Key Takeaways

  • According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food prices are expected to rise between 2.5% and 3.5% in 2022.

  • Increasing food costs are the result of inflation as well as pandemic-related supply chain issues and labor shortages.

  • While food prices aren’t expected to go down, smart shopping and budgeting habits can help older adults save on groceries.

Why did food prices go up in 2022? Will food prices go down in 2023? If you're worried about the high costs of food, you're certainly not alone. Rising prices at the grocery store have many Americans concerned, particularly older adults who live on a fixed or limited income.

How much have grocery prices increased?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food prices are expected to grow between 2.5% and 3.5% over the course of 2022.1 The rate of price increase may vary across different food categories. For example, the USDA predicts that:

  • Fresh fruit will rise between 2% and 3%
  • Seafood will rise between 3.5% and 4.5%
  • Dairy products will rise between 2.3% and 3.5%
  • Cereal and bakery products will rise between 2% and 3%

The degree of price inflation also depends on whether food is purchased to eat at home or away from home. In 2022, food-at-home prices are expected to increase between 2% and 3%, and food-away-from-home prices are expected to grow between 4% and 5%.

While the higher price tags may be straining your grocery budget, these predictions are lower than the price spikes that happened in 2020 and 2021.

Why did food prices go up in 2022?

In a word? Inflation. According to the International Monetary Fund, inflation is the rise and fall of prices for goods and services, driven primarily by supply and demand. It represents how much more expensive something has become over a fixed period (e.g., a year). Inflation can be influenced by supply chain problems as well. For example, food prices were severely impacted by labor and product shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this impact is still being felt today.

Will food prices go down in 2023?

With lingering supply chain issues from the pandemic as well as rising costs for farmers, grocery store prices are not expected to go down anytime soon.

The good news is that there are many ways to save on groceries, including seeing if you're eligible for food assistance benefits, which can help counter the effects of rising food costs. Below are five tried-and-true approaches you can use to spend less at the grocery store.

5 ways to save on groceries every month

1. Use a budget calendar. A budget calendar is a paper or digital calendar that you use to predict how much money will flow in and out of your budget each month. The key components of a budget calendar are income (e.g., wages, pension, Social Security), household expenses (e.g., rent/mortgage, cell phone, utilities, groceries), and savings (e.g., contributions to an emergency fund).

Organizing your finances ahead of time can help you see how much you have to comfortably spend on groceries from week to week. By budgeting, you can plan smarter, shop more efficiently, and save money that can be applied toward other necessities.

2. Make meal planning a habit. Preparing your meals at home costs much less than ordering takeout or dining in at a restaurant. It's much healthier, too. Meal planning helps you stretch your budget even further. By planning your meals for the entire week ahead of time, you can minimize your trips to the supermarket. You'll also streamline your grocery list by buying only the items you need to make your pre-planned recipes.

Not sure where to begin with meal planning? The process is as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Find simple, healthy recipes online or in your favorite cookbook.
  2. Make a list of the items you need to buy to make those recipes.
  3. Prepare your ingredients in advance (e.g., chop up vegetables).

To maximize your grocery savings, let your store's weekly sales flyer guide your meal planning. It’s also a good idea to stock up on the staples you use most often when the price is right.

3. Look for savings. Grocery store savings are all around you—but you have to look for them. Here are a few ways to find deals that help you spend less at the grocery store:

  • Clip coupons: Whether you find them in the Sunday paper, online, or in your mailbox, coupons can help you save money on the products you use regularly. Some grocery stores will even double the value of any coupons you have.
  • Join store loyalty programs: Many grocery stores offer loyalty or reward programs that are free to join. As a member, you can receive valuable coupons and exclusive discounts. You might also be able to earn points that you can later apply toward a grocery purchase.
  • Find store-brand alternatives: Are you married to brand names? If you’re interested in how to save money grocery shopping, it may be time for a switch. House brands are almost always less expensive than brand-name products, and the quality is often comparable (if not better).

4. Shop for groceries online. Although you might think of online food shopping as more expensive, it can actually save you money. For one thing, it helps eliminate impulse buys by keeping you out of the physical store. In addition, you can check your fridge and pantry right before you place a grocery order to see what foods you already have on hand. This stops you from wasting your grocery budget on items you don't really need.

5. See if you’re eligible for SNAP assistance. If you’re struggling to afford high food prices and don’t currently receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, it’s a good time to find out if you qualify.

SNAP provides monthly financial assistance to help older adults buy the food they need—older adults like Mary, age 63. Mary was recently approved for SNAP and is using her benefits on a regular basis.

"I go to a farmers market every two weeks and get fruits and vegetables there with my EBT card," Mary said.

Wondering how to apply for SNAP?

Many older adults don’t participate in SNAP due to its complex application process. But we’ve made it easier. Through BenefitsCheckup.org, you can:   

  • Try our simple online screening tool to see if you qualify for SNAP and other assistance programs offered in your state.
  • Check our SNAP Map to learn more about SNAP and find the SNAP application form for your state. You can even sign up for text-message alerts that walk you through the application process step by step.

Sources

1. Food Price Outlook, 2022, U.S. Department of Agriculture (March 2022 forecasts). Found on the internet at https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-price-outlook/summary-findings/.