Has anyone else been surprised by their unusually low bank account lately? Have you run out of money faster than ever over the last few months, even though your spending habits haven’t changed? Chalk your dwindling funds up to inflation (aka a general increase in the prices of goods and services, so your dollar doesn’t go as far), which has been soaring since the pandemic threw about a million wrenches into the economy and our day-to-day lives.

Eighty percent of respondents to a December 2021 survey by Credit Karma said their grocery bill had gotten more expensive due to rising inflation, and 30 percent of that group said they’re no longer able to afford the items they need. A May 2022 survey from Credit Karma shows that the trend has continued: One-third of Americans say they’re spending more today than pre-pandemic, and of that group, 75 percent of them are overspending in order to buy groceries.

We spoke to Kristen Gall, Rakuten’s retail and shopping expert, to learn why groceries have been hit so hard by inflation, plus to get tips for lowering our food bill.

how to save on groceries high inflation most affected items

What Grocery Items Have Been Hit the Hardest by Inflation?

According to Gall, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products have been most affected. “This is a result of labor and transportation shortages, a series of recalls, the bird flu, increase of fertilizer costs and shortages of livestock feed,” she explains. “Since these products require the most human attention, these items have been more affected than say, pasta and bread, because they take more time and people to produce.”

Unfortunately for many of us, those food groups are essential to our grocery hauls. Gall urges shoppers to look for daily specials at the supermarket to take advantage of limited-time discounts, or to hunt for cheaper alternatives than your usual products and brand names.

how to save on groceries high inflation tips for saving

5 Tips for Saving on Grocery Bills Right Now

Despite rising prices, there are a few simple hacks that could help you shave a few bucks off your grocery tab:

  • Make a list before you shop (and stick to it). Gall believes the most common mistake consumers make is going into the supermarket unprepared. “When you go grocery shopping for the week without knowing what you are planning to buy, you tend to go overboard and get things that end up going to waste,” she says. Make a list and take inventory of what you already have before shopping to avoid spending unnecessarily.
  • Swap out brand names for generic. Just because a product is name-brand doesn’t mean it’s higher in quality. Generic brands have “less advertising behind them, making them the cheaper option,” notes Gall. They’re often made with similar (if not identical) ingredients to their pricier competitors.
  • Buy essentials in bulk. Usually, the more you buy at once, the cheaper it is per serving. “Shopping at a wholesale club, like BJ’s, is great for purchasing grocery cart items in bulk, and these stores typically offer special deals for their members,” explains Gall.
  • Sign up for your supermarket’s loyalty program. Many grocery stores have sales and discounts that are only available to loyalty members, and they’re typically free to join. Gall also recommends signing up for emails and newsletters from your favorite supermarkets. “They typically send out coupons and promotion news via this channel,” she says.
  • Use cash back platforms to save even more. For the uninitiated, cash-back apps like Rakuten, Ibotta, Receipt Hog and Shopkick offer coupons and rebates on a variety of purchases, including groceries. Some apps will ask for receipts from any grocery store, while others offer savings if you buy from specific online retailers, like Thrive Market, Instacart and Blue Apron. It’s an extra step to add to your shopping routine, but it’ll be worth it in the long run if you save a few bucks. (That’s impromptu ice cream run money right there, people.)

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s associate food editor. A former bartender and barista, she’s been writing about all things delicious since 2016, developing recipes, reviewing restaurants and investigating food trends at Food52, New Jersey Family Magazine and Taste Talks. When she isn’t testing TikTok’s latest viral recipe, she’s having popcorn for dinner and posting about it on Instagram @cookingwithpire.