It’s no secret that this has been the hottest, driest summer on record for more than fifty years.
If you live in the Midwest like I do, all you have to do is look at your front yard to understand the impact the drought is having on our landscape.
But it isn’t just flower beds and lawns that are paying the price. America’s heartland farmers are suffering – big time. Corn fields are dried up. Soybeans never sprouted. Livestock are being “thinned” to adjust for burned-out grazing areas.
All of which means, whether you live in Manhattan, Kansas or Manhattan, New York, the price that YOU pay for food – everything from produce to poultry – will be doing up over the next year.
The government is forecasting that prices will go up 4 to 5 percent for beef over the next year, with only slightly lower increases for eggs and dairy products. And it’s not just animal protein. If the food has corn in it – or depends on corn to produce it – you can expect the prices to go up.
As someone who budgets $550 per month for food (and household items), these predictions do not bode well for my finances. Even an increase of $50 per month is a 10% jump!
You may wonder: Is there anything that can be done? How do we adjust our budgets and our shopping to accommodate these increases?
Here are five suggestions to prepare for the rising food prices.
#1. Stock up on meat and poultry now.
It pains me to pay $4.99 per pound for ground beef at Costco, but $5.99 will be even MORE painful! I plan to triple my Rosh Hashana stock-up trip to add ground beef, brisket, cholent meat, and whole chickens to my freezer.
Just remember: If you don’t have it in your budget to stock-up, you aren’t saving any money! Anticipating the price increase is smart; paying 18% interest on your credit card to do so – isn’t!
#2. Use more plant-based proteins.
We don’t eat much meat as it is – only for Shabbat and the occasional Sunday night BBQ in the summertime. Increasing prices might push us even further in the vegan direction.
Snobby Joe’s are 1/12th the cost of Sloppy Joe’s – and my kids eat them just the same.
If your family is more finicky, you can work toward using meat as a component of the meal, rather than the focus of the meal. For example, serve beef fajitas – using just a few ounces of meat, together with plenty of veggies, rice, beans and homemade salsa to fill up your tortilla – rather than an 8-oz steak for each person at the table.
#3. Update your price book.
Denial isn’t going to stop the food price increases! Get out your price book and start updating your “rock bottom prices” now.
When I see that peanut butter, for example, has increased in price over 200% in the past year, there’s no point in continuing to aim to pay $.50 per jar with a coupon and a sale. My target price is now $1 per jar – and when I can get it for that, I buy several!
Do the same with the rest of your family staples. The changes in your price book will allow you to realistically adjust your budget.
#4. Increase your savings in other areas.
Margin is the name of the game. You may not be able to do much about the price of beef, poultry, dairy and corn-based products – but you can still save in other areas of your budget.
Buy produce only when it’s in season and aim to spend no more than $1/pound. Explore buying grains in bulk, or joining a co-op.
#5. Check your portion sizes.
I hesitated about including this tip as I don’t want it to be misconstrued as an endorsement of rationing. I’m not talking about going hungry – not at all!
But I will say that since I’ve been on a diet this summer, I’ve really been paying better attention to serving sizes. A typical serving at our house of meat, fish or chicken, for example, is two to three-times the recommended serving size.
A serving size of pasta is one cup (ONE!). Likewise for rice, cereal and other grains.
My family eats a lot, so I can’t really stop the inevitable. But I have been working with them on realizing (a) what a sated tummy feels like and (b) how to make healthier choices when their tummies aren’t yet sated. Although this change is for health reasons, it certainly has (healthy) budget ramifications as well.
Are you worried about the rising cost of food? Have you started stocking up on anything in anticipation of the price increase? How do you plan to keep your budget in check over the coming month?