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Calorie Count Blog

How to Budget For Food in 2012


By +Carolyn Richardson on Dec 22, 2011 10:00 AM in Dieting & You

The latest release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a 4% drop in food expenditures by consumers in 2010. So how?d your wallet fare food-wise this year? Chances are you?re already feeling the upward swing of food prices. While food costs increased by the smallest percentage since 1962 at just 0.8% in 2010, the Food Institute projects the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for food may have increased by 3.5% to 4.5% in 2011, with another expected rise of 2.5 to 3.5% in 2012. Are you ready to pay more for what you eat? Here?s how to weather the rise in food prices.

Buy Local

Because food prices in the US are largely based on weather conditions and fuel prices, buying local may be the key to lowering your grocery bill. Out of season fruits and vegetables travel longer distances and cost more than locally grown foods. You may consider limiting purchases of certain fruits and vegetables until they are in-season and available locally. Another way you sacrifice choice for a better price is by joining a Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) or Food Cooperative. Both offer a more direct source of products than national chain grocery stores. In most cases, products come from local farmers and suppliers which mean fresher foods for you. Search the National Cooperative Grocers Association?s website to find out if a cooperative exists near you. Local Harvest has a searchable database of CSAs here.

Buy Certain Items in Bulk

Another way to get a bigger bang for your buck is by purchasing in bulk. Not only are frozen varieties of certain fruits, vegetables, and meats cheaper, but by stocking a big lot of fresh food and strategically storing it you can save money. Just separate the food into appropriate serving sizes to ensure it is used efficiently. You?ll save time in cooking preparation and have more to use for another meal. While warehouse clubs are a great place to buy bulk items, there are other choices. Look for wholesale food stores or wholesale to the public bulk food programs. Some wholesale food stores supply restaurants and have much lower prices than grocery stores. Don?t be put off by the lack of signage or personal customer service, this is the sacrifice you make for lower food prices. Bulk food programs are likened to CSAs and allow for a predetermined box of foods sold at up to half the price it would cost in grocery stores. Search bulk food programs in your area as they vary greatly by state and availability. Food banks are sometimes a great resource to discover bulk food programs.

Eat What You Have

Last but definitely not least, before you go grocery shopping out of habit, search your refrigerator and pantry to create meals from what you have. As a child I remember never really knowing what was in the back of our freezer because it was filled to the brim. The same may be true of your pantry. How many bags of pasta will you buy before you get down to your last? Consider items you consistently buy but don?t use and figure out a way to use it up before buying more. You?d be surprised at the meals you can create if you thought about adding a few items to food you already have. As you prepare for 2012, think smart about your food budget and not only will your body thank you, but your wallet will too.


Your thoughts?

How have your food choices changed because of your budget over the last year?



Comments


Buying local is more expensive for me than buying imported where I live. Why, I couldn't tell you. This country is just crazy like that.



I can't buy local now, it's winter and the outdoor farmer's markets are closed.Surprised



Everyone in the US should check out the Bountiful Baskets Co-Op. Go to www.bountifulbaskets.org and see if there's a distribution site near you. It's $15 for a non-organic basket of fruits and vegetables, $25 for organic. I've been participating for about a year and have never been disappointed. We save about $30 a week by participating, and now in our area they do a distribution every week. The quality is impeccable and the offerings are always varied and have introduced us to several new fruits and veggies. They also have 9-grain breads, whole wheat breads, and seasonal offerings. Last week was gingerbread kits, made with no preservatives. They were actually edible and quite delicious!

Sorry for the novel, but I really love Bountiful Baskets and I'm trying to get everyone I know to convert. It's such a great program and it runs year round, unlike our local farmer's market.



Most grocery stores in your area will have local produce. You just need to ask. a Co-Op is a great resource along with a CSA. It does however depend on where you live. I live in Canada, so for me it is easier to buy in bulk dry goods, however, food Co-Ops are not as popular as the large chain stores, which is a shame. I grew up in Seattle where they have a food Co-Op that is amazing and had many locations. 



I planted a garden.



for me shopping at a store like wal-mart is easy for me because they have lots or organic foods and various items in the store. so for me to  go shoping thier is great . now i have been told that going to a farmers market is also great because they have all the good vegtables and fruit and they even except food stamps. I think its great wher  i live and i live in New York State



I agree about the full fridge- and in my case, freezer.  I need to more often make soups from my leftover grated zucchini etc. and be grateful for it.  I live in Eastern Washington state- the nearest co-op is at least an hour and a half away; maybe even further- over a mountain pass- so yeah, I'm not hopping into a 4 wheel drive and going there.  I do have a box of left over cherry tomatoes from last summer's harvest that I need to pick through.  Thanks for that reminder, too.  Eat simple and the food costs will go down.  Don't look for glitzy packages.  Eat more legumes like lentils and basics like onions and garlic. And sometimes stores like Grocery Outlet can be an asset, if you shop wisely and close your eyes to the refined junk that lives there.  Last time I shopped there, I found green bell peppers for 59 cents a piece. 



Soups!  And curries! 

Example:

Tomorrow, I am roasting a whole duck.  The duck cost about $15 from my local 99 Ranch Market (an excellent chain of Vietnamese markets).  50% of the meat from said duck will go into tomorrow night's dinner--roast duck curry.  The vegetables for said curry can be bought at our local produce store for about $5. 

Saturday, Christmas Eve, 40% of the roast duck meat will be shredded to make duck confit to go in an omelet for dinner.  Omelet and accompanying vegetable mash will cost less than $7 from the local produce store. 

Sunday, in the hours between Christmas morning and Christmas dinner, the duck carcass and remaining 10% of the meat will be used to make duck stock, to be used for soup during the next week.

Monday, we have leftover duck curry (it makes 2 meals per person).

That's a little over three meals for two people from just one $15 duck!



Because we put ourselves on a budget this year, we reduced our grocery bill budget for the first 3 weeks of December, so we could spend more Christmas week. You would not believe the great meals we made with stuff we already had on hand.

The only downfall is when you almost empty your cupboards, and you go to do your groceries, you don't know where to start because you need so many things. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!



Believe it or not, our grocery bill went down after we became vegetarians.  I suppose the dry beans and grains cost less than expensive meat.  



O.K. here is the 1,000,000 dollar question, last year when the gas prices went up, we were all told the rising food prices were do to that rise in gas prices.  Now that the gas prices are going down, why aren't the food prices going down also?  And why not immediately reflecting the speed they went up last year?  We are being sold a bill of goods, whoever manipulates the prices knows exactly what they are doing and it isn't for the good of the general public.



Original Post by: dianemar

O.K. here is the 1,000,000 dollar question, last year when the gas prices went up, we were all told the rising food prices were do to that rise in gas prices.  Now that the gas prices are going down, why aren't the food prices going down also?  And why not immediately reflecting the speed they went up last year?  We are being sold a bill of goods, whoever manipulates the prices knows exactly what they are doing and it isn't for the good of the general public.


No joke...

 



For anyone in Chicago, The Dill Pickle (http://dillpicklefoodcoop.org/) is a great community grocery co-op that offers discounts off your bill for volunteering at the store.



Yes, you can still buy in season. What you do is can, freeze or dehyrate the produce you buy in season.

Another way I save is to hit the reduce for quick sale bins.  

I am involved in a food buying club.  Where I live we order from UNFI.  We've been fruits and veggies from Albert's Organics.  In other areas of the country like out west you have Azure Standard.



I buy a lot of groceries from Target or Walmart or Trader Joe's, cheaper than the conventional grocery stores, at least here in Chicago!



Original Post by: uscnicci84

For anyone in Chicago, The Dill Pickle (http://dillpicklefoodcoop.org/) is a great community grocery co-op that offers discounts off your bill for volunteering at the store.


That's really interesting! I'll have to check that out!



At Toastmasters (great group) one of my friends gave a talk on strategic buying.  Stores have specials on items about every 13 weeks.  Buy in the item on special that week.  She recommended storing under your bed!  Use that item in menus for the next 13 weeks.  You can save about 50% on canned goods with this strategy.

If you do this every week you will have a store house of food to use--making good healthy meals.  BE SURE TO KEEP TRACK OF WHAT YOU BUY! lol

 



Thank You for the website link! I am definitely going to check this out :) 



the only thing around where i live within walking distance is price chopper, which is (with my budget) extremely expensive



Where I live you have to shop around, use coupons and walmat.



Don't forget the weekly ads.  Wal Mart and two other locah stores will match the ads.  Last week I got a large bottle of Miracle Whip for $1.50 less than Wal Mart's price by matching!

Also, the registers are good but not perfect, watch the amounts as they are rung up.  Even machines make errors.



Food prices must be higher in Canada. i can'[t get apples for below $1/pound nor bananas under $.79/lb.  Even with the Canadian dollar closer to parity. Probably have to truck the produce further.  As to local produce.....pretty much no fruit grown in our province, except berries in the summer. 



I buy a whole chicken weekly and use it for lunch meat for four days, and dice up what is left for my dog; no more canned food for him.  This has saved me a lot and is healthier than buying lunch meat and canned dog food.



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