Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Killing Cost of Food

I’ve never liked to see food wasted. At home, I often finish things left on my kids’ plates even though I’m well aware that’s a dieting no-no. Lately, I’ve been more and more shocked by the prices at my grocery store and so I really don’t want to see food left on anyone’s plate. Even the cats have to go back into their eating area and finish their dang dish of Whiskas.

This morning I was appalled to see that a bag of cherries was $7.99! Blueberries were $3.99 and so were raspberries and blackberries. Strawberries were 2 for $5.99, but in order to make the big bowl of berry salad I’ve been craving for dinner, I’d need to take out a line of credit. I know that the hike in gas prices has affected farmers and the food industry in general, but I can’t believe what my grocery bills are!

The first thing to get crossed off our shopping list in an effort to save money was bottled water. I’ve never been a fan of the waste their plastic bottles incur, but my other half likes to take them in the car and to the gym, so I bought him a washable water bottle equivalent at Target and now he refills it from the filtered water that our refrigerator dispenses.

For the first time, I’m actively seeking out generic brands for paper products and other hard goods. My foray into eating generic gelatin taught me that some things are worth a few extra pennies, but I’m on the lookout for real savings folks! I’ve done some research on what others are doing and one woman said that she’s buying beans instead of rice or pasta. They’re healthier and a lot less pricey. A consumer mom remarked that she was watering down the orange juice and other fruit juices, saying they’re too thick and sugary anyway. I didn’t think that was a bad idea. Other people are cutting out soda from their diets, claiming that it’s truly an “extra.”

The difficulty I face is that healthy food is expensive food. If we shop the perimeter of the store like we’re supposed to, we pay more for fresh food. I won’t skimp on those items, but I am putting things back in the fridge I might have tossed out this time last year.

What about you? Are you cutting back in the grocery store? Any tips for those of us looking to save a little green?


Mark Combes said...


We've been buying less food all together - and come to find out, it's okay with us. We overbought before it seems - cookies in the pantry that we really didn't need.

But you are right about the prices. Possibly my favorite beverage of all time is fresh orange juice - not the concentrate stuff. It was spendy before - but we could occasionally get it on sale. Not anymore - but I'm still buying it....

Felicia Donovan said...

JB, thanks for bringing attention to this issue.

As one who lives in a vegetarian household, we're also feeling the pinch especially in the produce aisle. I stopped buying meats years ago so I can't speak to that but fruits and veggies have skyrocketed.

My attitude, however, is that it will always cost me less in the long run to buy healthy foods now - even if they cost more. Maybe I pay more for blueberries now, but I'll hopefully pay less later on when it comes to medical costs. That's my theory, at least...

BTW, I realized the other day that frozen produce prices were much better than "fresh" and sometimes they're also more nutritious.

Keith Raffel said...

Maybe people will spend less time eating and more reading? They'll see food is pricey and books are a bargain? Forgive me some wishful thinking.

Felicia Donovan said...

One more thing. Can I just say that the price of chocolate had better stabilize or there's going to be a lot of social unrest by a lot of people?

I'll begrudgingly pay the ridiculous price at the pump (which is now equivalent to a part-time wage earner's hourly figure in some parts of the country), but for heaven's sakes, don't keep jacking the chocolate prices up!

(And yes, chocolate is vegetarian. It is made from cocoa beans and everyone knows beans are a vegetable.)

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

My rule of thumb is, if it ain't on sale or have a coupon, it does NOT go into the shopping cart. The only exceptions to this are milk and eggs. I'm also buying more fruits and veggies from local farmers' markets. And I'm pleased to say that my cats eat Iams Weight Maintenance Indoor Cat Formula, which is often on sale and hasn't risen in price ... yet. Maybe I'll be eating it soon, too.

BTW, I paid $4.39/gal last night for gas. And that was at the local "cheap" station. Thankfully, I drive a compact car and only live 3 miles from the office.

Even my rent went up this month, but not by much, so let's hear it for rent control.

jbstanley said...

$4.80 for gas today, folks. I'm not driving anywhere - let alone the grocery store or the farmer's market. Good thing writers live on coffee - that doesn't seem to have gone up...yet. FD, you are speaking my language regarding the chocolate. I write food mysteries for crying out loud, so when I spend three hours describing a chapter filled with chocolate, I want some, damn it.

G.M. Malliet said...

I buy from the farmers' market when I can. It's only a few blocks from me and only laziness prevents me from getting there on Saturdays (like today).

At the store, I've just started using those reusable canvas totes. Maybe the savings to stores, and to the environment, will get passed on to consumers. Maybe.

I'm still trying to figure out why gas keeps going up when economists say there's no basis for it. It may be time for a Boston Gas Party.

Bill Cameron said...

We just implemented a food budget, and it's been amazing. Part of the budget is a dramatic reduction in eating out. It's still hard to eat well and eat cheap. If you don't mind overdosing on high fructose corn syrup, it's not too hard to get "food" that is relatively inexpensive, but healthy food is not cheap.

Still, it doesn't really hurt to not eat as much. Mostly we've found that in the past we portioned out of habit rather than hunger. A few weeks of smaller, more carefully chosen portions and we're learning we were not nearly as hungry as we thought we were.

One thing that worries me in a macro sense is the trickle-down effect of how expensive everything has been getting. High fuel costs makes not just driving, but everything more expensive. As we can afford to buy less, the impact on the economy as a whole will be devastating. As a society, we're going to be paying for our systemic unwillingness to move away from the oil economy sooner. Great Depression, the Sequel? Get ready for it.