Stocking up on the essentials at the grocery store is continuing to get even more expensive, as food prices rose nearly 1% from last month, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Prices rose 0.4% in August and jumped another 0.9% in September, according to the Consumer Price Index, which measures the changes in the cost of goods and services in the United States. However it's not just food prices that are continuing to creep up. Overall inflation soared to 5.4% from September of last year, matching the highest annual increase in 13 years.
When it comes to paying for that weekly grocery list, staples like meat, fish and eggs are only getting more expensive. The protein-rich category now costs 10.5% more than one year ago. Beef has spiked 17.6% while dairy has crept up the least at 0.6%, according to the September CPI.
Brian Philpot, CEO of AgAmerica, one of the largest non-bank agricultural lenders in the United States, said the price increases people are seeing at the supermarket started as COVID-19 took hold, but have continued for a variety of reasons.
"COVID started and we had the impacts of the supply chain and we had changes in demand for the market. A lot of restaurants, cruise lines and the like that were direct buyers from farmers disappeared overnight. And then you had labor shortages," Philpot told TODAY.
In addition to labor shortages which can effect the supply chain, Philpot said farmers are now paying more for inputs, such as fuel and fertilizer, which also factors in to rising grocery prices. Farmers receive around 15 cents per dollar spent on food, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"It's a perfect storm of issues," said Kristin McGrath, editor of savings website RetailMeNot. While taking care of basic needs is now more expensive, experts who spoke with TODAY shared five tips for how people can stretch their grocery budgets.
1. Take advantage of buy one, get one free deals
McGrath recommends shoppers start looking into their local supermarket circulars to find buy-one-get-one-free deals on staples that will remain fresh or can be frozen and used at a later date.
"Even if you don't need two of an item right now, if it's something you can save, this can help reduce your next grocery bill," she said.
2. Consider store brands
While prices are pretty much going up across the board, McGrath said it's worth giving store brands a chance.
"Those are still going to come in under then what you might pay for a popular name brand, but they're not skimping on quality," she said.
3. Look for cheaper cuts of meat
Swap that T-bone for a sirloin. With meat prices spiking, especially beef, exploring cheaper cuts of meat is one way to potentially trim a few bucks off a grocery bill.
Jayson Lusk, an agricultural economics professor at Purdue University, told TODAY Food that feed prices for livestock are up, as well as export demand, which are two factors driving up the price of meat. He recommended exploring different cuts of meat to cut down on grocery prices.
4. Sign up for rewards programs
It can pay to shop! McGrath advises shoppers to take full advantage of rewards programs wherever they go, whether it's to instantly save a few dollars on sale items, or get cash back on future purchases. Some, like Target's Circle Rewards program, even offer extra perks like 5% off on your birthday. McGrath also recommends checking out online coupon apps, including RetailMeNot's coupon app and DealFinder browser extension.
5. Reconsider some staples
Items that include descriptions, such as "grass-fed" or "cage-free" typically cost more. If your diet or values allows it, Lusk recommends choosing less expensive alternatives.
While no one can truly predict what the future holds, Lusk said he is hopeful that grocery prices will stabilize next year, at least in part due to vital crops.
"It's currently harvest season in the Midwest," he said. "And it's a good year for commodity crops, so that might help, however labor issues and supply chain issues go beyond food and agriculture and go to the overall economy."