How to Save Time and Money Food Shopping
Updated: Jul 13, 2020
Consumer Reports: Shopping for groceries has been fraught enough of late–and that was before food prices spiked. Now consumers need to find new ways to economize on what they buy at the store while staying safe ... Paper goods and cleaning products increased in price as consumers rushed to stock up to stay at home and protect themselves. As supplies of many grocery categories have dwindled, prices for remaining stock have risen. Other forces—less visible to consumers—have affected prices, too, says Burt Flickinger III, managing director at Strategic Resource Group, a retail consulting company based in New York.
As the pandemic spread in the spring, supply chains that normally served large grocers became inadequate under the crush of demand. And they still haven’t recovered, he says. And compared with prior years, packaged-goods manufacturers aren’t providing retailers with much in the way of promotional allowances—that is, payments for displays and advertising to promote their products. As a result, Flickinger says, retailers must use their own funds for advertising, and are passing the cost on.
“Customers are paying $4.99 and $5.99 for 12-packs of Coke and Pepsi vs. the $2.99 to 3.99 they paid last year at this time,” he says ... Shop warehouse clubs and smaller grocers. Warehouse clubs, such as BJ’s Wholesale Club and Costco, are managing their inventory well, so you’re more likely to find the items on your list in stock, Flickinger says. The same goes for smaller regional chains; they may have an edge on keeping their shelves stocked because their distributors aren’t necessarily the same suppliers that stock bigger chains.
Go with store brands. The cost of store-brand foods and beverages is at least 20 to 25 percent less than name brands of the same product, Flickinger says. (When CR members were surveyed about the grocery stores and supermarkets they liked best, three grocers earned top marks for their store brands: national names Costco and Trader Joe’s, and Central Market, which is based in San Antonio and is a subsidiary of the privately owned H-E-B supermarket chain.) You can often find store brands on shelves just to the right or left of comparable name-brand items.