The Queen of Coupons Reigns......


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rising Cost of Food

I read some articles today that set me thinking about saving money on our groceries. We saw the cost of sugar double last fall. Wheat and grains tend to be volatile with the supplies decreasing because of blight and being sold to overseas nations. We are in for some increasing prices, and it's not going to be pretty.

Increases are sometimes very subtle. We may not notice 3-4% on a box of cereal, especially if we are bargain shoppers and never pay full price. But I saw an increase that had me thinking about my poor little wallet. I was at Fred Meyer earlier this week getting bread for lunches when I did a double-take. Like most people, I have a certain kind of bread that I favor...Grandma Sycamore's white and wheat breads. I was a little put-out because the price was $3.19 a loaf. I splurge on good bread and don't think much of paying $2 a loaf. But that $1.19 per loaf increase really hit home because of the quantity we go through. I started doing the math on what that would add up to and it wasn't easy to swallow. So the increase wasn't just $1.19 once--but several times over. And that was just on ONE of the things that we go through quite a bit of. When price increases hit frequently used staples--we tend to notice what's hitting out pocketbooks harder.

There was an older lady studying the prices of the bread as I went to make my selection this day. I commented about the higher price of bread. She grumbled back at me that it wasn't just bread! My hand faltered. I couldn't pay that for the bread--even if I had enough means to do so. I quickly rethought my choice and went with a different kind that was $2 cheaper per loaf--although not a favorite. I whistled under my breath that my bread cost too much. The lady was right. Everything is going up. It doesn't take a a daily dose of reading the Wall Street Journal to notice the increasing prices at the grocery store. It's one of the few places that we repeatedly go to spend our hard-earned money and when we don't bring home the same amount of stuff that we used to for the same amount of money--we know!

I don't know if you've ever given much thought to "trickle-down" theories. But one very crude example goes like this: a bushel of wheat doubles in price to produce and is sent to market. The purchaser has to pay more to get the supplies it needs to make products and services for the public. But they are a business, not a charity--and the price of the wheat is added to the retail price of the products for the consumer to pay for. So the higher cost of production due to poor results in weather, or from higher demand versus product--are always passed on down the line. And very few consumers give much thought to how MUCH wheat goes into the things we consume. Cereals, breads, crackers, pastas, sauces, soups, puddings....everything with a wheat derivative in it--go up in price. So a box of cereal that used to go on sale for $1.50 a box, now goes on "sale" for $2.00 a box.Marketing lingo often disguises the increase in actual cost by tricking the consumer into thinking that they are buying the product "on sale." But in reality, the stores is just passing on the cost of production on to you--the customer. The rising cost of production ultimately comes down to YOU.

We feel the increase the most because all the costs have been added to the products that we rely on to feed our families.

Think about this same theory in regards to corn, sugar, and other grains. A year ago, you were able to buy a 25lb bag of rice at the store for approximately $10. Over night, the prices doubled and tripled because the US panicked that they had over-sold their GNP (gross national product) overseas and there wasn't enough for domestic use. So supply and demand meant a drastic increase in the cost of goods. If you wanted rice--it cost a LOT more money to buy it. A rise in demand results in a rise in price. And those with the most money get the product....

But what about us that want/need the product and cannot afford it? We are forced to do without until the costs go down...OR--we use what we have in our personal inventory, that was purchased before the prices sky-rocketed. [I noticed that our favorite little Teriyaki restaurant was forced to raise the prices on the menus when rice was pricey. When staples and goods cost more, the profit margins decrease and business owners are forced to either raise the prices to the public or go out of business].

So how to avoid getting trapped in the escalating food game?
Tip: Make an inventory of your family's food consumption and plan to build a three-month reserve of foods you can have on-hand that would off-set the drastic inflation of food commodities until other means or sources can be found to subsidize there purchase. I think the easiest way to do this is to create a 14 day menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner and then multiply that by 6 (6x2 week cycles=approximately 3 months worth of provisions needed). When those products you regularly use and consume go on sale, buy in quantities of 6 to build up your reserve. If you come across some stellar finds or bulk discounts, plan your shopping accordingly to invest in the next three months.

I googled "food storage" on the net and found numerous ideas and plans that suggested economical and space-efficient ways to start building a family reserve. I suggest doing something that works for your space and budget--but do it. I'm a much better shopper than gardener, so my supplies run towards the things I can buy quite inexpensively--but other means of storing, producing, and harvesting are all excellent skills to incorporate into being prepared for harder economic times and volatile pricing.

I like the quote that says: "It's better to be prepared 10 years ahead, than 10 minutes too late." It's so true. Preparation brings a sense of security and helps ease anxiety over things that are out of our control. Preparation eliminates fear and desperation. "Now go and do something today."

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