Saturday, October 20, 2012
Are Food Prices Rising?
A friend posted recently on Facebook that they were shocked at how food prices are rising at the grocery store. Mike then mentioned that both Chipotle and McDonalds, two national fast food restaurant chains, had failed to make their projected 3rd quarter earning figures due to rising food costs.
I have to tell you that our make-it-mostly-from scratch, vegetarian household has not yet felt the rise in prices - we're still squarely on, or under, budget. In fact, as is usually the case, I was well under budget this last week at just about $75.00 for a week's worth of groceries.
A couple of disclaimers - we do not include non-food items in our Grocery budget. Paper goods and cleaning supplies are allocated to either Home Items or Home Maintenance, depending, and beauty products like shampoo, makeup and shaving supplies are allocated to our Personal Care account. I will say, however, that I almost exclusively buy all of these non-food items in bulk when they are advertised as loss leader items by a particular supermarket, and can't remember the last time we've run out of anything, or had to buy it at full price. We also allocate all alcoholic beverage purchases to Entertainment.
Here's a breakdown of last week's menu, and the corresponding shopping list to give an idea of how we're achieving this:
Daily morning coffee, flavored with coconut milk. We also keep a pitcher of coffee chilled in the refrigerator to make late morning iced coffees. And in the summer, we make sun tea and keep in on hand and chilled as well.
- Cereal or soy yogurt, topped with fruit, nuts and flaxseed
- Soy based smoothies
- Steel cut oatmeal topped with fruit, cinnamon, nuts and flaxseed
- Leftovers from dinner
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit and a home baked treat (when we're at school generally, and packing our lunches)
- Tortillas with vegetarian refried beans, cheese and salsa (my at-home lunch staple)
- Spicy black bean veggie burgers, roasted sweet potato fries, Mexican Caesar salad
- Terriyaki rice with vegetables, tofu and toasted sesame seeds, kale salad
- Vegetable fajitas, black beans, Mexican Caesar salad
- Eggplant Parmesan, spaghetti noodles, Caesar salad, garlic bread
- White bean soup with rosemary and pasta, kale salad, garlic bread
(We had the fajita leftovers repackaged as quesadillas on day six, and enjoyed the soup again for dinner on day seven - it made a ton!)
Banana bread made with some ripening bananas
Blueberry muffins made with some ripening blueberries
Trader Joe Cranberry/Pistachio biscotti
From Sprouts Farmers Market
Golden flax seeds
Great northern beans
Roasted salted pepitas
Vegetable bouillon cubes
Vine ripened tomatoes
Flat leaf Italian parsley
Red & green bell peppers
Red seedless grapes
Total of $21.21
From Trader Joe's
Dark Roast Coffee Beans (Which I then grind fresh at the store before leaving)
Trader Joe's Toasted O's cereal
Total of $26.56
From Ralphs Supermarket
Butter (on sale for $2.50 a pound)
Morningstar Spicy Black Bean veggie burgers
Diet Coke (on sale at three 12-packs for $11)
Total of 23.28
From Albertsons Supermarket
Two loafs of bread (on sale at $1.98 a loaf)
Two raw carrots
One stalk of celery
Total of $4.33
Grand Total of $75.38
I'm generally able to stock up on one or more sale items each week, and plan my menu around items on sale, plus items I already have on hand. I spend about 15 minutes perusing the weekly grocery circulars for sales, 5 minutes eyeballing my pantry, spice cabinet, freezer and refrigerator to remind myself of what I already have, about 30 minutes planning out my menu from my hugh assortment of cookbooks, and then about 90 minutes shopping for my items at the four places above, all located within just a mile or two of my home.
Other tips - buy nuts, beans and spices from less expensive bulk bins, available at stores like Sprouts and Henry's Farmers Markets. Frequent the mark down tables for bread about to expire, and simply pop it in your freezer until you need it. Buy marked down items, particularly staples, in six month quantities. As an example - I scored on .49 cent per pound pasta some weeks back, and now have enough on hand to last for months. I did the same with pasta sauce, and rice, and now have the foundation for some wonderful dinners in the future for very little cost.
I recognize that it takes a little effort to stay organized in this fashion, but I'm going to guess we're easily saving between $50 - $75 each week in the process, which means more money to travel with. (It always comes back to travel with us.). We always have delicious, nutritious food on hand, which prevents us from impulsively going out to dinner, picking up takeout or ordering in. I really enjoy the creative process of cooking and baking, finding it very satisfying, and if there ever is a night when I'm too tired to cook, or we've just had too busy of a day, there are almost always dinner leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer we can quickly heat up. And, perhaps the biggest bonus - we're remaining healthy and slim . . . no mean fit as we navigate through our 50's.
I've been doing this for a little over a year now, and I'm sure there are lots and lots of creative things others have discovered that I haven't as of yet, so please feel free to share some of your secrets . . . I'd really enjoy hearing about them.