About half of Americans are spending more money on food during the pandemic: Here's how to save

Almost half of Americans, 48%, said they are spending more money on food amid the coronavirus pandemic. Here's how to save money and still shop safely while buying groceries.


As fall approaches, anxiety surrounding Covid-19 and the potential for a second wave is ramping back up. Almost 30% of U.S. consumers are concerned about the coronavirus, according to a new survey from data firm dunnhumby, up 6% from June. 

Health isn't the only thing worrying Americans, though. Many shoppers are also concerned about the higher cost of food: Almost half of those surveyed, 48%, said they have been spending more money on groceries during the pandemic, and 42% have noticed rising food prices in recent months.

Here's how to save money on groceries and shop safely as the pandemic continues.

Find alternatives to Instacart and other delivery services

Before March, when the first wave of shelter-in-place orders were being enforced, many Americans were not used to online grocery shopping. Now, online grocery orders and food delivery accounts for 35% of all shopping "trips," according to the dunnhumby survey. 

Online grocery shopping remains a good option. But finding a delivery slot on Instacart or Amazon Fresh proved challenging during the early parts of the pandemic. "Most major grocery chains and stores partner with major delivery companies such as Instacart, Favor, and Shipt," Kristin McGrath, shopping expert at Offers.com, told Grow. "So you therefore need to use these delivery services and deal with their delays."

Luckily, those are not your only delivery options. Many food distributors, meal kit services, and restaurants have pivoted to selling groceries directly to consumers, so you may have more local delivery options than you realize.

Try wholesalers 

If you shop at a wholesaler, you might be able to find some products that are out of stock at the grocery store. Plus, buying from a wholesaler can save you some money, some experts say.

Wholesalers vary by state, so find the one near you and see what grocery delivery service they are offering. If you live in Austin, Texas, for example, you can order preselected boxes of meats and produce from wholesaler Farm to Table. And if you're in Los Angeles, Nature's Produce is filling customized orders for pickup. 

"Check butchers that usually sell directly to restaurants and stores, as well as wholesale bakeries," McGrath told Grow. 

Opt for curbside pickup

If you are shopping at a  big box retailer like Walmart or Target, take advantage of curbside pickup. This is a good way to avoid walking through a crowded grocery store and at the time save money by dodging delivery fees.

Make a grocery list

Review what's already in your pantry and take inventory of what you already have and what's about to expire. Then make your shopping list and stick to it.

Being methodical in advance can help you avoid panic buying or impulse purchases, both of which often lead to overspending. 

How to stay safe while shopping in person

More than one-third, 35%, of shoppers have been happy with their in-store experience the past few months. If you plan on visiting a store, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Many stores have special hours, usually in the morning, reserved for seniors and at-risk shoppers. Costco has already committed to continuing senior shopping hours indefinitely. If you're in an at-risk group, check to see what's available near you.
  • Upon arriving, expect to see lines to get inside, and pay attention to signs and aisle changes store are implementing to enforce social distance. Those changes may affect how quickly you can complete your shopping trip. 
  • Don't forget your mask. Many retailers now require shoppers to wear one, although some may provide one at the store's entrance. 

If you adhere to your grocery store's Covid-19 guidelines and take advantage of delivery options, you can shop safely without overspending this fall. 

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