Monday, February 21, 2011

Food Prices...Eeek

We were at the local grocery store in Atlanta yesterday and I saw that apples were $1.79 a pound! My first thought was that because apples don't grow in the south the price might be higher, but being from Washington, that is an astronomical price to pay for apples.
Reading the latest headlines, however, my second thought was that maybe that was but one example of rising food prices. According to this article, this article, and this article, we may be in for a bumpy ride in the food sector in the coming months. Are you prepared? Here's how:
  • Cook at home. This is hands-down the cheapest way to eat. Not only is the food you eat at home healthier (you know exactly what goes into it), it is also cheaper. Also, when food prices rise, they usually get passed on to the restaurant consumer pretty quickly.
  • Start a garden. Now is the perfect time to get started growing some of your own food, even if all you can have is a bucket of tomatoes on your apartment balcony; the more food you can grow on your own, the better off you will be when prices start to fluctuate wildly.
  • Process your own food. An addendum to the last point, when you grow a garden, be sure to process any excess food for later use (can, pickle, jelly, freeze, etc) so that you will, once again, have a hedge against rising food prices.
  • Buy in bulk. I am big fan of loss leaders. These are the items on the front page of your local grocery store's advertising circular. These prices are meant to lure shoppers in with super low prices in the hopes that they will just buy all of their other groceries there as well. I usually just go for the loss leaders (and yes, you can freeze milk and cheese). I also like to buy grains in bulk (ie: 50 pounds of rice at a time, 50 pounds of oats at a time, etc).
  • Look for cheap local sources of food. A CSA program through local farms is one idea, Chinatown markets with super low prices on many staples like fruits, vegetables, and grains is another. Buy at a farmers markets, barter with friends who have a garden, forage for wild get the idea. What you want to do is stock up on food as cheaply as possible (note that in many cases when you get this abundance you will need to process it for later use).
  • Expand your idea of farming. Maybe you are a whiz at growing tomatoes and corn but have you thought about raising chickens, rabbits, and goats? All are a good source of protein and when they are "on the hoof", so to speak, you don't have to process them until you are ready to eat (plus eggs from chickens and milk from goats will make you pretty much all-around self sufficient).
  • Stockpile food in your home. There is nothing better than having a year's worth of food at your immediate disposal. Not only is this a hedge against steep price increases, your stockpile can see you through job layoffs, illnesses, giant unplanned family gatherings, etc.
  • Simply don't buy things that are too expensive. Like clockwork, a storm comes through and obliterates the orange crop, ecoli makes tomatoes suspect and nearly impossible to find on grocers shelves, there's a spinach shortage/rice shortage/corn shortage/et al. Then there is the whole commodities market that jacks prices around like crazy on occasion. Anyway, my simple rule is that if something is super expensive, I will just live without it until the price comes back down to normal. This is pretty easy to do with spinach (you can substitute easy to grow chard) but a little more difficult with things such as coffee (addictions can be tough to break).

The bottom line is that you want to be one of those people sitting pretty at home with your food stockpile at the ready, not one of the harried shoppers you see interviewed on the news who was unprepared and because of that, not able to acquire the food they need for their daily sustenance.


  1. Thank you for the suggestions.

  2. Thankfully, my local grocery store which also sells gas has a loyalty card program where you get so many cents off a gallon of gas for every so many dollars you spend, and so much percent off your groceries for every so many gallons of gas you buy (the actual amount varies).

    They say history repeats itself...I think we're repeating the 1970s...hopefully, a repeat of the 1980s is in store :)