10 Grocery Items Getting Pricier and Alternatives to Buy Instead

Americans are spending nearly 12% more on their groceries than a year ago, according to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The federal agency reports that food prices were up 11.9% for the year ending with May 2022. That’s the largest 12-month increase since the period ending in April 1979.

“Sadly, rising grocery costs are embedded in the way we produce, distribute and consume food in the United States,” says Patrick Lydon, director of the documentary “Final Straw: Food, Earth, Happiness.” He believes the solution to the problem lies in creating municipal or locally owned food systems that embrace agroecological or regenerative growing methods.

In the meantime, consumers are faced with soaring grocery prices due to a combination of factors that include supply chain disruptions, inflation and global unrest. The following items are some of the foods that have seen the largest percentage price increases in the past year.

— Eggs.

— Butter and margarine.

— Citrus fruit.

— Fresh and frozen chicken parts.

— Bacon and breakfast sausage.

— Milk.

— Roasted coffee.

— Beef.

— Soups.

— Breakfast cereal.

As prices change, families may need to rethink their weekly menus. Moving to more meatless meals is one way to rein in grocery costs.

[See: 35 Ways to Save Money.]

“Many of the foundational ingredients of a plant-based diet are shelf-stable, cost-effective, and purchasable in bulk,” says Dana Smith, campaign director for Meatless Monday, an initiative that encourages people to reduce the amount of meat they consume for health and environmental reasons. “Foods like beans and peas — canned or dried — tofu, frozen vegetables, grains like brown rice or quinoa, dried pastas, fresh fruits and vegetables can feed a family for a fraction of the cost of a fast-food meal.”

In addition to rethinking meals, families may want to substitute ingredients for less costly alternatives. Here’s a closer look at the grocery items that have been getting more expensive along with some cheaper options to try instead.

Eggs

12-month price increase: 32.2%

Substitute: Applesauce, silken tofu

Egg prices have been volatile in recent years, first skyrocketing at the start of the pandemic and more recently rising in response to inflation and the spread of avian influenza. A year ago, you may have been able to buy a dozen USDA Grade A eggs for $1.10, but prices hit $2.62 per dozen in May 2022. Organic eggs were selling for nearly $6 a dozen in some areas, according to a USDA report.

To save money on eggs, you could substitute applesauce in baking recipes. “It adds a touch of sweetness, subtle texture, and is a bit more moist and crumbly,” says Caitlin Huston, a content marketing writer who enjoys baking as a hobby. She doesn’t recommend using applesauce in sugar cookies but says it works well in “crumbly” treats such as banana bread, coffee cake and brownies.

For breakfast, tofu can replace eggs in dishes such as breakfast burritos and scrambles, Smith advises.

Butter and Margarine

12-month price increase: 20.2%

Substitute: Oils, applesauce

Dairy products will continue to become more expensive in 2022, according to USDA projections. The federal agency estimates wholesale prices to increase 13% to 16% in the coming months.

If you like butter or margarine on your morning toast, you could swap it out for jam or peanut butter, which haven’t seen their prices increase as much. For cooking, oil is a natural substitute, but a cooking oil shortage could make that hard to find or expensive. Mayonnaise or yogurt can be used in some recipes and, again, applesauce can serve as a substitute in baked goods such as quick breads.

Citrus Fruit

12-month price increase: 16.1%

Substitute: Local produce

Oranges can be a refreshing treat on a summer day, but poor crop yields and supply chain issues are pushing the price of citrus higher. For those who live in areas where oranges must be imported, it may be cheaper to buy locally grown fruit in season.

“One of the most equitable ways we have seen for tackling rising food costs is when agriculture happens at the community level,” Lydon says. He recommends people look to neighborhood farms and local and regional food cooperatives, among other sources, as places to find locally grown food.

Community support agriculture — in which consumers purchase shares of produce from local farms — can also be an option. These shares often have a significant upfront cost, but by paying now, participants lock in current prices.

Fresh and Frozen Chicken Parts

12-month price increase: 19.3%

Substitute: Eggplant

Poultry is another food category that is getting more expensive, and within it, chicken parts have seen the largest percentage price hikes. As with eggs, avian flu is helping fuel the sticker stock some shoppers may feel when visiting the meat case. Adding to the problem are historically low stocks of frozen chicken, the USDA says.

If you need a cheaper substitute, Smith has a surprising suggestion: eggplant. “When prepared properly, eggplant is a great alternative to a number of traditional chicken recipes such as eggplant Parmesan instead of chicken Parmesan.” Smith says.

Bacon and Breakfast Sausage

12-month price increase: 15.6%

Substitute: Umami-flavored ingredients

For meat eaters, there may be no real substitute for a side of bacon or sausage on their breakfast plate. Plant-based meat substitutes are available, but these can be costly as well. To contain grocery costs, families may have to limit these breakfast meats to special occasions.

However, for cooking, a variety of foods and spices can mimic the flavor and feel of meat. These include eggplant, mushrooms, soy products and even coconut, according to Smith.

If you want to replace the flavor of breakfast sausage in a dish, such as a breakfast scramble, a little spice may go a long way. Some stores may carry breakfast sausage seasoning, or recipes can be found online to make this ingredient at home. For instance, the cooking website The Cookful has a recipe for breakfast sausage seasoning that can be made in advance and stored for up to two months.

Milk

12-month price increase: 15.9%

Substitute: Dry milk, yogurt, water

As with other dairy products, milk prices have increased in the past year as a result of supply chain issues and inflation. The situation seems to be improving, according to an analysis published by the American Farm Bureau Federation earlier this year, but don’t expect dramatically falling prices any time soon. To reduce costs, consider using dry milk or plain yogurt for baking. For drinking, nothing is cheaper than water from the tap, assuming you have a safe and clean local water system.

Roasted Coffee

12-month price increase: 15.6%

Substitute: Instant coffee

It’s hard for some people to imagine starting their day with anything other than a cup of coffee, but that morning pick-me-up is getting more expensive. Drought in Brazil, along with frosts, are expected to significantly impact the upcoming coffee bean harvest. What’s more, logistics issues are making it more difficult to ship coffee beans north and that is affecting their supply.

Although not the same as roasted coffee, instant coffee may be a more affordable choice. While roasted coffee prices are up 15.6%, the BLS reports instant coffee prices have risen a bit less, at 12.9%. If you can’t stomach the thought of instant coffee, now may be a good time to acquire a taste for tea.

Beef

12-month price increase: 10.2%

Substitute: Plant-based proteins

Overall, beef prices rose 14.3% in the past year, although increases in the price of roasts outpaced other cuts. Part of the problem isn’t a lack of cattle but a lack of capacity at processing plants. It’s a problem the USDA is trying to address with technical assistance and grant programs it announced earlier this year.

Given rising beef costs, it may be more economical to think outside the box when it comes to main dishes. “Beans, peas and lentils are packed with protein and fiber and are an inexpensive way to recreate dishes like tacos, pasta Bolognese and meatloaf,” Smith says.

You could also consider a plant-based protein such as Beyond Burger that replicates the taste and texture of beef with ingredients such as rice, beans and oil. Per-pound prices for plant-based protein products have historically been higher than beef, but they could be as cheap as meat by 2023, according to a study published last year by Boston Consulting Group and Zurich-based Blue Horizon, a company focused on sustainability.

Soups

12-month price increase: 13.9%

Substitute: Store brands

Inflation, supply chain issues and higher ingredient costs are among the reasons behind an increase in the price of canned soup. Manufacturers such as Campbell Soup Co. have responded by raising prices since last year.

It can be hard to substitute other items for canned soup, although making it from scratch may be more economical. If that isn’t an option, buying store brand soups can be a way to save.

Breakfast Cereal

12-month price increase: 12.2%

Substitute: Oatmeal

Breakfast cereal is another victim of supply chain woes as manufacturers raise prices to reflect their increased costs. Transportation and labor expenses are up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but overall inflation is also a factor.

Swapping out cold cereal for oatmeal is one way to save on the first meal of the day. The cost is typically less per serving, and its fiber content may help you feel full longer. For the greatest benefit — to both your health and your wallet — select old-fashioned rolled oats or quick oats over the instant variety.

More from U.S. News

How Much Should I Spend on Groceries?

Is Fast Food Cheaper Than Cooking at Home?

How to Prepare for Food Inflation as Prices Rise

10 Grocery Items Getting Pricier and Alternatives to Buy Instead originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 06/10/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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