There has been a small creep–maybe some months are $225 (but then other months are less than $200) but we have not been impacted hard. We do not buy very much processed food ever, I make and freeze a lot of things, we have a garden in the summer, and if my tomatoes are done for the year, then I do without fresh tomatoes on the salad until next season!

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Gina February 10, 2015 at 4:30 pm

It is annoying that grocery prices keep rising…and that in my area coupons are only for processed & prepackaged foods with the occasional coupon for nuts or Cutie brand citrus. I shop three grocery stores, two drug stores & Target for the loss leaders. I don’t go out of my way to shop or I wouldn’t be saving much. So I only shop the ones in close proximity. Two drug stores are within walking distance from my office in the city and the other stores are within 2-3 miles from my home and I batch my errands when I shop. Aldi and Costco are too far. This week one drugstore has BumbleBee tuna 75 cents cheaper than Kroger. Jiff peanut butter $2 less. Target frequently has lower prices on some of my grocery staples. I stay on budget by cooking from scratch, snacking on nuts and fruit (junk food snacks are pricey – but I admit I miss them), peanut butter sandwiches or oatmeal on days I don’t have leftovers or something made for lunch, eating less and stocking up when I find good sales. Also go without some items until they are on sale. I skipped the grocery altogether last week and have been eating from the pantry. Will stock up on tuna & PB tomorrow & pick up just milk and lettuce at the grocery this weekend – still enough fresh & frozen produce to eat with pantry dinners for another week, probably two if I try.

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Bellen February 10, 2015 at 4:58 pm

I’m very good at getting the most for my money. However, right now my food shopping choices are Walmart the cheapest, and Publix and Winn Dixie both much more expensive. I shop sales, marked down meat and have changed my diet to chicken only twice a week and fish once. My protein sources are beans, lentils, tofu. I’m doing fine and the food budget is OK.

Oh yes, our water bill is increasing 3% per year for the next 3 years and we just found out we will be paying an additional $100 per year for the next 10 years for paving the streets in our area.

Never ends does it.

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Karen February 10, 2015 at 6:39 pm

I do everything mentioned above so I will not repeat. The only 2 things not mentioned are I drink water and hot tea. Now, my husband and I share a tea bag and taste no difference, so the price of tea has been cut in half.

The other thing I do is use herbs from my garden year round to spice my homemade foods. I live in No. Carolina so rosemary and thyme and some mints go year round. The rest I freeze or dry and use through the winter and early spring until I can get them planted again. I look in the grocery stores and herbs are so expensive.

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Kelly in MA February 12, 2015 at 1:47 pm

I brew a pot of tea at a time. Anything I don’t drink I freeze in ice cube trays (and then into their gallon zip bag-poor thing is so old it doesn’t remember a time when it wasn’t in the freezer) That way I can pop one into a too hot cup of tea without making it taste bad or take out a few to warm for a cup when I don’t want to make a whole pot.

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Linda February 10, 2015 at 9:33 pm

I’m going to stop by my G.O. tomorrow to see if they are carrying Tortilla mix. I’ve never made my own flour tortillas.

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Jill February 11, 2015 at 7:38 am

We do a lot more couponing and stocking up during sales now than we used to. I also always check the price per unit on things. The larger size isn’t always more economical (this is lesson I LOVE to share with my teenage daughter – she pretends not to care, but someday, she’ll remember it).

Our biggest cost saver recently has been cooking at home. That is an obviously one, I know. I hate cooking, but I finally have started putting together a collection of yummy, easy recipes that any of us can throw together with minimal effort. Crockpot season is always a boon too!

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JD February 11, 2015 at 8:04 am

We buy almost totally organic and most of our meat is local, humanely raised, and organic. It’s expensive and makes me cringe when I pay for it, but it also makes me very aware of how I’m using food and makes me avoid wasting any of it. It’s just the two of us now, so I can stretch meat over several meals, freeze portions, take leftovers to work, etc. It’s amazing how far it can go.
My husband is a Type I diabetic, and the cheap beans, pasta, bread or rice meals are too high-carb for him to have except rarely. We are lucky in that we have people offer us free fish or venison now and then, and we get some things from our little garden, but our neighbors’ trees are shading our yard so much, we can no longer grow much in the yard, even in containers. It’s a battle to eat healthier foods when our income is limited, but we avoid junk foods, eating out, packaged meals, frozen meals, even canned soups, so that we can save money that way.

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Katy February 12, 2015 at 6:05 pm

Actually, The Grocery Outlet has a really large selection of organic food. From this shopping trip the edamame and salsa were both organic.

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JD February 16, 2015 at 7:57 am

I wish I had one near me, then. We have only three places in town to shop for food: an aging Winn Dixie, a small local chain called Sav-A-Lot which has a ton of cheap, packaged, processed foods and some scary-looking meat, and Walmart, ugh. I have to drive 60 miles for any other stores, and there is no Grocery Outlet there either. I can actually get delivery at a small charge from some of the local organic farmers, ranchers and dairies, which saves a lot of driving and gas for me! When I do go to the city 60 miles from here, I shop as carefully as I can at the stores there. We’re thinking about joining Costco, which finally opened up.

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K D February 11, 2015 at 9:47 am

I have been maximizing our food dollars for over fifteen years, ever since I read The Tightwad Gazette. The arrival of Aldi about two years ago has helped us save on groceries, especially produce. I also buy loss leaders at the grocery store, with coupons if possible, and of course use the Pantry Principle for meal planning. I try to not let nay food go to waste. It is sometimes a balancing act trying to buy enough of something at a great price without over buying (since family members can be very fickle about what they’ll eat). That is a recommendation for cooking from scratch.

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Diane C February 11, 2015 at 9:48 am

I went to Grocery Outlet yesterday and spent $38.63. The receipt says I “saved” $119.60, which always cracks me up. No way would I ever have paid retail for the items I purchased. I also bought 8 bags of that turkey pepperoni a couple of months ago and haven’t seen it in my store since, alas. It’s great on pizza and one package goes a long way. My G.O. offers seniors (55+) 10% off their entire purchase (including booze) twice a month.
I feed a family of four and rarely darken the aisles of a traditional grocery store.
My route is 99 Only, Grocery Outlet and then Costco. I bring insulated bags and really try to do the loop two or three times a month. Bulk buying and the freezer are my friends. If Winco were closer and there was an Aldi in my state, I’d really kill my grocery bill.

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Katy February 11, 2015 at 10:28 am

Good to hear that the pepperoni is good. We’ll be enjoying it on pizzas for a very long time!

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Isabelle February 11, 2015 at 1:46 pm

I wish we had a grocery outlet!!
I refuse to pay regular day to day prices too! I mean if I can avoid it.
I buy markef down food, look at weekly specials, do price matches, stock when cheap, exchange my pc points for free grocery, etc. my goal this year is 100$/week, but we have a lot in stock already.

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tonya parham November 27, 2015 at 5:44 pm

I’m largely vegan. When I have times when I relent and buy the occasional meat or cheese, I’m stunned at how much prices have gone up– especially on meat!

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