How to Prepare for Rising Food Prices

 How to Prepare for Rising Food Prices

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.

Also aim to save as much as you can on beauty products and household cleaners. If you haven’t figured out how to shop and save at CVS or Walgreens yet, now would be a good time to start!

#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?

Comments

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Comments

  1. Why are you forecasting for yourself a 10% jump ($50) when you said the forecast is 4-5% for beef and lower for other food? That would be lower than $25/month. Doesn’t sound that crazy to me…

  2. Also when considering portion sizes, this helps prevent from cooking too much. We try to be good with leftovers, but we toss a lot. By cutting down on how much I actually cook, I save a lot of money. I always have extra of the easier portions of the meal (usually salad) so that if someone is still hungry, there is more of that. But fixing more than 1 ear of corn per person, or more than 1 serving of the main dish, usually just results in wasted food. It’s easy to pull more frozen veggies from the freezer & prepare more if we need it. This saves money & makes eating healthier.

  3. I agree with your comments on portion sizes. Everyone in my house (my kids are older) is happy that we have “correct” portions since I began paying attention. @Sarah’s point is also spot on. It really bothers me to throw out food–but it happens. This is especially good to keep in mind preparing for Yontif; I tend to go overboard. I just cooked a 2-lb bag of dried beans from Aldi using a recipe from Eat & Run (a running book). It’s a lot of food for very little money. I’m portioning the beans out for my own lunches. I may make part of them into burgers.

  4. I really liked this. Can you please do more articles and less shopping deals?

  5. Thank you for a wonderful article. I just wanted to share a way that I feel I have helped my families food budget significantly. Over the last few years I have started to going to farmers markets almost exclusively for produce when it is open. I live in the Midwest so that is from mid-May till November. Its been a very hard year for the farmers here so the deals are not quite as good but still much better then in the stores. Also, who can beat the taste of fresh veggies picked the same day. In addition, I have learned to store as much as possible purchasing items at their peak so I get the best price. I have a bushel and a half of green beans blanched and frozen in portion size bags in my freezer. I also put a lot of items that just need a cool, dark place in the basement – last year I put a 50lb bag of yukon gold potatoes in the cellar that I had gotten for $12. – and it lasted till we used it up in January. I do the same for onions and winter squashes. Just ask the farmer what stores well and how. No one knows their produce better then the person who grew it.

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