If you’ve been to the grocery store in the past year, you probably noticed your grand total slowly creeping upwards. You’re not the only one battling a big grocery bill: Thanks to ongoing supply chain issues around the world, many kitchen staples are pricier than ever, which means you might be struggling to stay within your designated grocery budget.
Certain items have seen a bigger uptick than others. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many types of meat—especially beef and pork—shot up in price over the last year, increasing by as much as 21%. Oranges (including tangerines) increased in price by nearly 10% throughout 2021—by far the most drastic increase in the produce section—and potatoes and frozen veggies took a hit, too.
Luckily, inflation didn’t affect everything in the grocery aisles. Some items saw minimal price increases, and some foods even got less expensive. If you’re hoping to spend less on groceries, here are some foods to add to your list (and our favorite ways to use them at home).
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This pantry must-have got a tiny bit pricier in 2021, increasing in price by close to two percent. Looking for delicious ways to use rice at home? You can pretty much pair this inexpensive grain with anything, but we have a few favorite rice-centric recipes. This Quick and Easy Mexican Rice is super easy to make and packs a ton of flavor—stuff it in a burrito, or eat it as the side.
This Cheesy Salsa Verde Rice & Beans Breakfast Bowl is another fan favorite— you probably have lots of the ingredients on hand, but it’s super flexible if you don’t. (You could, for example, use a different type of beans or salsa or skip the eggs if needed.)
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If you eat meat but you’d rather not spend a ton of money on pricey steaks and pork chops, now’s a great time to stock up on frankfurters, which dipped in price by .6% in 2021. Sure, you can toss a hot dog in a bun and call it a day, but why not go the extra mile for more fun and flavor? For an upgrade on game-day, try our Seattle Hot Dogs, a creative mash-up of a hot dog and a bagel. For a more complex but equally easy dish, check out our Hot Dog Tater Tot Casserole. You’ll need a few more ingredients—canned beans, mustard, cheese, and tots—but once you pop it in the oven, your work is done.
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Tuna-lovers unite: Shelf-stable fish, at .7% inflation, barely increased in price. You could grab some mayo and make tuna salad—or, you could try a more adventurous recipe with this flavorful protein source. Take Tuna Tetrazzini Casserole, for example. It’s a whole comfort meal in a single pot, and you can even prepare it a day ahead. Stuffed Peppers with Tuna and Breadcrumbs are another favorite: You can prepare them as a side or entree and use whatever type of peppers are cheapest. (Both recipes have lots of cheese, which dipped in price.)
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Speaking of cheese: Unlike some dairy items, this one’s cheaper than ever, at -.6% inflation. Unless you don’t eat it at all, there’s not really anything you shouldn’t add cheese to— but why not focus on recipes where cheese is the main character, as long as it’s so cheap? These Parmesan Shells and Cheese, a grown-up take on your childhood favorite, are topped with buttery bread crumbs and parsley (and, overall, is super easy to freeze for later).
For a dinner side, try this Easy Broccoli with Cheese Sauce, dressed with super-meltable (and inexpensive) American cheese. Just avoid frozen broccoli for this one if you don’t already have it on hand, since frozen veggies, in general, have shot up in price.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
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If you haven’t tried Catalan Tomato Bread, now’s the time. Tomatoes hardly saw a price increase, unlike many other produce staples (compared to fresh vegetables at 1.8%, tomatoes only increased 1.6% in 2021). For a make-ahead meal, you can’t go wrong with this Fresh Borlotti Bean, Tomato, and Spinach Soup, which uses three and a half pounds of fresh tomatoes (plus so many other delicious flavors).
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If you tend to keep juice on hand, now’s a great time to consider adding frozen concentrates—which only increased by 1.7%—to your rotation. There are plenty of fun ways to dress up your classic frozen OJ, and even cook with it. You could make this fruit punch for a gathering or whip up this from-scratch Sour Cream Orange Cake if you have a bundt pan. And while we adore these No-Bake Orange Balls for the holidays, you can make them anytime (especially when the star of the show, orange juice, is so affordable).
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Last but never least, butter, which saw a tiny 0.8% increase in price in 2021. You could make your own garlic-chive butter to spread on crusty garlic bread, or try out our Blue Cheese Compound butter on grilled veggies. You can, of course, incorporate butter in pretty much anything you bake or sauté, but we especially recommend this Butter-Braised Cabbage. It’s easy enough for beginner cooks, and it pairs well with any entrée you can think of.