US Inflation: Expert tips for how to save money on groceries, cars, gas and more

CHICAGO (WLS) -- If your last grocery bill made you do a double take, you are not alone. From paper products to produce, inflation means consumers are paying more for everything.

In the Chicago metro area, prices in January were up 6.8% compared to 2021 across all items, according to the Consumer Price Index.

Some may call their methods extreme and others might start taking notes. Either way, some people said they've completely revamped the way they shop, cook, commute and save because they refuse to give in to inflation.

It didn't take long for Carrie Leonard to realize just how badly inflation was hurting her pockets.

"The groceries are significantly more expensive. Gas is more expensive. Utilities are more expensive," she said. "The cost of even labor has increased, so even something like a date night babysitter."

The Warrenville mom is not alone. Consumers are spending more on just about everything.

Economists said it started around the spring of 2020, during the pandemic. Workers were sent home and production stopped. But as quickly as things shut down, the economy reopened.

As a result of reduced labor and shipping disruptions, suppliers can't keep up. Low supply plus high demand equals higher prices.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows just how much prices have grown:



"As a consumer, I don't think I anticipated quite this level of inflation," Leonard said.

A DuPage County wife and mom of two growing boys, Leonard decided to take matters into her own hands, doing a complete 180 when it comes to cooking and spending.

"Once a week we will have a vegetarian night," she said. "We also do breakfast for dinner, you know, pancakes, waffles. It's something different that doesn't feel like a pinch."

Leonard said she also stays out of the grocery store and primarily orders food online.

"So if you're doing your online grocery shopping and you have your list, there's no impulse buying. You buy exactly what you need, you pick it up and that's the end of the story," she explained.

We've heard from other moms who are new finding ways to take on inflation: Car pools to save on gas, play date rotations in lieu of a babysitter and even coming together to buy livestock at local farms to help cut down on meat costs.

Phil Lempert, editor of Supermarketguru.com, said unfortunately this inflation period isn't leaving us anytime soon.

"The average shopper that goes into a supermarket is having sticker shock. Prices are higher than we've ever seen before. And frankly, they're going to continue to go up for the next 12 to 18 months," Lempert said. "Until we can really reimagine our supply chain, everything from cars to food to you know, clothing. We're going to continue to see these kinds of problems. Do know what a container from China to the U.S. cost pre-pandemic cost? About $2,000. Now, it's over $25,000 to come in. So you know, we haven't solved this issue yet."

However, he said there are things that consumers can start doing today to ease the pain of inflation.

First, don't be wasteful.

"We've got to remember that 40% of all of our food in this country is wasted. So you want to have that shopping list. You don't want to overbuy. You don't want to waste food at home," he said.

Second, shop around.

"Whether it's online. Whether it's going to a dollar store. Whether it's going to a grocery outlet. During the pandemic, a lot of wholesalers who used to sell only to restaurants now open their doors to consumers, and you can make great buys there around the country," Lempert explained.

Third, consider buying store brands.

"Most store brands today have gluten free options. They've got organic options. They run the full gamut of just about any kind of product that you would want to be honest with you. For me, I would say that at least half my cart is always store brands when I go shopping," he said.

Leonard found that a few small changes can make a big difference.

"Make do with what you have. Take a good look at what you have and see if you can make it last a little longer," she said.

Buying a car is also more expensive. The price of new vehicles in the Chicago metro area rose 11.1% last month compared to January 2021. Used car prices are up 41.2%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Leonard said she and her husband both have vehicles over 100,000 miles, and they'll be making repairs for as long as they can to avoid the inflated price.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.