As food prices keep skyrocketing, it’s not that I can’t afford certain items, it’s that I won’t afford them; that is, I refuse to buy them.
For months, I’ve had a hunch many food companies are raising prices not because they have to, but just because they can. And they know they won’t get blamed; President Biden will.
My hunch was verified in a recent story in the “New York Times,” which stated that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, grocery prices have increased by 13 percent during the past 12 months. That exceeds by 4.8 percent the national inflation rate, which was 8.2 percent as of September.
For the past year, we’ve been hearing food prices are fast-rising because of supply-chain problems and a lag in spending due to pandemic isolation. We are told food companies are experiencing inflationary increases and so to break even, to cover those costs, they must pass them on to those who buy their foods.
There is no doubt some of those reasons (a complex tangle of reasons) are true. Most food companies, I would like to believe, are not purposely using inflation as an excuse to greatly increase their profit margins through arbitrary price increases.
However, the “Times” states Jason English, an analyst for Goldman Sachs, said Conagra Brands (owner of products like Slim Jim and Duncan Hines), priced products above inflation rates. That’s just one example in the “Times” story. The trend seems to be that as long as grocery shoppers don’t balk at food prices and don’t refuse to buy especially pricey items, some companies will just go on raising prices, grinning all the way to the bank as “tax-and-spend” Democrats take the blame.
Here are some tips you can balk on when shopping:
If the price of an item gives you a startling sticker shock, walk right past it. The other day, I spotted boxes of Velveeta cheese at the supermarket. $7-plus.
“No thanks!” I scoffed under my breath. “You can have it!”
The Velveeta was needed for homemade cheese enchiladas. Instead, I bought a small bag of shredded cheddar.
I wanted a red bell pepper for salad.
“$1.48 for one? No way! I want one, but I don’t need one. Not that bad.”
Learn to know prices and how quickly they increase.
Beware of “on sale” items; some are not “sales” at all.
Make a list of items you need, then in the store do not veer from the list. If an item proves to be outrageously high, strike it from your list and adapt meal plans accordingly or just don’t make that meal. Unfortunately, that is a hard tip to adhere to for families who need lots of staple items like bread, milk and eggs.
Learn about “substitution” ingredients. For example, instead of cow’s milk I sometimes buy “almond milk.” It is less expensive and lasts in the fridge for up to a couple months.
Buy generic brands – still usually less costly than their inflation-crazed counterparts.
Get bags of frozen vegetables if fresh ones are budget-busting.
Learn how not to waste food. If I buy celery, say, for a Chinese stir fry, I chop up what’s left of it, put it in a zip-lock bag and freeze it for later. That can be done with all kinds of foods. As grandma always said, “Waste not, want not.”
Make your own bread, dinner rolls and more. I’ve been baking bread for 15 years. It’s a relaxing hobby, and the house smells so good when loaves are baking on a winter’s day.
Shop now and then at dollar stores. Get to know their prices, which are often less expensive than at other places.
Learn how to make a variety of casseroles, which results in leftovers for the next few days.
Shop at local farmers’ markets for fresh produce and to help local growers.
Long story short: adapt. And learn how to scoff when you shop.