Grocery prices are on the rise, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a new industry marketing report.
Retail food prices are expected to rise 1 percent to 2 percent this year, says the USDA Economic Research Service. That’s echoed in a February Acosta Sales & Marketing report, which predicts consumers will pay more for meat, seafood, deli, pet, baby and household care goods this year due to higher manufacturing and transportation costs.
Food takes one of the biggest bites out of our monthly budgets, but there are ways to food fight inflation and save some serious cash.
I recently did a price comparison on fresh food sold at Publix and Aldi. After doing the math, the results were shocking, even to me, an Aldi fan.
Ten common items at Aldi rang up 75 percent less than advertised sale prices at Publix. Plus, in most instances, Aldi’s sizes were larger than those at Publix, making them an even better value.
My price survey found Florida strawberries were $3.99 a pound at Publix. Aldi’s price: $1.39 a pound. Fresh chicken breasts were also $3.99 a pound at Publix. At Aldi, they were $1.49 a pound. Navel oranges were 99 cents a pound at Publix and 54 cents a pound at Aldi. White grapes were $2.49 at Publix and $1.19 per pound at Aldi.
Don’t get me wrong: I love Publix, its famous BOGO sales and unmatched customer service. But 75 percent less is a number that is impossible to ignore. Because of this, I now shop almost exclusively at Aldi and stop in at Publix and Penn Dutch about once a month to grab items not stocked at the value chain.
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Another drain on our pocketbooks: Valentine’s Day. The National Retail Federation predicts we’ll spend a record $161.96 each this year, thanks to a strong economy.
You don’t need to spend that much on your sweetheart. Grab a bouquet of a dozen roses — arranged in a vase — for $12.99 at Aldi. A dozen stems you will need to arrange yourself are on sale at Publix and Winn-Dixie for $19.99; arrangements are $39.99. Publix has buy-one-get-one free Valentine’s Day cards on sale this week, but I recently discovered Dollar Tree now stocks Hallmark cards for $1 each. Good to know, since greeting card prices run $4.99 and up.
Aldi also has an assortment of adorable Valentine’s Day items including heart-shaped cheeses, candy, cookies and even chocolate wine. Aldi also is selling humorously named Happy Farms cheeses inspired by Def Leppard, Guns ‘N Roses, Wham! and Michael Jackson hits from yesteryear in stores this week. Blocks of “Sweet Cheddar of Mine” and “Pour Some Gouda on Me,” among others, feature silly costumed cows struttin’ their stuff for $3.49. Usually, it’s Trader Joe’s that is best known for its whimsical products and sense of humor. Aldi, which has its own high-quality store brands, is moving in on TJ’s territory.
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I recently discovered Aldi’s outstanding Asian Salad Kit for $1.99, thanks to the Aldi Product Review & Recipes Facebook group I follow. Just add some chicken for a delicious, restaurant-quality meal.
Another product the Facebook group regularly posts about are knock-off Girl Scout cookies. Aldi sells its own version of Thin Mints, Samoas and Tagalongs year round for $1.45 a package. Most who tried them found the cookies not identical to the real thing (but good) in an informal taste test I performed at the office.
On the downside, Aldi’s checkout process can be clunky and annoying. While I haven’t loved every product tried, I’ve only returned one item: coffee. The K-cups refused to puncture in the coffee maker, creating a flood of hot water on the counter.
I took advantage of the chain’s Twice As Nice Guarantee, which refunds your money and replaces the product. I got my $4 back and a pound of ground coffee as a replacement.
That double money-back guarantee means there’s zero risk in shopping at Aldi. Even as food prices continue to climb, you’ll have extra cash to buy the products you can’t live without at Publix.
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