By now, you are probably all too familiar with the price hikes on everyday items like eggs, but grocery bills have risen across the board—up over 11 percent since last year, according to Consumer Price Index data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Kitchen staples like flour, butter, and canned vegetables are all up by double-digit percentages, the figures show.
With experts warning of an ever-looming recession, shoppers may be more wary of the double-whammy of rising prices and shrinking budgets.
The good news is that there are many grocery items that are more or less recession-proof. Not accounting for unexpected shortages along the supply chain, experts say these items can weather the storm better than others.
When it comes to convenience and affordability, few grocery items can hold a candle to whole rotisserie chickens. The famous rotisserie chickens at Costco, in particular, have defied expectations lately, holding steady at $4.99 despite inflation. Ever wonder why these pre-cooked birds tend to cost less than raw whole chickens you see at the same grocery store? The CBC explains that rotisserie chickens are usually smaller in size and stores typically sell them at a higher volume than the uncooked variety. Retailers like Costco also price these birds cheaply in order to entice shoppers, who then fill up their carts with other things.
Few things in life are guaranteed, but the low price of rice has been more or less reliable despite economic uncertainties. According to Bloomberg, rice was one of the few key staple ingredients that held a steady price as inflation surged in 2022. In fact, in some regions the price actually went down. While the price of wheat and corn soared, rice decreased by about 20%. While there are many global factors contributing to this, Bloomberg reports that plentiful global stockpiles should help to keep the price of rice down.
Canned tomato products
Whether you are making sauces, dips, soups, or stews, canned tomatoes are a pantry essential. So, it's a relief that the price of canned diced, crushed, and whole tomatoes (along with its cousins, tomato sauce and tomato paste) are just about as price-stable as they are shelf-stable. When you start to reassess your grocery budget during economic uncertainties, products like canned tomatoes are a safe bet since they last a really long time, according to Yahoo. You can also buy canned tomatoes in bulk thanks to the low prices. It's really a win-win.
Dried pasta can make for an easy dinner that is ready in minutes, but it can really come through for consumers during an economic downturn. According to Yahoo, pasta checks off multiple boxes when it comes to being recession proof. Not only is it affordable and shelf-stable, but a bowl of pasta is a filling meal, reducing the need to eat your way through your pantry at a quicker rate. As it turns out, dried pasta has a history of being a recession-proof ingredient. A 2009 story by NBC News shared that dried pasta sales actually went up amid recessionary pressures back then as consumers turned to "cost-effective options."
Savvy meal planners know not to skip the frozen foods aisle when shopping for produce. Frozen foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are extremely versatile and last much longer than their fresh counterparts. That's a big reason why shoppers turn to the freezer aisle during an economic downturn. Adnan Durrani, CEO of frozen foods company Saffron Road, told Yahoo Finance, that sales went "on a tear" as inflation spiked in 2022—outpacing fresh food by 230%.
Protein is an essential nutrient in any diet, but many protein sources have fluctuated in price as inflation impacts our overall grocery bill. According to Eating Well, canned fish products have not been as largely impacted as other food items. In fact, the Consumer Price Index shows that while many other products have increased by double digits over the past 12 months, the average price of shelf-stable fish is up only 5.7% and has actually come down by 1.9% since December. This is a big relief to anyone who likes to whip up a tuna salad from time to time, as products like canned tuna are very shelf-stable.