Have you looked at your grocery bills lately? If so, you are probably seeing what I’m seeing.
Food prices are going up – especially for fresh food and staples. It looks like they will keep rising, too. Check out this article from the Boston Globe.
Why is this happening, you ask? Robert Gavin of The Boston Globe explains:
Several factors contribute to higher food prices, analysts say, but none more than record prices for oil, which last week closed above $105 a barrel. Oil is not only driving up production and transportation costs, but also adding to demand for corn and soybeans, used to make alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.
As a result, corn prices have more than doubled in commodity markets over two years, and soybeans nearly tripled, according to DTN, a commodities analysis firm in Omaha. Meanwhile, with poor harvests in major wheat-producing regions, wheat prices have more than tripled.
These crops have a profound impact on food prices because they form foundations for many products, including oils, sweeteners, and flour. Corn, for example, is a key ingredient in livestock feed. When the price of corn rises, so does the price of feed, and ultimately, so do the prices of meat, poultry, and eggs.
He goes on to mention that the weakening US dollar and a stronger global demand for commodities aren’t helping the situation much either.
I’ve noticed that I’ve had considerable trouble staying under my $75 a week limit lately, even when I cook fewer meals and buy less meat.
Seeing the price hikes every time I shop is getting a little depressing. It makes a recession feel much more certain. Sure, gas prices are upsetting, too, but at least I fill up less frequently than I shop for food. The increased exposure to rising costs seems to be affecting my confidence. In the past I could shrug off the pessimism, but now it’s hit home in a new way and I’m a little nervous.
With more money being demanded for the same items my budget is stretching thinner than I’d like. Unfortunately, it looks like my discretionary spending is on the chopping block. I think I’ll suspend the $50 monthly donation to our “fun money” savings account. Sigh.
Pet food costs are rising, too. Two weeks ago I paid $0.33 for a can of cat food and this weekend the same brand was selling for $0.44. Both were the sale prices at the same store. Sigh.
The good news is that I’m being much more selective in what I buy. I’m asking myself if I really need an extra pound of tomatoes, or brand-name popsicles, or instant rice before I buy it.
Saving money on food isn’t all about what you spend; sometimes it’s about how you use it.
6 easy ways to keep food costs down
Eat more vegetarian based meals. Typically, meat is pricey, especially when compared to beans and frozen veggies. We are experimenting with making more meals meat-free and are having a blast. Last week, we enjoyed Pasta with Butternut Squash and Ricotta, Pad Thai with Tofu, and Vegetable Curry. Personally, I’m using it as an excuse to explore ethnic cooking. I estimate that we can save over $30 a month by skipping the meat at most meals.
Start a “Soup and Sandwich” night. Planning a “soup and sandwich” night once a week helps me save money. That night is all about simple comfort food, nothing fancy. I like to pair a classic grilled cheese with canned tomato or potato soup. How about a tuna or turkey melt with veggie soup? Substitute a baked potato every so often to mix it up. Just make it cheap and with the stuff you have at home.
Bring your breakfast AND lunch from home. Just do it. Eric keeps oatmeal, trail mix, and breakfast bars in his desk for quick breakfasts and snacks. For lunch he takes the leftovers from the previous night or I pack him a sandwich, salad, yogurt, and snack. You’ll be shocked at how much you can save by brown bagging it 5 days a week.
Minimize waste. Waste is the enemy of economy. At these prices you simply can’t afford to allow the food go bad before you can use it. I always cook fresh meat dishes in the first few days after shopping, with fish and shellfish being cooked within 1 day of purchase. Pad the end of your week with cheaper and less perishable meals like sandwiches, pasta, frozen meals, and soups. If we have meat or veggies at the end of the week it is almost always from my freezer. Eating the fresh food first really helps cut down on spoiled or unused food and that equals savings.
Plan (and hope) for leftovers. When planning your week make sure to make note of possible leftovers. I find that if I don’t plan for leftovers I’ll end up making too many dinners that week and something goes bad (either the fresh food or the leftovers). Serve the leftovers for lunch or have them again for dinner a few days later with an interesting side dish or topping. Push back meals that don’t have perishable ingredients to make room for those leftovers. Utilizing leftovers is key when stretching the budget.
Tap your pantry once a week. I usually have one or two nights a week where I don’t plan a dinner. That “free space” allows me to push back meals to take advantage of leftovers or other cravings and it “forces” me to use what I have. Many of us have stocked pantries but don’t use the food in them. When I moved I found canned corn and jello that was 5 years old! Match up the fresh food that needs to be used with several pantry items to create something interesting. Your pantry and your pocketbook will thank you.
Are you feeling the crunch at the supermarket? How do you plan to save money on weekly meals?
Image Source: altemark