With the crazy instability of the economy these days, nearly everyone has a frugal grocery budget as they struggle to cut expenses where they can. Those of us who are strong believers in building a pantry tend to pay particular attention to the variations of the prices of specific foods since we strive to purchase items for our pantry when they are at their lowest points.
Those of us who are strong believers in building a pantry tend to pay particular attention to the variations of the prices of specific foods since we strive to purchase items for our pantry when they are at their lowest points. (You can learn more about shopping to build a pantry here.) By purchasing food at the lowest price in the cycle, your family can enjoy items at yesterday’s prices while everyone else is paying far more for the same item at today’s prices.
A great way to track the change in food costs is through the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Each month, the BLS tracks the price variations of commonly purchased food items. Lately, we’ve seen a pretty dramatic increase in the costs of 10 particular foods since this time last year.
The Price of These 10 Foods Has Skyrocketed in the Past Year
Here’s the list of foods that, unless purchased wisely (or better yet, homegrown when possible) could blow your frugal grocery budget.
- Strawberries: up 22.1%
- Apples: up 16.4%
- Lemons: up 15.2%
- Grapes: up 13.7%
- Tomatoes: up 13.2%
- Rice: up 6.1%
- Potato Chips: up 5% (no better time than the present to give up nutritionless snacks!)
- Peanut Butter: up 4.1%
- Frozen Orange Juice: up 3%
- Bacon: up 2.5%
(Hat tip to Money and Career Cheat Sheet)
And if you are particular about where your food comes from, the organic versions of these foods cost even more. (Check out this year’s list of the most pesticide-laden foods at the store – quite a few of them appear on the list of foods with rising prices!) For example, at my local grocery store, organic apples are more than double the price per pound of conventionally grown apples – and I live where apples are grown!
What does this mean in actual dollars and cents?
Well, when you look at the items one by one, it doesn’t seem like a dramatic increase. However, if you look at them by the cart full, or moreover, during the course of a year, it could really add up.
Let’s take apples, for example. A large apple has increased in price by about 20 cents. If you were to eat an apple a day, over the course of the year, you’d pay an additional $73 over the course of the year for your apple. If all of the members of a family of 4 imbibed in the apple a day habit, that adds up to $292 for the lunchbox snack.
Of course, I’m not telling you that you must eschew apples for the entire year.
How to get the most bang for your grocery bucks
For these (or any other foods) that you buy at the grocery store, it’s important to be aware that the prices will fluctuate. You need to pay attention to the price of food over the course of the year to really do this effectively, but starting a price book can help you immensely in your search to buy items when their prices are the lowest. (My book, The Pantry Primer, gives detailed instructions on tracking prices.)
Let’s go back to apples. If you buy them out of season, you’re going to pay the highest price of the year. However, if you buy them in season, the price will go down.
Better yet, if you buy them in season and store/preserve them to enjoy when the prices are at their peaks, then you will pay that lowest price all year long. You might store them in a root cellar, can some applesauce and apple pie filling, and dehydrate some slices for a crunchy snack. Our family spends at least two weeks processing apples to eat during the off-season. (Here’s an article from last year’s apple season that explains exactly how we make the most of several bushels of apples.)
Frugality is a survival skill
With the current economic instability, your ability to thrive on less is a survival skill that is just as important as being able to start a fire in the middle of a rainstorm with two sticks and a pile of leaves. As prices go up and employment goes down, something has to give, and that is most likely going to be your budget.
Learn now how to make the most of the money you have by using self-reliance skills and common sense to reduce your expenses.
These books can help you to learn a new way of looking at thrift and your frugal grocery budget.
- The Complete Tightwad Gazette (my favorite book on the planet)
- The Pantry Primer: How to Build a Whole Foods Pantry on a Half Price Budget
- Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family
- A Cabin Full of Food
- Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression
What are your favorite grocery budgeting tips? Please share them in the comments below.