How to Prepare for Inflation on Groceries

Inflation and Groceries. This is a something that I’ve been pondering deeply for the past two months, and I am diving into all the research today to explain why.

I have long been a believer in the importance of having a stockpile. The recent shortages during the pandemic proved my point. And now, as I look ahead, I am more convinced than ever that everyone needs to be building a stockpile.

Whether you have had a stockpile in the past or have never thought about it before, I think now is the time when everyone really needs to consider it.

Think of a stockpile as a practical emergency fund to prepare your family for whatever may come.

If you have a loss of income for a time, or if prices suddenly increase due to inflation (or hyperinflation), having a stockpile will help you through.

Consider it being a good steward. As a one income family, I consider it my responsibility to care for my family by stretching our pennies. This is why the predictions of inflation have caused me to rethink a lot of things and work harder to prepare our home, family and yes, stockpile.

Please know that I am not sharing all of this to cause you panic. Rather, I am sharing this because I want you to be prepared too.

So, let’s dive into all this talk about inflation and how it is affecting our grocery budgets.

A paper bag full of groceries

This post may contain affiliate links. You can read more in my disclosure policy.

Is this really transitory inflation?

Transitory inflation is the idea that inflation is only temporary. You may have heard this phrase floating around a lot lately. If you haven’t heard it yet, listen for it. Many experts are saying that what we are experiencing right now is transitory inflation. Some experts are saying inflation will only last for a couple of months and then it will come right back down again. Really?

My sincere question, based on my own research and watching all this stimulus money being given away…is how can this most recent inflation be only temporary? I am not trying to get into politics here. I simply believe we are going to be seeing more price increases in the months and years to come.

Are food prices going up in 2021?

Yes! That is a given. If you haven’t already noticed it, prices are increasing this year. Prices normally increase but based on the past 12 months, here are some of the average increases we are seeing on food products.

Based on commodity prices as of May 2021, we are currently seeing Year to Date increases as follows.

  • Soybeans 16.63%
  • Wheat 4.96%
  • Cheese 10.51%
  • Milk 19.94%
  • Sugar 7.94%
  • Coffee 17.15%
  • Canola 40.19%
  • Corn 35.64%
  • Beef 8.32%
  • Poultry 18.47%

Now, please note that commodity prices are based on actual products used to make the goods we purchase. Just because commodity prices are increasing does not guarantee an increase in the prices we pay but there is a correlation and a very good chance those increases will trickle down to the grocery store.

That said, this chart shows the inflation rate consumers have already seen at the grocery store on various products over the past year. Inflation worth noting? As of May 2021, this is how much prices have already increased over the past 12 months.

  • Seafood 18.7%
  • Toilet Paper 15.6%
  • Diapers 8.7%
  • Fruit 7.5%
  • Sugar 6.9%
  • Vitamins 6.2%
  • Yogurt 5.3%
  • Fresh Meat 5.1%
  • Bread 4.3%
  • Vegetables 3.1%
  • Baking Staples 2.5%
  • Eggs 1.1%

What is the current inflation rate for food?

As of May 2021, average food inflation is at 2.6%.

As you see above, many food prices have already increased more than 2.6%, and the year is only half over.

This chart shows the Food Inflation prices in the United States from 1968 to 2021. It is broken down by year and month. This is the most revealing chart I have seen yet.

In February of 1974, food prices increased an average of 18.7! That makes the increases of January of 2021 at 3.8 percent seem mild.

That said, I believe it is wise to prepare your family and your budget for more price increases to come.

How much are food prices expected to increase in 2021?

According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Food Price Outlook, these are the predictions for the increases we will see over the course of 2021.

  • Wholesale beef prices – Between 1.5 and 4.5 percent
  • Wholesale pork prices – Between 4.5 and 7.5 percent
  • Wholesale poultry prices – Between 5.0 and 8.0 percent
  • Wholesale fats and oils – Between 13.0 and 16.0 percent
  • Fresh fruit – Between 2.0 and 3.0 percent

These prices increases are all greater than the 2% inflation rate we keep hearing about. We won’t know much prices really will increase until it happens, but I think it is safe to say that prices are going to increase more than we would like.

How can I prepare for inflation with food prices?

There are a couple simple ways to prepare for inflation with food prices. I think it is wise to prepare now and start buying things before you need them. This is what I have been focused on lately.

Say that toilet paper does go up by 15% this year. That means that package of toilet paper you pay $10 for every month will soon cost $11.50. That works out to an extra $18 a year, just to buy the same toilet paper you were already buying. Multiple that scenario by multiple items increasing in price and you will quickly feel the impact on your budget.

If inflation doesn’t happen? Then, you will still be prepared and won’t have to buy some of these items for some time. You won’t be out anything because costs aren’t going to go down. They just not might increase at the higher rates some are predicting. If the hyperinflation predictions are true, then you will have saved your family money by buying things ahead of time, as we wait for the inflation to settle into more typical levels.

Follow the simple advice of “Buy 1 for now, and 2 for later.” Don’t ever let yourself get down to the last item in your pantry.

Always be looking and shopping ahead. When you see a good sale, stock up as much as you are able – especially on non-perishables.

Personally, we are moving some money around from other areas of our budget to focus on buying some extra things right now. You might consider doing the same.

Here are 3 simple ways to prepare for inflation and rising food costs.

Build a stockpile of non-perishable goods.

This is one of the best ways to prepare for inflation. Stock up now on things that you know won’t expire or go bad. Normally, I focus on building a stockpile of food when I find good deals. Right now, I am focusing on building a stockpile of non-perishables.

Here are some ideas of non-perishables to stockpile.

  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dish soap
  • Clorox wipes
  • Diapers
  • Baby wipes

Build a stockpile of things you use regularly.

Similar to the above, expand your stockpile to focus on the things your family uses regularly. Again, don’t think of food just yet. Focus on toiletries and other things you use. Don’t buy things you don’t use, because that is simply money wasted. Think about stockpiling some of the following items.

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Hand soap
  • Bar soap
  • Deodorant
  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Toothpaste
  • Over the counter medicine
  • Vitamins

Build a stockpile of foods your family eats.

The last area of your stockpile that you want to focus on is the perishable items your family regularly eats.

Whenever you see a good sale, purchase extra of the food items you use. If you have space in an extra freezer, focus particularly on buying meat when you can get a good price.

As for canned goods and other packaged items, buy what you can use before it expires.

Some of the best food items to stockpile include:

  • Peanut butter
  • Pasta
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Baking goods – flour, sugar, yeast, etc.
  • Cooking oils
  • Canned vegetables and fruits
  • Applesauce

As with all of these things, focus on doing what you can with what you have.

Can you spend a little less this week to buy an extra pack of toilet paper? Can you find some extra money to buy a couple extra packages of diapers? Can you buy 4 containers of the dish soap that is on sale instead of just 1? Remember that everything you buy now will help you prepare for the future.

What else can I do to get ready for inflation?

There are some simple things everyone can do, regardless of their family size or income level.

Pay off all your debt.

Paying off debt is always a smart move. I know someone would say that if hyperinflation hits, debt won’t really matter. I still believe it is important to pay off your debt.

Have money in savings.

Yes, if inflation hits, your money won’t go as far as it used to. That means things like home repairs – or a new vehicle – will cost more. You need to save now for these expenses.

Buy what you can now.

If you can free up some money in your budget (even a couple hundred dollars), buy those purchases now! This is true for a stockpile, as well as bigger purchases. For example, we are moving kids bedrooms around this summer, but I went ahead and bought their new mattresses earlier this month.

Plan for the future.

We should always be doing this, but I know there are many who live from paycheck to paycheck. Work hard. Build a stockpile. Save money. Be prepared for what may come – and if inflation comes to nothing, you will still be prepared for the future. You won’t have lost any money but saved yourself worry from the possibility.

Some people might say I’m taking things too seriously and others might say I’m not taking it seriously enough. Whatever side you fall on, I hope you will consider how you can best care and provide for your family. And if these tips help you to build a stockpile that will save your family money, then I have done what I hoped to do.

What are your thoughts on food prices and inflation? Have you started doing anything differently lately as a response or preparation?

If you want to read more about stockpiling…

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10 Comments

  1. I have decided that I am serving too much meat So I can get by with less if I make more casseroles with more vegetables. I also do not make many desserts. Fresh fruit is usually our dessert of choice.

  2. Dollar General has smaller sizes on certain items to keep the product at a certain price point. I don’t mind because I’m aware and watch for it. Similar to decreasing sizes instead of raising prices. I like the smaller sizes of snack foods like chips so I don’t eat too many!

    I also love to shop DG on Saturdays when you can save 20% off a $25 purchase. For staples and canned goods, this is a rare discount. You can get the discount onntheir website and in their app. I rarely buy more than about $25 to maximize my % savings. I’ll just go back next week. Over the course of a month I have $100 of food for $80. I still shop their sale prices and use coupons to max it out too.

  3. I appreciate your balanced advice. Normally, I’m one of those who lets things run out before purchasing more. However with the way things are I’ve been getting an extra bottle of detergent or package of toilet paper. It makes me feel better knowing that we won’t run out too fast. Thank you for sharing specific things to stock up on!

  4. I try very hard to keep a well stocked pantry for times when money is tighter than normal. We eat a lot of weird combo’s sometimes to use up food. This month we are doing bare minimum shopping to use up some of the things we have had for a while. So it means weird combos to eat. When shopping I look for the discounted items that we will eat and try to plan meals using them. Right now it is frustrating to grocery shop because so many things are in smaller sizes for larger prices. Or the store has bare shelves. Meaning you have to go to more stores to find the things you need. It is hard with diet restriction for myself (heart failure = no sodium) and hubby (diabetes). Fresh produce is ridiculously priced. Things that are in season are sky high. We planted our own tomatoes and strawberries and blueberries this year. Hope to expand that next year. Inflation irritates me in general. Once the price goes up (for whatever cockamamie reason they use to raise it) it NEVER returns to a normal price. Think about the price of milk…$3-4 a gallon. Chicken prices right now are stupidly high. It is hard to reign in the grocery budget when the food prices sky rocket!!

    1. You are very wise, Rebecca, to plan ahead. And weird combos are okay – when you have food on your shelves! One of my projects this week is to reorganize our pantry so I’m using things too. And yes, I have those same frustrations! The shrinking sizes is especially obvious right now! It is definitely a challenge, but good for you in planting a garden and making plans to expand it. My kids and I would absolutely LOVE to have blueberries, but our soil just doesn’t seem to work for them. But yes, the rising prices don’t seem to come back down…so we have to plan and continually adjust and be smart shoppers.

      1. We actually planted our blueberries and tomatoes in horse troughs (strawberries are just in large flower pots on the front porch) and purchased some dirt from a soil company to make sure that we had nutrient rich soil to grow the berries and tomatoes in. I am not looking to have any blueberries for quite a while but I have an abundance of tomatoes and strawberries coming in right now!

  5. The dish soap I used to buy recently changed from 25oz to 19oz for the same price. Same happened with the BBQ sauce is in a much smaller bottle for same price. Canned mushrooms pieces and stems used to be about 59cents were 89cents today. I have started adding to my stockpile what we use and also have coupons for or on sale now, even if not out of it yet. So today paper towels and the body wash the boys like was added to the cart. In addition to inflation, it is weird what there is a low supply of sometimes when I shop. So I’m trying hard to not get down to just one of anything-sometimes it has taken several weeks to find pepperoni etc.

    1. Yes! The smaller sizes are happening more and more regularly, with big jumps happening on the things that aren’t changing sizes. I think you are wise, Rachel, to add to your stockpile when you can. Oh, and yes! I’ve noticed the same with random shortages and low supplies. I’ve started filling in some of my gaps on Amazon, and have been pleasantly surprised at the deals I have found – especially on toilet paper and wipes. Watching the deals is a great way to save our families money!

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