As certain as swallows returning to Capistrano (or Orioles, Cardinals and Blue Jays reporting to spring training), the cost of nearly everything we eat is going up. It’s not a matter of if, but when. This certainty stems from months of news cycles dominated by bad weather and unrest in the Middle East – two things that can seem distant when not in your own back yard. But every day, shoppers are seeing the fallout on grocery store shelves. Disastrous weather decimated crops in many growing regions around the world. Meanwhile, civil unrest has driven up oil prices. The net result is less available food and higher costs to transport it to where it needs to go.
Rising food prices impact everyone on some level, but there are things you can do to minimize the impact. It only takes a little forethought to create big savings. So before your next shopping trip consider…
How you eat. Meals prepared at home tend to be less expensive than eating out. Even prepared food from the grocery store is more expensive than do-it-yourself alternatives. So dig out those old cookbooks and plan a weekly menu. You’ll save on your overall food bill and spend some quality time with your family.
Where you shop. While food is available nearly everywhere today (Toys R Us …really?!), concentrate your purchases in places that specialize in groceries. Conventional grocers have the scale to reduce costs and offer regular promotions to lower prices. Likewise, natural food co-ops work hard to minimize overhead and pass the savings on to their members. Recently, savvy internet retailers like amazon.com have gotten into the grocery business, offering significant value and free shipping.
What you buy. With over 50,000 choices in the average grocery store, it’s too easy to spend money when shopping. It helps to start with a list (see “How you eat” above) and stick to it. Calorie-for-calorie, the best deals are on the perimeter of the store, where the less-processed, calorie-dense whole foods reside. However, don’t forget to check out the bulk aisles for everything from cereals to snacks. Finally, look for products with multiple uses in the kitchen. For example, canister oats are not only an economical breakfast for the whole family, but can also be used in myriad recipes.
So while rising food prices may be inevitable, with a little effort you’ll save big. Planning ahead allows you to prepare economical, tasty meals for your family and at the same time benefit from eating less processed, healthier meals. After all, spending any more than necessary is for the birds!