Grocery Prices Are Spiking Because Of Coronavirus. Here's How to Cope

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on Aug. 17, 2020

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Though some expenses are declining during the pandemic, the cost of food isn't one of them.

Millions of Americans are grappling with income loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are depleting their savings in an effort to stay afloat.

The good news is that the cost of some common expenses, such as gasoline, has declined over the past few months. And some health insurance providers have waived copays for telehealth services, giving consumers a break.

But one expense that hasn't gone down in the course of the pandemic is food. Quite the opposite: The cost of groceries has mostly gone up.

Between February and June of 2020, the price of meat and poultry climbed 11%, while the cost of beef and veal rose 20%. Meanwhile, eggs got 10% more expensive, and consumers have been forced to pay 4% more for fresh vegetables and cereal.

And let's not forget the pandemic price-gouging consumers face. With once-mundane items like toilet paper and sanitizing wipes becoming hot commodities, many people are paying double or more to secure these staples.

If you're having a hard time paying for food during the COVID-19 crisis, you're not alone. And if that's the case, here are a few things you can do to ease that burden.

1. Maximize other savings

Though you may be spending more than ever on groceries right now, you probably can save money in other areas. If you're working remotely, for example, you're not paying to commute, so you can take the money in your budget you'd normally allocate to fuel and tolls or a train pass and use it to fill your fridge.

2. Scope out sales

Maybe you're not much of a coupon-collector normally, but given how grocery prices are skyrocketing, it pays to make an effort to capitalize on sales. Before you hit the stores, look for deals. Search for coupons online and study store circulars (which you probably already get in the mail; if not, they're generally online as well) to see what's on sale. If you notice that a few items you use regularly are discounted, stock up if you can, and if you have the space (don't make the easy mistake of buying food in bulk if you don't have room in your fridge or freezer).

3. Shop efficiently

It's not uncommon to buy something at the supermarket, only to come home and realize you didn't really need it. Now's not the time to make unnecessary purchases, so before you shop, take inventory at home, plan your meals for the week, then make lists of the things you need and stick to them.

4. See if you qualify for assistance

If you're a low earner and are struggling to buy food, it pays to see if you qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. If you're single, you'll qualify if your gross monthly income (income before deductions) is $1,354 or less. And if you do qualify, you may be eligible for up to $194 a month in SNAP benefits. Keep in mind that income limits and monthly benefits change based on your household size, so check here to see if you're eligible.

At a time when so many people have seen income nosedive, paying more at the supermarket is the last thing you need. Take these steps to ease the burden, but if they don't work, don't hesitate to reach out for help. Tell some friends you're struggling to put food on the table, or visit a local food bank. There's no shame in needing assistance at a time like this, and you can always pay it forward when you're in a better place financially.

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