Why is food so darn expensive?

Neither Eric nor I work full time. We do a lot of volunteer work with students, and though we’re not opposed to working full time, the jobs we are currently in allow us an extra 10 hours a week or so for our ministry time. This of course means lots of penny pinching, especially with large expenses looming in our future like a new car.

God is so good to us and we’ve never had a need unmet, but we do have to budget pretty carefully. Eric works in the grocery industry and so we’re often finding interesting stories about grocery shrink, and the price of food increasing. Eric works in the dairy department and often sees the sizes go down by 1/2 oz or more with the prices staying the same or rising.

I found this article interesting yesterday. It talks about why the price of food isn’t going down like the price of gas and other commodities that have started to go back down. Some interesting points:

-“Food prices do tend to move very slowly relative to the underlying costs,” said Tom Jackson, an agricultural economist with financial consulting firm IHS Global Insight. “People get upset when prices go up, and they don’t really appreciate it when prices go down, so in response, food producers input their costs very slowly.”

-As the price of oil ran up, many food producers purchased contracts enabling them to buy oil at a set price in the future. Had oil continued to rise, such contracts would have helped producers keep costs down. Since oil has declined, the contracts constitute an added cost burden.

-The prices feel upward pressure from other forces that are likely to remain steady. For one, global demand for food is increasing. Demand for meat has risen in countries with fast-growing middle classes that can finally afford it.

I don’t have an solutions for these problems, but I’ve definitely learned how to stretch our food. We live in a small apartment, with a tiny freezer, but Eric’s parents let us use a shelf in their freezer for extra storage. We buy our meat in bulk from Sam’s Club and store it in small portions that are easy to thaw and use. I use lots of produce and grains which are cheaper, and small pieces of meat. I also make larger amounts of dinner so we can bring leftovers for lunch (so much cheaper than buying lunch!). We also constantly check out the clearance rack of discontinued items, and shop the sales.

How do you save money on food?


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0 thoughts on “Why is food so darn expensive?”

  • Food seems to be getting pricier. I save money by buying at the bulk stores, by planning out my meals and buying only what I need for those meals for the week, and shopping only after dinner when I’m not hungry.

  • Love your post, Diana! Makes it understandable, if oil was purchased ahead of time, but then it went down in price (for others, not for those who invested)…
    Sounds like those of us who know better are doing the same thing: Shopping at bulk stores, stocking up on bulk grains (and beans- they add a lot of protein).
    Another thing I do: Stock up on a few of the cheap veggies that last a long time. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic. It’s amazing what you can pull together, with some grains, veggies, spices…
    Oh, I guess that’s another thing: Have a cupboard stocked with herbs and spices. It makes the meal, even with meager ingredients!
    Again, thanks for your post : )
    Jen

  • Seems like it does not stop anyone from shopping. We noticed yesterday the parking lots are full, but everyone complains about the economy. I say that if you would learn to conserve from the start, then it should not affect you.

  • There are some cheap, nutritious foodstuffs to be had out there. Take lentils which, though they may not have the most glamourous of reputations in some quarters, can be wonderfully tasty and, of course, can be stored for ages.

    I also always try to buy things like lentils, beans and rice from one of my local Asian supermarkets where these items tend to be much cheaper and also available in bulk sizes. It does also help that I’ve been eating a vegetarian diet for years, so I don’t buy meat 🙂

  • That’s so smart to not shop when you’re hungry shavedicesundays. Sometimes when we go to Sam’s Club we stop by their food court to grab a snack because if you shop there when you’re hungry you could end up spending hundreds!

    Spices definitely make such a difference Jen. I haven’t really cooked with sweet potatoes because I can’t eat mushy textures, but I didn’t think about stocking up on carrots. They do last a while. Thanks!

    I agree Chef E, we’ve always worked hard to live below our means, which has really helped us as prices rise, we’re not having to spend more than we can afford.

    Daily Spud, I think I’m going to have to give lentils and beans a try. I’ve never really cooked with them, but they are cheap.

  • Another really good way to save cash is buying locally, as in, from the farmers. I used to do shopping for a restaurant I worked in and I’d compare prices as I went. Just on tomatoes alone I’d often save half, cutting my costs from, for example, $1 a pound to $.50 a pound. You also get the added bonus of having a much stronger flavor and, as anyone knows, the stronger a flavor is, the slower you eat it and if you eat slower, you feel more satisfied. Buying in bulk is great, buying in bulk straight from the source is better. Also, using coupons helps a lot. If you get a coupon for something you use all the time, don’t use it right away, watch for when the price on that item is lowest and use the coupon when it makes the biggest difference. This is the biggest tip I learned when working in a grocery store and it’s mostly common sense. Prices fluctuate up as well as down, so, especially when a coupon is a percentage off, save the coupon for the lower price. When the price on that can of beans is $3 instead of $5 and the coupon is for buy one get one free, you’ve just made a killing.

    For a few online coupon sites, check out my page at http://grocerystorecoupons.webs.com .

  • All of the above tips are great, I have to second two speciic ones though: coupons – I can’t say enough about them, I haven’t quite mastered the art that some people make coupon shopping but I have leared to watch the sales, use coupons and buy store brands that are better priced even without coupons — two, planning meals for an entire week is so much more economical for me, I work 40+ hours a week so if I come home to things that are planned out and I don’t have to stop after work (when I’m usually hungry) and grab food I save a lot – look at it this way, $100 on Sunday or $25-$30 a day (it adds up)!

  • I agree with Chef Cote, Spud and tmsbrds- I blogged about taking trips to the ethnic markets, and there you can buy bulk, co-op with friends…and local is good…I grew up dirt poor and just tonight my son said he was making beans and ham in a crock pot…a am a proud mother right now, he is learning to eat healthy and conserve his money!

    I will get off my soap box, but Sam’s, BJ’s, Costco can be cheap but they are a processed food trap, do not go hungry at all, and stick to the list! there said…

  • I am hearing you on the whole price thing. We live in Northern Mexico. *I wonder at times how the average person can feed a family down here.
    My husband also works in a food related industry. Almost each price I have seen sky rocket down here can be related to price of oil transportation, sewing or harvesting the crops & (here government controlled & not going down in the perceivable future) or the price of corn related to feeding something which ends up as protein back in the stores & markets. I watch what we buy & think I am a smart shopper but the goods which both Americans & Mexicans buy are going sky high. Good post & very thought provoking, one we are all thinking about right now.

  • I love hearing that I’m not the only one having to really budget.

    Since my husband was laid off we have to be VERY careful about spending. We only have two markets in our small town and lucily one is employee owned and somewhat local so there’s a BIG price difference there.

    He also surprised me with a nice big 5 quart crockpot. I’m able to make basics like bean chili and stew with much cheaper cuts of meat and he’s not even seen a difference.

  • People still shopping 4 food because we HAVE to eat. I just find cooking from scratch cheaper… no one wants to buy my time now (as in gigs) so I have it to cook. Farmer’s clubs, grains in bulk, spicing up dreary stuff, I’ve kind of always done that to some degree, even in fatter times.

  • Your “God is so good to us” comment is offensive. It’s like you’re saying God likes you and hates those of us who lost jobs due to the crap economy. So hey, I’m glad “God” is good to you guys while there are others who can’t afford to eat because gas and a mortgage payment is more important.

  • Wow Anonymous, I’m sorry I offended you. I truly believe God is good to us because we shouldn’t be able to have good food on the table, yet somehow we do. I’m currently looking for a job, and we pay rent for a tiny apartment, because even though we’d love to have a house, renting an apartment is cheaper. My husband has to ride his bike to work and we don’t get to go visit my family who’s only 45 minutes away because of the cost of gas. I don’t believe God hates anyone, and the point of this post is that we’re all struggling. I’ve experienced living for a whole month off of a jar of peanut butter and loaf of bread, and I gave thanks to God every day for that peanut butter and bread someone gave to me. I’m so sorry you’re hurting, and sorry if my post contributed to that in any way.

  • Hi, I am an organic gardener, and I grow salad veggies in my backyard of about 2 acres. Over the years, a lot of my friends come over and buy whatever surplus I have, from free range chickens for meat, to salad veggies, herbs, fruits, and the point is if you can find organic farmers in your area, go and meet them, tell them what your needs are and it can be worked out they grow food for you! You can buy from them directly and it lowers the cost of the after effects of commercial foods with the hormones, pesticides, chemicals that will eventually increase your health care. Believe me, chickens raised commercially are given antibiotics and growth hormones, and veggies are grown with GMO’s. Food Allergies are increasing among children fed this commercial produce, and doctors just treat the symptoms of what is actually a slow poisoning of our bodies! take care

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