For this week’s “Tuesday Tips,” the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection announced the rollout of a five-part consumer alert series to help New Yorkers save money amidst inflation and rising costs. In the coming weeks, consumers will receive guidance on how to save money on groceries, utilities and energy, transportation, entertainment and general shopping costs. In this first consumer alert, DCP is providing consumers with practical tips on how to reduce spending on groceries. Follow the New York Department of State on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and check in every Tuesday for more practical tips that educate and empower New York consumers on a variety of topics.
“Rising costs are affecting New Yorkers all across the State, and New York’s Division of Consumer Protection wants consumers to know that small changes can add up quickly when it comes to saving money,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez, who oversees the Division of Consumer Protection. “These tips and a little extra planning before going to the grocery store can go a long way toward helping consumers stretch their grocery dollars further this year.”
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “During financially challenging times, it’s important to choose fresh and wholesome food for your family, not only for its nutritional value but also for its economic value as fresh foods that are minimally processed, when properly refrigerated, can last longer, extending your budget so that you can provide more meals for your family throughout the week.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Consumer Price Index shows grocery store food prices increased 12% from November 2021 to November 2022, and prices are predicted to increase another 3 - 4% in 2023. With a large part of personal budgets expended on food, opportunities to save money are more important than ever.
DCP offers the following tips to help consumers save money on groceries:
Plan your meals. Planning meals in advance, including breakfast, lunch and dinner, will reduce food waste and cut down on expensive meal delivery or dining-out costs. Make a grocery list to support the plan and reduce impulsive purchases.
Look for deals. Plan meals around a few bulk ingredients or based on the weekly grocery sales circular to ensure you’re buying items on sale. Take advantage of store savings and enroll in store reward programs. Search for online coupons, use store savings and rewards cards, and watch for manufacturer coupons attached to the items in-store.
Shop strategically for food. Take inventory of what you have at home before going shopping. Go to the grocery store with a list, having planned out your meals until your next grocery trip.
Reduce food waste:
- Learn about food product dating. According to the FDA, confusion over date labeling accounts for an estimated 20 percent of consumer food waste. Important tips to know:
- Except for infant formula, manufacturers are not required by Federal law or regulation to place quality-based date labels on packaged food.
- Manufacturers apply date labels at their own discretion and for a variety of reasons. The most common is to inform consumers and retailers of the date to which they can expect the food to retain its desired quality and flavor.
- Best if Used By is the standard phrase to indicate the date until which a product will be at its best flavor and quality, not the date an item will spoil. Consumers should examine foods that are past their Best if Used By date for signs of spoilage before they throw them away.
- For example, bread past its Best if Used By date may be stale, but if it is not moldy or spoiled, it could be used to make French toast, croutons, breadcrumbs and several other items you may otherwise buy at the store.
- To learn more tips on how to cut food waste, visit www.fda.gov.
- Use your freezer. Freezing is a great way to store most foods to keep them from going bad until you are ready to eat them.
- Understand food and beverage storage. It will help you maximize the freshness and quality of items. Visit FoodKeeper for information on how to safely store different foods to maintain freshness and quality.
- Got Leftovers? Make one dinner a week your ‘smorgasbord night’. Reheat those leftovers as is or turn them into an entirely different meal by adding some additional ingredients.
Consider planting a garden in the Spring. This can help save both time and money. Turn those harvested fresh veggies into lunches and dinners, and then can or freeze your excess harvest to enjoy it all year long.
Wholesale clubs. Purchase in bulk to save money on items you frequently buy. Wholesale shopping also allows you to stock up for fewer shopping trips. Some wholesale clubs allow membership sharing, and that could mean splitting the membership fee with a friend or family member. Remember to cancel memberships you aren’t using.
Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables. Many fruits and vegetables peak at a certain time of year. Prices normally drop when they’re in season and rise when they’re not. Learn what’s in season with this guide to New York’s produce.
About the New York State Division of Consumer Protection
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers on product safety, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.
For more consumer protection tips, follow the Division on social media at Twitter: @NYSConsumer and Facebook: www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.