How to Budget For Food in 2012
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.
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.
How have your food choices changed because of your budget over the last year?