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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Food Inflation: Any Strategies?

Even I, the Pollyanna of inflation, see the dreaded signs. Mostly, I see that the advertised sale prices are what used to be regular prices. Now I remember, from my reading of that inspirational tome Your Money or Your Life, the idea that we need not fear inflation. The authors said we were SMARTER than inflation: if apples go up, eat oranges. Changing behavior can help to a certain extent.

I also remember that the authors said that merely being conscious about spending would save the average person 20%. Well, I already am conscious. Do you think that being even more conscious will save me an additional 20%?

Right now I am insulated from food inflation because I have amassed about 40 packs of coffee, 15 jars of peanut butter, 20 cans of tomatoes, and more. But when I run low, I will have to use my wits.

Like: drink less coffee? That's the only thing I can think of right now.

What are your strategies? I need to expand my consciousness.


Anonymous said...

I've been pondering this too. Like you, I stockpile, but have not found a good price on coffee in many a moon. I've been threatening to switch to tea...but it's just not the same.

Thrifty Sassy Mommy said...

I, too, stockpile. Prices keep rising and rising on even the cheapest items!! It is scary. I make sure to buy in bulk to save money but even bulk buying is getting outrageous.

Funny about Money said...

Well, it's getting to be a bit late for stockpiling...the darned stuff is already overpriced. But I am trying to build up my stash, too.

Agreed about the substituting (cheaper) x for (inflated) y. Some years ago when lettuce prices went through the roof I would buy fresh spinach for salads -- it was significantly cheaper. About the coffee: I've cut my coffee consumption in half, more as a health strategy than out of frugality. While cutting the jitters, it also saves a bit on the coffee bill. Also I've found that tea goes a lot further than coffee beans. For what a pound of top-quality beans cost, you can buy some very nice loose tea. One teaspoon of it makes a whole pot of tea, and so as ways to get your caffeine dose go, it's pretty cost-effective.

Marcela said...

I can only speak from my hyperinflation experience (Argentina, 1989, 1990), and from my husband's same experience (Yugoslavia 1990/1994). We changed habits (replaced meat by lentils and soya, ate what was on sale, cleaned with more traditional methods, and we planted vegetables in pots, and a few strawberries, for example, just for self consumption, so as to add some variety to our diet. Of course we are talking about extreme situations (when we would hear that flour was arriving to the supermarkets the following day, we would go stand in line at 3 am to make sure that we could get at least 1 kg, etc).

see you there! said...

We stock up on basics like flour, sugar, coffee but don't eat much canned food. We both like to cook and sometimes use special (and usually costly) ingredients. The funny thing is the price on those items doesn't seem to have gone up much.

Every day kind of produce in our area has taken a huge price jump. Some say 52%. We always have a garden but this year it seems especially important.


Duchesse said...

I'm not going to be able to stockpile, moving to a condo, giving up pantry and chest freezer- ouch. So for us the strategy is eliminating waste.

Second Funny's comment. Had to give up coffee and notice how much cheaper tea is, and once I got used to it, as enjoyable.

FB @ said...

I also remember that the authors said that merely being conscious about spending would save the average person 20%. Well, I already am conscious. Do you think that being even more conscious will save me an additional 20%?

You're forgetting that you aren't the average person :)

It's all perspective I think.

As for stuff getting more expensive, it is around 15% - 30% more expensive in Canada, and double that in Europe...

For us, we just don't buy when it's too expensive. Maybe as a treat, but not often.

I've been eating less meat as of late which has helped, and learning to substitute in foods like chickpeas to round out a meal rather than more meat, or different kinds of veggies.

Shelley said...

I noticed yesterday that milk has gone up from 49p to 52. Not a large amount, but we drink a lot of a lot of coffee. I've been meaning to switch to tea, but of course Bill drinks milk in his tea as well. Every time milk goes up I get annoyed. We have stockpiles of grains and beans and the price of vegetables doesn't seem to be going up too much just now. With Bill's gardening skills I'm hoping we'll manage to eat out of the garden more. At some point, however, I guess the increased prices will catch up and eat a larger percentage of the budget. I must admit that I would probably benefit from eating less food; not an option most people think of for saving money! In looking at my list of purchased items, there are any number that I could try making at home, like cheeses and yogurt. Drink more water? The price increases don't put us anywhere near a critical point but, as you said, it does pay to remain conscious of spending and prices.

Olivia said...

I refuse to scrimp on food. It's a central part of my life (to say nothing of an essential part), and since I enjoy cooking and eating more than most other activities, when prices go up I economize on other commodities and services so as to free up cash for the grocery budget.

For example, I budget $100/month for gasoline. That also is going up fast. When I run low on gas before the end of a month, I just quit driving. I cancel appointments and pass on all nonessential trips. Given a choice between getting my hair done or having to skimp on food, I'll opt the hairdo.

Donna said...

A former co-worker buys decent (but not astronomically expensive) coffee and mixes in some of the cheaper stuff (e.g., Hills Bros.) bought on sale. It's like cutting regular milk with reconstituted powdered milk: You get used to the taste pretty quickly.
I'm not a coffee drinker so this isn't my issue. But I'm concerned about how much food costs now. Lately I've been trying to clean out my pantry and freezer, but I went to the supermarket the other day and was shocked to see how expensive some items have gotten. How do regular people cope with the price jumps?
It's easier for me because I'm single and I'm not picky. There's no one to say, "Oh, for the love of God, not dried-pinto-bean-chili again!" If I had kids and/or a partner, it would be a lot more challenging.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Terri--I am a coffee addict. If you like Community coffee with chicory, the prices at Amazon are pretty good. I need to use up my too-large stockpile in any case.

@ThriftySassy--Thanks for stopping by! Do you have a Big Lots? That store is where I do most of my stockpiling from.

@Funny--Perhaps it's NEVER too late to stockpile if prices are in a steady rise. Both my children are becoming tea drinkers, but I LOVE coffee.

@Marcela--Thanks as always for providing a perspective that makes all my little worries seem...what they are, little. You show there is a way to get through difficult times.

@Darla--Our garden has greens and scallions--amazing how few veggies I end up buying.

@Duchesse--Andrew Tobias suggests keeping your stockpile under your bed!

@FB--Yes, even when chickpeas go up, they're still reasonable.

@Shelley--From what you've written, you have great sources for reasonable bulk foods. I don't think you really have to worry that much w/ such sources--I don't have them here.

@Olivia--I agree completely. Strangely, we like poor people's food--my daughter comes home from college and asks for black bean burritos.

@Donna--Luckily, I love New orleans chicory coffee, which was the original poor person's mix. Pinto bean chili sounds divine!

Suzy said...

I haven't stockpiled like I probably should but I don't have a lot of space and what I have is crowded with other junk. I try to keep some chicken broth, canned beans, and canned tomatoes handy and am thinking about some peanut butter. Prices are already high but I buy the fruit that's on sale (usually) and am thinking of buying dried beans and cooking them from scratch.