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Skip the meat to lower your grocery bill, and other ways to beat inflation

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Posted at 5:19 AM, Feb 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-01 13:29:05-05

Pandemic-related problems have created a recipe for inflated food prices at the grocery store. But, you don't have to be a coupon clipper to save money.

Lowering your grocery bill is a lot easier if you skip the meat. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows most meat products like pork, chicken, and beef have seen double-digit price hikes when you compare this January to January of 2021. Whereas potatoes, tomatoes, cheese and tea went up one percent or lower.

"There's an awful lot of labor involved in processing meat," said Dean Le Blanc, a Professor of Supply Chain Management at Milwaukee Area Technical College. He explains price hikes differ for food groups because it's costing more money to get some products to the grocery store compared to others, and the pandemic has only heightened that.

"Labor, raw materials, and logistical costs, right supply chain costs, energy costs, all of these factors are inputs to the food that we consume," he said.

If meat is a staple in your house, Le Blanc recommends planning out your weekly meals with whatever is on sale at the grocery store.

"If pork loin, for example, is on special this week, make sure to incorporate pork loin into your menu once or twice throughout the week."

He adds avoiding pre-made foods at the deli and bakery will also cut down costs.

"In some cases, those pre-made foods relative to you buying those ingredients in the store, are up to four or five times higher."

Also, buying generic will bring your bill down. Le Blanc says even if store brand food prices go up, there's still a noticeable cost difference between name brand and generic. If you aren't budgeting for higher prices with your grocery haul, it may be time to start.

"Unfortunately, in all of this, we are not at the peak. We are roughly twelve to eighteen months out before consumers see any time of real relief."

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Tracking grocery prices

Starting on Feb. 25, 2022, the TMJ4 I-Team is visiting several Milwaukee-area stores to track the change in prices of a select basket of goods. You can see our shopping list below. On the left, you can see several graphics tracking the changing prices at each store. Some items are subject to sales on a week by week basis.