You don’t need me to tell you about skyrocketing food costs. Over the past couple of year, a trip to the grocery store to pick up eggs, milk or butter has been breathtaking. The financial strain on consumers has become nearly unbearable.
But now the price of some food items is starting to recede. The index for food at home (grocery prices) dipped 0.2%, while the index for food away (eating out) from home rose 0.4% (see below).
Overall, grocery prices have gone down this year, while restaurant prices — which used to be relative compared to the cost of food — have and continue to go up significantly. Why? Because of labor costs and what has been going on with rising wages.
THESE FOOD ITEMS ARE GETTING CHEAPER
Here are some grocery items that got cheaper based on the seasonally adjusted percentage change from March to April 2023.
Bacon and related products
Butter and margarine
Dairy and related products
Fish and seafood
Fruits and vegetables
Salt, seasonings, spices
That’s according to the latest Consumer Price Index, which was released in April 2023.
By contrast we need to keep in mind that while the cost of eating out has become abhorrent, it’s going higher. Restaurants are not passing along lower food costs to their to their customers. Why? Because labor and other associated costs continue to soar.
KIDS EAT FREE: Plan ahead and then make sure you meet the criteria to get free meals for the kids. Many restaurants now offer free meals for the kids on low-volume days — typically Tuesday or Wednesday — when the adults order from the dinner menu.
Here are eight easy ways to cut the cost of eating out.
STICK TO A BUDGET: Determine how much you’re willing to spend — including tax and gratuity. This will help you make more conscious choices and avoid overspending.
LOOK FOR DEALS AND DISCOUNTS: Check websites, mobile apps and social media platforms for restaurant deals, coupons and special promotions. Many restaurants offer happy hour specials, early bird discounts or weekday specials that can significantly reduce the cost of your meal.
SHARE MEALS OR ORDER SMALLER PORTIONS: Restaurant portion sizes are often larger than necessary. Consider sharing a meal with a friend or family member or choose smaller portion options (sides) if available.
SKIP THE EXTRAS: Extras like appetizers, drinks and desserts significantly increase your bill. Share a dessert, if you must.
DRINK WATER: Beverages are where the restaurant can really pad its profit. At $3 for a single soft drink, iced tea or coffee (it’s getting ridiculous!), a typical restaurant is looking at about 90% profit. Ka-ching! Determine ahead of time to order water with your meal.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LUNCH SPECIALS: Many restaurants offer lunch specials that are more affordable compared to their dinner menu. Opt for a lunch outing instead of dinner, as you can often find similar dishes at a lower price.
COOK AT HOME: The more meals you can eat at home, the faster you’ll be taking advantage of dropping grocery prices. Make eating out something special that you plan for special occasions and celebrations.