If they keep lifting prices, it's time to rethink our grocery baskets

Photo by Peter Wendt

When it comes to grocery-related drama this year, we've just about seen it all. 

Got a hankering for some lettuce on your burger? Think again. How about a handful of berries with your granola? Maybe try kiwi instead. Even taco lovers are feeling the burn as hot sauce options have taken a hit due to droughts on chilli farms.

In case you missed it, we're paying through the nose on everything because of high inflation, caused in part by disruptions to supply chains. It's a complicated problem, we're told, a mix of issues. In some cases, high demand has seen stocks suddenly drop, in others, transport vehicles are being slowed by exorbitant fuel costs. And finally, damaging weather has upended the production and delivery of many items.

So, what's the latest to cop a price hike? Mustard. And it's been most acutely felt in France where mustard seems about as vital as butter. 

Like so many of these stories, the break in the mustard supply chain is not local, but far away in Canada, in yet another example of how dependence on globalised links has a very real downside.

One report I read from the American news site Quartz, said that in France some stores are limiting what they sell to each customer and that chefs are appealing to those in possession of some Dijon to please come forth. The story even noted shoppers fronting up to the head office of Dijon producers, where there wasn't a spoonful of the good stuff to be found. 

I guess we can all relate, driven to shelves amid panic-inducing headlines. It's understandable. 

The price of 60,000 grocery items are now up in the June quarter, according to UBS figures (reported in The AFR). Specifically, UBS looked at two supermarket chains, Woolworths and Coles, showing us that food averaged a 5.3% inflation related price spike over the period.

UBS noted there are also fewer discounts being offered and that costs will only continue to rise.

All of this madness, the prices, shortages and our apparent insatiable demand for everything that's actually on the limited list, has also given rise to a new phenomena in retail called "Shrinkflation". This is where brands repackage their products in much smaller quantities, the result of the rising costs on their end. Ultimately this means you once again pay more for much less. You can even hook up with Reddit groups to help you detect where sneaky shrinkflation is taking place at your local shop!

I haven't seen any shrinkflation myself but I'm sure it's going on, especially in the world of chocolate - Freddo Frogs look really small these days, don't they? 

Anyway, this is the state of play folks, a high inflation era, where flooded crops and dry farmlands have coincided with high fuel costs and a short supply of solutions. It all sounds too much like a bad movie, where at least one cackling eye-patched character is benefiting from these universally spiking prices. 

So let's not get down about it, if any price gouging is going on, as a June article in The New York Times suggested is possible in some circles, it's being done without Dijon mustard, people!

But seriously, what can we do? 

Here are 3 grocery costs savers you can try, borrowed from some of my colleagues here at Mozo who have been researching these tricks for weeks:

Buy groceries online: You can save as much as $1,360 annually by ordering online, says YouGov. It's simply an easier way to track your basket and total spend.

Buy local produce: Not everything is available, but where possible Aussie producers do cover many of the mainstays, such as broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce.

Know what's gone up and limit those purchases: Maybe easier said than done, but it's a simple move that makes sense. You might not be able to cut back on milk, but canned goods, rices, breads, oils, biscuits, bananas, tomatoes and avocados have all gone up in price. So at least if you know this checklist, you can be more choosy.

For more help on tackling rising prices, we have plenty of tips and tricks in our Cost Of Living hub.