Cheap and steep groceries: What’s the best-value fresh produce?

It feels like the cost of all groceries are surging, but inflation is only affecting some of our favourite foods. Here’s what to keep in – or out – of your basket.

There are a number of different shocks and stresses affecting the global food system and impacting grocery prices, explains University of Melbourne food systems expert Dr Rachel Carey.

“Together Russia and Ukraine produce around 28 per cent of the world’s wheat exports, also a significant amount of sunflower seed, barley, corn and canola,” Dr Carey says.

Dr Carey warns some of the factors driving grocery prices up are long term trends.

“Many experts have been saying for some time food prices would rise also because of the underlying environmental pressures – less land available to grow food, less water, fossil fuels are used throughout the entire food system,” she says.

Head of customer experience at Foodbomb, Nathan Lo Rosso works with Australian suppliers daily and says the ramifications of recent global events could result in six to 12 months of food shortages.

“Suppliers have been forced to increase their prices to meet the skyrocketing wholesale prices, diminished quality and scarcity of items,” Nathan says.

How can I avoid an expensive grocery prices?

The surging price of lettuce has been in the headlines, but here are some of the other foods you should might want to leave out of your grocery basket while supply chains are disrupted, according to Foodbomb.

  1. Baby Spinach
    You’ll have to find another source of iron, because the cost of this leafy vegetable has risen by 140 per cent. However, supply is returning to normal and prices should ease in the coming weeks.
  2. Lebanese Cucumbers
    In the last two months, weather has beaten down crops in Bundaberg, causing a staggering 161 percent increase from $4.20 to $11 per kilo.
  3. Eggs
    The disruption to Ukraine’s grain supply caused by Russia’s invasion has had a ripple effect on egg production, as farmers are paying more for feed and fuel. The wholesale cost of one carton of free-range eggs has risen from $2.60 to $4.45, an increase of 70 per cent.
  1. Chicken Breast
    Another knock-on effect from the war in Ukraine is skinless chicken breast. No longer an inexpensive cooking ingredient, prices have surged by 31.9 per cent from $7.20 to $9.50.

Which fresh produce is good value?

Director at LaManna Fresh in Brunswick Joe Patti agrees prices have been wild lately, but says strawberries and broccoli are finally coming down to their regular prices.

“Strawberries are back to normal at $5 to $6 a punnet,” Joe says.

“Broccoli’s now $6 to $7 a kilo, it’s a quarter per kilo of what they have been, they were over $30.”

For Joe, the best value is in bunched, leafy greens.

“Your silverbeet, kale – that’s all still pretty reasonable, anything from $4 to $6 a kilo,” he says.

Written by Sam Varian.