Food makes up a substantial part of the family budget, and prices have risen sharply recently: our consumer baskets are getting smaller and more expensive, mainly due to increasing inflation. In this article, we'll discuss the delicate issue of rising food prices and check out several tricks you can use to save money.
Portugal became the third country in the Eurozone where food prices rose the most during the last year. Many residents have already found it hard to balance their finances, and considering the current cost of living, they have to tighten their belts even tighter. Electricity, gas, food, tolls, transportation, and mortgages are just a few examples of what will rise in price in 2023.
It is now expected that the rise of prices will not stop, as the costs of energy and some types of raw materials will continue rising. However, we should remember that this trend appeared not today. At the end of 2021, food prices were already showing a decent increase. The impact of covid-19 on the supply chain, and the increase in the cost of raw materials associated, among other things, with the deficit that the country was experiencing, contributed to the rise in the price of food. The ongoing war in Europe has created even more instability by limiting grain supplies from Ukraine, one of the European Union's main trading partners, and forcing higher demand for grains in alternative markets. As a result, limited supply was reflected in rising prices in international markets.
By the way, the problem of grain imports in Portugal is historical: the country has always been heavily dependent on foreign markets to guarantee the supply of grain needed for domestic consumption. As a result, cereals account for only 3.5% of national agricultural production - in particular, corn (56%), wheat (19%), and rice (16%). And if in the early 90s, self-sufficiency regarding grain was about 50%, today, this figure does not exceed 19.4%. This is one of the lowest rates in the world, and the country is forced to import about 80% of the grains it consumes.
Analysts agree that food prices can, at best, stabilize in 2023, but at the same high level they are now. Last year, food basket prices more than doubled inflation, up 21.1%. In addition, there are products where prices have increased by 40%, 50%, and even 70%.
What is it, a basket of essential foods? This is a list of 63 basic foods most families in the country use. Today it costs about 230 euros. This is the highest value since DECO PROTESTE started monitoring prices for a basket of primary products. Despite the slowdown in inflation for four straight months, the rise in food prices has not yet stopped. Over the past year, the average consumer basket price increase amounted to 45.21 euros or 24.41%. Most of all, vegetables and fruits have risen in price: today, as of March 2023, growth is around 34.16%. Dairy products, in turn, went up by 27.41%.
Considering such intensive growth, I would like to save my wallet a little while not losing in quantity and quality. And it's possible. There are tons of lists of life hacks on how to save money on weekly purchases. Here is a complete and, hopefully, helpful list of the most practical tips:
- Making a shopping list is the best way to avoid extra expenses. Think about what meals you cook during the week, and stop impulsive purchases. All supermarket applications offer the function of creating a shopping list in advance in the digital version, which is convenient for budget planning because the system will set the prices and give the estimated total. Such a list will help kill two birds with one stone because evaluating the same set of products in different stores will help identify the most profitable, both in a particular case (if promotional goods are considered) and in the medium term, for constant purchases. You will also be able to determine and keep the family budget constant. And God forbid you to walk into the store while you are hungry. Children, by the way, can also be left at home to avoid taking a separate basket with sweets and toys. Finally, remember reusable shopping bags (available at every supermarket checkout and a trolley for those who walk): you'll save your wallet and help the environment.
- Visit the store once a week - this allows you to control the budget, as well as use the cash back system that is present in grocery chains: in Pingo Doce, for example, you will get 5% back to the PoupeMais loyalty card, but only for purchases from 40 euros, that is, 2 euros from every 40 spent that can be used on fuel at a BP gas station. Continente also accumulates points-money on the Loyalty Card (of 30 euros), which can be used when paying for fuel at Galp gas stations and when buying gas in cylinders of the same brand. In addition, Lidl has a private sales club for its customers.
- At the supermarket, compare prices per kilo, liter, or item to see which brands are cheaper. This information is always on the price tag in the store.
- Choose family formats for foods widely consumed at home and with a long shelf life, such as coffee, breakfast cereals, and pasta. According to a price comparison study, big boxes almost always pay off.
- Check to see if there is fresh food that can be substituted for the cheaper deep freeze option or vice versa. According to a study by DECO PROTESTE, frozen vegetables are 80% cheaper than fresh products. However, they are practical, last longer, and are no less nutritious. As for fish, it is usually more affordable to buy it fresh. If you want some stock, then it is better to freeze it at home. Mark the freeze date on the bags and consider the expiration date (three months for fatty fish and six for shrunken). It's the same story with meat, and it's usually cheaper to buy it on sale and place it comfortably in the freezer.
- If you usually buy canned food, glass jars are 40% cheaper because they can be reused and 100% recycled. Legumes like beans and chickpeas cost half the price if you buy them dried and cook them at home. You save money and packaging, and it's healthier: they don't contain the additives and excess salt commonly found in canned foods.
- Ready-made foods, such as minced onions and garlic, chopped mushrooms, shelled nuts, or shredded carrots, are more expensive than whole foods. They allow you to save time on cooking, but not money.
- Look beyond eye-level products, which are often the products that sellers are most interested in selling. You can often find no less exciting and advantageous positions on the lower shelves.
- Check the booklets for special offers of the week. Each supermarket publishes a complete catalog of discounts weekly - these are both special offers for specific product categories (often discounts reach up to 50%, and they are honest) and for groups of products (for example, a week of discounts for washing powders) or deals for specific brands. Furthermore, often when making a purchase, along with a check, the cashier will offer to take a discount coupon for the next purchase for a particular product or group of them. There are also one-time special offers for cardholders - they give you a discount in the amount of VAT on certain days, or they give you a one-time fuel coupon for a purchase of more than 100 euros or a double cashback. Finally, watch for announcements of promotions in apps, sms, and print catalogs. Sometimes it's worth postponing a visit for a day or two for a great deal, right?
- Please note that each product shop chain has its own designations, but this is always a bright, eye-catching price tag - these are products with an ending shelf life. The approximate % of discount is the following - if the product has a week left to "live", then 20% is discounted, a few days - 30%, and if the product needs to be used today or tomorrow - then it is 50%. It makes sense, considering that expiration dates in Europe require some margin, and you can use the product before it expires. These price tags mainly apply to perishable products such as meat, fish, dairy, and sour-milk products.
- Use the supermarkets' own brands because they are no longer synonymous with substandard ones today. The studies of the last five years prove that competition, apart from price, also is in quality. Supermarkets are dedicating more and more space in their stores to private-label products, and consumers are becoming more aware of new products. From food to cosmetics, home, and body care products, Pingo Doce, Continente, Lidl, Intermarché, Minipreço, e.Leclerc and Aldi have been conquering the Portuguese for many years. First of all, of course, because of the price, and only then for the quality and taste. The low-price policy associated with supermarket brands is undeniable and has enabled the Portuguese to save significantly. In food, the average savings were over 20%. In the household chemicals sector, they were over 40%, and in the personal care sector, savings of over 80% were found in some cases. Portugal is currently one of the countries with the highest penetration of supermarket brands into consumer homes. In Europe, the market share of these products is about 30%, and in Portugal - 45%. Various comparative analyses on this topic can be read in the online version of the DECO PROTESTE magazine or the printed TESTE SAÚDE.
You will be surprised, but it turns out that dishonest sellers also exist in Portugal. Supermarkets have been caught taking more money at the checkout and weighing products incorrectly. Based on several consumer complaints, this was found out by the organization Autoridade de Segurança Alimentar e Economómica (ASAE), called on by the government to step up inspections on supermarkets for price increases. The most common of the identified violations is the price difference between the supermarket shelf and the cashier, mainly for bulk products (banal underweight). Often the difference is not very big, so consumers do not always notice it. But, of course, this is considered unacceptable because the price on the shelf must correspond to the final price - on the receipt. So my advice is to check receipts without leaving the cash register, especially for promotional products when the discount “accidentally” didn’t go through, and if you’re not too lazy, outweigh the goods packed in the store (cheeses, deli meats, etc.), there are always control scales for this. If you are not sure about the price - check. Usually, the store has a barcode price checker.
Consumer advocacy representatives also warn us about the problem of reduplication, a well-known trick when the quantity of a product in a package is reduced, but the price remains the same (or higher), calling for government regulation (even though this trick of manufacturers is not illegal). ASAE, like DECO PROTESTE, is also charged with monitoring the food basket, which they have been successfully doing since January 2022.
One good thing is that pricing in Portugal is dynamic. The numbers on the price tags can rise and fall, with or, conversely, the absence of external factors affecting pricing. So we all hope for a quick resolution of the food crisis and the return of prices to regular.
Despite all these worries in the field of rising prices for real estate, increasing costs for fuel and products, and constant strikes (which, by the way, are not because life is so bad, but because it would be possible to live better because they are familiar with the concept of "missed opportunities") and other minor troubles, Portugal remains one of the most attractive countries for immigration. We are happy to talk about its advantages, disadvantages, and features in our various articles so that you can appreciate the everyday side of life in Portugal, and our experts in the field of real estate, as well as our assistant, will help you navigate the practical and technical nuances of moving, living and doing business in a new country.
Good luck to everyone, and see you in Portugal!