Sizing Up America's Grocery Bill
Is your grocery bill continually rising? Now that it’s summer, produce should be cheaper than usual, but what else could you change to lower your costs? A recent report posted by National Public Radio’s Planet Money shows what America Spends on Groceries. It outlines how we use our grocery money, and more importantly, how our spending has changed in the past 30 years. While you can't change the price of food in America, perhaps a closer look at your grocery receipt will help you shuffle your food priorities.
Healthy Food Really Is Cheaper
The dollar menu of any fast food restaurant would scoff at this fact, and you might too if I didn't tell you how. Foods high in fat, added sugar, and salt really are cheaper than fruits and vegetables. That is if you're counting calories. Specifically, the cost per calorie for healthier foods is definitely higher. If you pay a dollar for an orange, at just 62 calories, when you could have had a McDonald's Cheeseburger at 300 calories, you might feel a bit jipped. But, when you consider that a large orange is heavier than the cheeseburger, 184 grams vs. 114, you should feel a little better. In fact, a new study released by the United States Department of Agriculture shows fruits, vegetables, and grains are cheaper when compared to the price of edible weight. Andrea Carlson, of the USDA's Economic Research Service recently authored a study revealing how the cost per calorie assumption is flawed. "Using price per calorie doesn't tell you how much food you're going to get or how full you are going to feel." Because research shows that people eat a similar weight of food everyday, regardless of the calorie counts, finding the cost per portion is important in finding the value of the food you buy. Because an orange is more satiating than a donut, that dollar may be well spent on the former.
Slashing Your Grocery Bill
Now that you know fruits and vegetables are cheaper, you may feel more comfortable switching to them from processed foods. If you did, you could cut your grocery bill by almost 23%. The NPR report used numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to compile a chart that shows in the past 30 years, Americans have shifted from meat as their highest grocery cost to processed foods. In 1982, processed foods accounted for 11% of costs, a number that has more than doubled. Reallocating the cost of processed foods to fruits and vegetables could actually give you more bang for your buck both in your wallet and your stomach. To view the chart that shows how prices have changed click here.
There's a more alarming trend in America when it comes to buying food, the amount that ends up being wasted. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, food waste makes up the single largest component of municipal solid waste reaching landfills and incinerators. Just think back to the last party you've been to. There's always so much food left over, it's a shame. To avoid wasting food and money, plan a weekly trip to the grocery store and ensure you don't have meals waiting to be eaten. Check first to make sure you're not buying things in your pantry out of habit. Pasta, cereal, rice, and beans always seem to be in abundance in mine. Also, fresh fruits and vegetables may need to be eaten within 3 days after purchase before going bad. Opt for the frozen variety when in doubt, and go fresh for produce that lasts a little longer like apples, carrots, bananas, avocados, squash, and potatoes.
How do you keep yourself from going over budget on groceries?