When a talking head on the nightly news tells us that inflation has cooled, we as consumers needn’t be so quick to rev up our shopping carts again – especially at the grocery store.
Yes, prices for meat, produce, and eggs have fallen, but as ConsumerAffairs recently reported, consumers are still paying 4.7% more for groceries than they did a year ago.
Now, spending $4.70 more on $100 worth of groceries may not force you into home gardening mode, but as the trends from Datasembly show, some of the food items that we put in our carts are extremely volatile, price-wise.
A year ago, you could buy candy at a fairly reasonable price, but in the last 12 months, the price index for that category has jumped from 116 to 135. Last year, candy prices ranked 11th of all the grocery aisles that Datasembly tracks, but now it’s leapfrogged all others and rests comfortably at the top of the price pain points.
Not to be left out, candy’s sweet tooth kin is also costing consumers more. The current price index for snacks/cookies/chips is charting at 134.10, 14 points higher than this time last year. Bakery goods and baking products have also moved up 118 to 131 index points.
Things won’t get any better anytime soon for wheat-based products, either. With Russia pulling out of the deal that permitted Ukraine to export grain around the world, we can expect darn near anything that has a smidgen of grain to go up in price as well.
How can consumers navigate rising prices?
Tracking every single price index blip could make you crazy, but Lisa Thompson, Savings Expert at Shopmium, an app giving consumers cashback offers for everyday purchases, tells ConsumerAffairs that when she heads to the grocery store, her arsenal of tools is minimal.
Try store brands.Private label store brands are on fire. So much so that convenience store pioneer 7-Eleven just jacked up its private label line, getting 150 new products ready for its shelves, including tortilla chips, oat milk smoothies, and sparkling water.
Thompson said that Target is reporting increased sales for its Up & Up brand, too. “And there's a good reason why: private label brands run cheaper,” she said. “Private label brands used to have a rep for being inferior, but as consumers are priced out of brands they've been loyal to for years, they're willing to look elsewhere on the shelves.”
Get all the cash back you can. “Paper coupons may be harder to come by, but there's lots of cashback to be had with apps like Shopmium, through certain credit cards -- look for ones that give you a higher cashback rate at grocery stores -- and even retailer loyalty programs,” Thompson suggests.
These money-saving apps are not only free, but Thompson says they’re also retailer-agnostic, meaning they can be redeemed almost anywhere.
One retailer that’s sensed there’s a huge upside to cashback rewards programs is Dollar General. Piggybacking on the success it’s seeing with shoppers looking for lower prices, the company just announced its new DG Cash Back Program, which allows customers to earn cash back in their DG Wallet on eligible purchases through the company’s partnership with the Ibotta Performance Network.
Not only that, but customers can add offers available from the app’s “Deals” page to their profile, and earnings from the program can be redeemed for future in-store purchases.
Price comparison between stores. Another of Thompson’s weapons is to watch for sales, BOGOs, following your favorite retailers on social media, and doing price comparisons between retailers to find the best prices on the products you buy regularly.
Got a favorite brand? Sign up for their emails. Flat out, it's the best way to get notified of new deals, new products, get hard-to-find coupons and other cost savers, Thompson told ConsumerAffairs, adding that if you sign up for emails from the various cash-back shopping apps, you should also receive a steady stream of new offers that could save you even more.