Ten tips to limit the impact of inflation on your food expenses

You probably noticed it at checkout. For several months, many foods have seen their prices skyrocket, from fresh vegetables to meat, pasta or oil. With a 3.8% increase between April 2021 and April 2022, the food sector is certainly experiencing much lower inflation than that of energy (+26.5%). But it is closely scrutinized since food constitutes, after housing, the second most important part of household consumption expenditure. Especially since the situation is expected to worsen: in June, INSEE estimates that inflation in the sector will reach 6.3% over a year.

>> INFOGRAPHICS. Why are your groceries costing you more and more? The answer in six graphs

Faced with this observation, the government has promised to set up a food check of 50 euros per month for the most modest households after the legislative elections. To help consumers who wish to limit their spending when filling their shopping basket, franceinfo has listed advice from consumer associations, mass retail or consumer specialists, and even informed customers. They often require organization or a little extra time… and therefore also have a “cost”.

1Compare prices at stores near you

Going to the nearest supermarket is not always the most economical solution. The price gap between the two most expensive and the two cheapest mass retailers reached 23.5% in May, according to a study (PDF) of the Research and Innovation Institute (IRI) based on a panel of 12 brands (excluding hard discount). This large discrepancy is due to “the very firm negotiation policy of certain brands with their suppliers, which allows them to offer low prices and build up a margin on the volume sold”, explains to franceinfo Grégory Caret, director of the Observatory of consumption of the consumer association UFC-Que Choisir. At the other end of the spectrum, “downtown stores have higher prices due to lower shelving” than hypermarkets.

To help you find the cheapest brand near you, UFC-Que Choisir has put online a map of 4,000 drives (excluding hard discount) in mainland France, classified according to the prices charged on a same basket of 103 products. Given the recent increase in fuel prices, do not forget to integrate this data to know if it is worth going further.

2Choose your brand and products based on promotions

In two words, know how to be “unfaithful” and “opportunistic” with brands and retailers, advises Elodie Toustou, head of the “Money” section of 60 Million consumers. It invites you to consult the promotional catalogs of the brands (available at the reception of stores and on the internet) before going shopping to find out which store to choose that day. Do not hesitate to substitute your usual products for others depending on the promotions available, or even to compose the menus of the week according to reductions. Some influencers, specializing in economic shopping, also offer inexpensive recipe ideas (such as the 1repas1euro site). This is also the case of the cooking site Marmiton, which offers a “good and cheap” category (less than 5 euros per person).

In addition, many mobile applications exist to help you optimize your discounts: Fidme, Fidall or Stocard allow you to combine your loyalty cards. Groupon allows you to make group purchases (therefore cheaper). Coupon Network or Shopmium allow you to benefit from specials. This same Shopmium, iGraal, FidMarques or Quoty finally allow you to be reimbursed part of his expenses (a process called “cash back”).

3Make a list, set a budget…and stick to it

You are familiar with the proverb “The best way to resist temptation is to give in to it” ? Well, don’t listen to him. “With inflation, the practice of shopping lists is back in force to avoid being tempted on the shelves”, according to Olivier Dauvers, journalist specializing in mass distribution. To follow the amount of the receipt in real time, the latter advises to bring a calculator, or to opt for the showers of self-scanning available in some stores.

On the internet, many consumers also go there with their various tips so as not to stray from the fixed budget. Among others, the YouTube channel Maman Econome boasts of the “envelope method”, which consists of withdrawing cash corresponding to each expense item in the month (shopping, bills, outings, etc.) and distributing it in as many envelopes as posts. This method, which allows you to view the amounts available, also prevents you from going over the budget, provided you leave your credit card at home to respect the defined amounts.

4Buy (then freeze) soon-to-expire products

What is the thrifty consumer’s best friend? The “short DLC”, which designates a use-by date close to the date of purchase, generally the same day or the next day. If you cannot use these products in time, freeze them in order to prolong their shelf life. In addition to products marked with on-shelf labels, most supermarkets now offer entire shelves of “short DLC” which allow “pay three to four times less”, assures Elodie Toustou. A good practice for the wallet, which also contributes to the fight against waste.

Here again, several applications (Phénix, Too good to go, etc.) make it possible to locate supermarkets, but also restaurants or greengrocers which indicate whether they have the corresponding products.

5Turn to low prices and hard discount

Entry-level products and hard discount prices are not exempt from price increases, on the contrary. But from an economic point of view, they remain a better deal than their competitors. The French are not mistaken: the weight of hard discount weighed in 2021 more than 11% in the sale of consumer products and fresh products, according to a study by the IRI.

How about the quality? These categories of products suffer from a bad reputation, provoking the reluctance of certain consumers. However, it is difficult to generalize, assures the Food Observatory (Oqali), in a report (PDF) published in 2015. “One-off and non-systematic differences [en termes de valeurs nutritionnelles] are highlighted and no cross-sectoral trend emerges from the analysis by (…) market segment”, writes the institution. In short: some high-end products are of better quality than entry-level products, and others are not. To find it, only one solution: “read labels” to flush out additives and other superfluous ingredients, advises Elodie Testou. What if we don’t know much about it? “The longer the list of ingredients, the more you have to be wary”explains the specialized journalist.

6Favor “homemade” rather than prepared meals

“When you buy a dish prepared by someone else, you also pay for the time they spent on it, so it will always cost you more”underlines Olivier Dauvers. Try to limit prepared meals or products that can be made at home. It is for example possible to recover from a butcher meat trimmings to feed his pets.

If cooking at home is an investment in terms of time that is sometimes difficult to reconcile with professional life, it is however not necessary to spend hours behind the stove. The Marmiton application, for example, offers a series of recipes in “less than five minutes”.

7Go through short circuits (when it’s cheaper)

Contrary to popular belief, getting supplies from producer stores, markets or brands that favor local products can sometimes save money. “Local and seasonal products can be cheaper because they mature in the territory and therefore avoid the cost of transport”, explains Elodie Toustou. Getting supplies directly from a producer also makes it possible to eliminate the margin taken by intermediaries. But beware, this is not systematic: fruits and vegetables grown in greenhouses include, for example, the cost of heating in their price and can therefore be more expensive, even if they have grown nearby.

In the “tricks” department, if you go to the market as late as possible, when traders begin to repack their products, you can often benefit from lower prices and even donations.

8Replace expensive products with more affordable ones from the same family

Among the products that suffered the highest inflation in one year (from April 2021 to April 2022) are frozen fruits (+33.9%), fresh fish (+12.1%), fresh vegetables (+8 9%) or mutton, lamb and goat meat (+7.7%), according to the latest figures from INSEE. To continue to eat in a balanced way while paying attention to your expenses, specialists advise to fall back on other foods of the same family (for example by replacing part of the meat with eggs, also rich in protein ).

It is also more economical to prefer canned packaging rather than frozen or fresh fruits and vegetables. Several studies (in English) demonstrate that the nutritional benefits of the three are broadly comparable.

9Limit superfluous products

At the risk of breaking an open door, it is easier to do without products that are not at the heart of meals. In the line of sight: soft drinks, confectionery or prepared meals, very expensive per kilo. “You should not give up all your pleasures, but consuming fewer processed products or sugary drinks offers a double benefit for health and the wallet”notes Gregory Caret.

10Reduce waste

Every year in France, 20 kg of food waste per person is thrown away with household wasteincluding 7 kg of food products still packaged, according to a report by the Ecological Transition Agency (Ademe). However, reducing waste helps protect the planet, but also your wallet. Avoid buying too much and introduce at least one “leftover meal” each week to reuse what has not been finished the previous days.

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