Food Prices

Did you know that the average American household spends 10% of our incomes on food compared to 18-25% in other parts of the world?  (Source:  UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

What all goes into food prices?  A lot of different factors – see this USDA diagram.  Commodity prices account for 14% of food prices, while food processing, packaging, retail trade, transportation, and other things make up the other 86% of the cost of food.  In 1950, farmers received more than 40 cents for every food dollar that consumers spent in the grocery store.  Today, they received less than 12 cents.

These are some tips of how I try to save on grocery costs.

*Stock up on staples when they go on sale.  Last week our local store had a lot of food staples on sale ahead of the holidays so I stocked up during my weekly grocery shopping.  Some of the items that were on sale at my local store last week (some half price!) included:  butter, canned vegetables, cream cheese, broth, cream soup, and lots of other goodies.

*Purchase store brands.  There are a few items that I make it a point to buy a brand name, but usually I can’t see a lot of difference so I’ll buy the store brand.  On a related note, I don’t do a lot with coupons.  I recognize some people have had great success with coupons, and I probably don’t know how to do it effectively.  Generally, when I clip coupons, I seem to forget them or I’m trying to keep my little Mess-Maker somewhere near the grocery cart while crossing items off “the list”.  The long and short of it, is I find coupons to be too big of a hassle right now.

*Just in time food.  It is a rule in our house that if you use the last of something, you will put it on this list so it gets bought again.  If it’s not on the list, don’t expect to eat it again!  J

*Buy in bulk when it makes sense.  For our family, these include – peanut butter, frozen fish, and canned goods.  We will also have a side of beef or pork processed as needed.  This is quite an upfront expense, but I save money over time by buying our meat this way, and it’s so nice to have a selection of meat in the freezer rather than thinking about it each week as I buy groceries.

*The extra freezer.  Having an extra freezer can be a double edged sword.  If you know that you’re not good about rotating food, you might end up with lots of mystery meat samples!  I keep my kitchen freezer stocked with vegetables, fruit, cheese, butter, and a few “convenience” foods.  My extra freezer is reserved for meat, frozen goodies from the garden, and any bulk purchases when things are on sale.  I try to put “like” foods on each shelf so the freezer stays more organized à if you don’t know what I’m talking about, refer to the mystery meat comment above.

How do you try to manage your food budget?

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