Americans Are Struggling To Buy Groceries: Here’s How They’re Cutting Costs

Inflated grocery prices are causing financial distress for many Americans. A recent consumer survey conducted by Swiftly found that 60% of Americans are currently struggling to pay for their groceries. Amid this struggle, some shoppers are finding creative ways to cut costs on their food shopping bills.

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Here’s a closer look at the strategies Americans are using to save on groceries.

Planning Ahead

While the majority of Americans (54%) spend an hour or less preparing to grocery shop, 37% said they spend two to three hours planning out their shopping trips. This planning can entail several strategies.

“What we see is some pretty good adoption of first-party apps and people checking out the website and the app of a grocery store,” said Andy Friedland, CRO at Swiftly. “We see millions of searches, but then people go buy somewhere else, which tells us that they’re price comparison shopping.”

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In addition to researching prices online first, many Americans are also spending time searching for coupons.

“Coupons — and especially digital coupons — are something that people got a lot savvier [about],” Friedland said. “Many stores now are offering coupons only in their apps as the paper circular continues to decline in prevalence.”

There also has been a rise in Americans doing their grocery shopping across multiple stores based on their price comparison research.

“A lot of shoppers are pretty savvy, getting different things from different stores,” Friedland said. “The price crunch has made people start to re-evaluate the use case of each store. Perhaps you’re not getting the best prices … in one place and you now go to another. So we’re seeing the same customer shop multiple stores more often than this time two years ago.”

Opting for In-Person Shopping

Although buying groceries online is convenient, it often comes at a premium.

Online delivery is “almost always” the most expensive option, Friedland said, “especially if it’s something like Instacart. They’ve got a shopper that’s more convenience-oriented than price-oriented.”

Because of the higher prices, fewer Americans are opting to buy groceries online. The survey found that 37% shop online at major retailers such as Amazon and Walmart and 21% use delivery services such as Instacart or DoorDash. The majority of Americans are shopping in person at their local grocery stores (77%) and big-box stores such as Target and Walmart (53%).

As for whether you can find better grocery prices at a local chain or a big-box store, the answer varies depending on the item.

“Produce tends to be can be cheaper when it’s sourced locally,” Friedland said, “and [for] prepackaged items, you’ll see better pricing power from the Walmarts of the world because they’re buying so much more volume from that particular supplier.”

Utilizing Loyalty Cards, Coupons and Retail Apps

Many shoppers are taking the extra time to utilize cost-saving programs and apps. More than half of Americans (64%) now use loyalty cards to save on groceries, the survey found.

“Loyalty cards [have] very few downsides, other than you’re sharing a lot of data,” Friedland said. “It’s mostly all upside with accessing discounts.”

In addition, 82% use coupons to save while grocery shopping. Utilizing coupons is “almost all upside from a customer perspective,” Friedland said.

“Sometimes digital coupons [are] glitchy and don’t work,” he said, but for the most part, they are an effective to way to save.

Another popular way to save is by utilizing discounts via retail apps — 34% use apps when grocery shopping.

“The advantages are you can get much better pricing, you can build a shopping list and share shopping lists with a roommate or spouse and, depending on how good their app is, you can tell inventory before you go in the store,” Friedland said.

Eliminating Spending on Certain Food Categories

The survey found that some Americans have completely stopped buying certain categories of food to save on their grocery bills, with the top cut categories being snacks (61%) and beverages (51%). If you don’t want to eliminate these items completely, there are things you can do to reduce costs.

“The more you can buy in bulk, the better,” Friedland said. “If you’re at a last-mile kind of place [such as] CVS, it’s going to be a lot more expensive versus [warehouse] clubs like Costco — you save a lot of money there. Then there are ‘subscribe and save’ options: If you can buy it on a replenishment basis, you can save a lot of money.”

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This article originally appeared on Americans Are Struggling To Buy Groceries: Here’s How They’re Cutting Costs

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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