One of the tenets of Super-Couponing is to stock up when prices are low. Everything at the supermarket cycles in price, and if we can time our purchases around the lowest sale prices, we’ll save money in the long run. However, there are times when prices fluctuate beyond what we typically consider to be a normal range for a product. Several readers have noticed surprising price shifts at the supermarket this year:

Dear Jill, I have learned a great deal from you about watching seasonal sales and prices for things we buy. One thing I have noticed this year is that sales on soda have been much more frequent.

In previous years, I knew to stock up on cases of soda around Memorial Day weekend, then Independence Day, and then Labor Day. Usually, 12-packs would go on sale in the $2.50 to $3 range around these three holidays. The rest of the year, in the stores I shop, it would go up to $4.99 or more.

This year it seems my 'soda rule' has gone out the window. I cannot recall a year where the soda sales were consistently $3 or less for a 12-pack throughout most of the summer. Why has this year had better sales? -- Amanda F.

Sales on soda (or “pop,” as it’s known in the Midwest where I live!) have indeed been more frequent this summer. You’re absolutely right that the spring and summer holidays have traditionally been some of the best times to stock up on carbonated soft drinks. However, I, too, have noticed that the soda sales have been much more frequent this year. So, what’s going on?

Americans are drinking less soda. It’s a simply supply-and-demand equation. According to a report from the Beverage Marketing Corporation, carbonated soft drink purchases have been declining since 2006. Other industry studies and reports have noted that consumers are choosing to buy more flavored waters, sports drinks, and energy drinks over traditional soft drinks. As consumers’ buying habits change, brands have reacted by lowering prices on soda, trying to increase market share in this area and rebuild brand loyalty for their products.

Dear Jill, what is up with bacon pricing? I used to watch sales circulars with hawk-like precision, swooping in to buy whenever pound packages of bacon was on sale for $2.99 and sometimes even less.

This year, I am lucky to find it for $4.99. Sometimes it is as high as $6.99 a pound. Why has the price gotten so outrageous? -- Dennis W.

We don’t always think about the world demand for products when we see a price increase or decrease, but in the case of bacon, we can point to China as a cause for higher prices this year. China’s pork production was hit with swine fever, and after incurring enormous livestock losses, China increased its pork imports from other countries, including the USA. According to CNN Business, hog futures are at a four-year high due to Chinese demand, which is driving pork prices skyward. The Food Institute also notes that bacon prices in the supermarket rose by 7.4% in the month of April alone, also noting that in 2018, bacon prices fell 1.7% across the board.

Even though prices are high, you may still find occasional deals too. A grocery store in my area had 16-ounce packages of bacon in their ad this week for $1.99 with a purchase limit of two. It’s extremely likely the store was selling this as a loss leader to get people in the door, but it worked! I did not miss the opportunity to pick up two packages at that price while I was doing the rest of my weekly shopping.

As consumers, there’s not much we can do to combat global price increases. Even the local butcher shop in my area is charging more than $8 per pound for locally-raised bacon. What we can do is continue to play the buy-low game that all couponers play, watching for sale prices that take a dip below the “new normal” price for bacon.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.

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