By Spencer Pipkin
Increased fuel and rent prices, along with inflation, are on the top of most Americans’ minds—especially college students.
Abigail Rasmussen, a senior at the University of Georgia, said she has tried more conventional approaches to saving money, such as eating at home and grocery shopping in bulk. The bulk purchases allow her prepare meals to be eaten throughout the week, she said.
“I think that eating in is probably still somewhat cheaper than eating out, but honestly, with the rise of food prices, I wouldn’t say it’s dramatically cheaper,” said Rasmussen.
According to an October report issued by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, “food prices are predicted to increase between 9.5 and 10.5%,” and that poses a challenge for young adults in college, often living on a fixed allowance, student loan or part-time job.
The report shows a constant increase in food prices year over year, outpacing trends set in 2020 and 2021. Food prices away from the home, at restaurants, have historically been higher than food prices at home, but that may no longer be the case. The report explained an anticipated 11% to 12% increase in food prices at grocery stores and supermarkets, while restaurant prices are predicted to increase 7 to 8%. These increases are on top of the 11.2% jump in the Consumer Price Index for food prices during 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Zachary Jones, a junior at UGA, does not believe there is a significant cost difference between eating at home and eating away from home, but he prefers to eat at home for convenience.
“It most likely costs about the same to eat in as it is to eat out for me, but the main difference I see is that I save a lot of time,” said Jones.
Though the price of food does not generally affect Jones’ eating habits, he worries about losing time when he eats out. As a student and freelance digital artist, Jones views his time as money, and he believes eating in helps protect his time. Jones added that eating at home allows for him to complete his school assignments on time, but it does not allow for the best variety.
“Oftentimes, I usually look for something that, again, is convenient and easy to make, but something that’s like, you know, different,” said Jones. “I don’t want to be eating the same thing every single day.”
Rasmussen also likes to add variety to her diet, but the increase in food costs do not help. Rasmussen eats organic fruits and vegetables, and most meats she buys from grocery stores are grass fed or sustainably sourced. The increase in food prices, from raw commodities to products in-stores, has forced her to start eating non-organic food, she said.
Jocelyn Melvin, an accountant at Grant Thornton, agrees that eating in is still cheaper than eating out.
“It’s so expensive to eat out [… even] if you’re not getting like any beverages or anything like that,” said Melvin.
Price increases can be minimized by buying in bulk and taking advantage of promotions offered by grocers, according to Melvin. She also added there are spending techniques that can help consumers stay cost conscientious and maximize their food budget. Using grocer promotions and phone apps can help customers apply coupons, earn rewards, receive discounts and free food.
“I order all of my groceries on that [Kroger app], so then I’m hitting like a specific target,” said Melvin, “I’m only going to spend $75 this week, so that’s kind of like how I keep that in control when I’m shopping.”
Spencer Pipkin is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.