Begin budgeting for higher food costs now

The USDA forecasts a three to four percent increase in all food costs in 2013. Plan ahead by having food on your shelf and a budget to support higher food costs.

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educators are urging families to take proactive measures to anticipate the 3 to 4 percent rise in food costs forecasted for 2013. Educators are suggesting that families stock their pantries now and adjust their monthly budgets.

To begin that adjustment, Sarah Sleziak-Johnson, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator, suggests that families create a list of needs and wants. She defines a need as something one must have for comfortable survival, such as shelter, warmth, good health and food. A want is something that is not necessary to survive but is desired or deserved, such as a new car or a vacation. Once a family’s needs have been identified, the budget should be built around meeting them.

“This is a job for the family,” Sleziak-Johnson said. “If your family develops the budget together, everyone values it. Examining your family’s budget now will make it easier to make adjustments as you plan for the future.”

The next step is to consider what the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) refers to as the “3 P’s:” plan, purchase and prepare. Sleziak-Johnson suggests planning meals and food purchases on the basis of available coupons and store ads, preparing foods with what is on hand, and doing without meat a day or two during the week.

To stock a pantry efficiently, she recommends buying food items that have long shelf lives and buying in quantity when these items are on sale.

If a food can be stored safely at room temperature, it is considered shelf-stable. According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, non-perishable products include jerky, country hams, canned and bottled foods, rice, pasta, flour, sugar, spices, oils, foods processed in aseptic or retort packages and other products that do not require refrigeration until after opening.

The following table contains a list of common shelf-stable foods, a description of their shelf life, and how long they are safe to eat after being opened and stored in the refrigerator:

Table 1: Common Shelf-stable Foods


Storage on shelf

Storage after opening

Canned ham (shelf-stable)

2 to 5 years

3 to 4 days in the refrigerator

Low-acid canned goods.
Examples: canned meat and poultry, stews, soups (except   tomato), spaghetti (noodle and pasta) products, potatoes, corn, carrots,   spinach, beans, beets, peas and pumpkin.

2 to 5 years

3 to 4 days in the refrigerator

High-acid canned goods.
Examples: juices (tomato, orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit),   tomatoes, grapefruit, pineapple, apples and apple products, mixed fruit,   peaches, pears, plums, all berries, pickles, sauerkraut, and foods treated   with vinegar-based sauces or dressings, such as German potato salad and   sauerbraten.

12 to 18 months

5 to 7 days in the refrigerator

Home-canned foods

12 months. Before using, boil 10 minutes for high-acid foods; 20 minutes for   low-acid foods.

3 to 4 days in the refrigerator

Jerky, commercially packaged

12   months


Jerky, home-dried

1 to 2 months


Hard/dry   sausage

6 weeks in pantry

3 weeks refrigerated, or until it no longer smells or tastes good.

USDA dried egg mix

Store below 50 °F, preferably refrigerated, for 12 to 15 months.

Refrigerate   after opening. Use within 7 to 10 days. Use reconstituted egg mix immediately   or refrigerate and use within 1 hour.

Dried egg whites

Unopened dried egg products and egg white solids can be stored at room temperature as   long as they are kept cool and dry. After opening, store in the refrigerator.

Refrigeration is no required unless reconstituted.

MREs (meal, ready to eat)

120 °F, 1 month
100 °F, 1 1/2 years
90 °F, 2 1/2 years
80 °F, 4 years
70 °F, 4 1/2 years
60 °F, 7 years

Refrigeration will increase the shelf-stable storage times.

Tuna and other seafood in retort pouches

18 months

3 to 4 days in the refrigerator

Meat or poultry products in retort pouches

Use manufacturer’s recommendation on the package.

3 to 4 days in the refrigerator

Rice and dried pasta

2 years

After cooking, 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator

“The USDA is a great resource for budgeting tips such as 10 Tips for Eating on a Budget, which suggests that going back to basics, buying in bulk and buying in season can be helpful to our wallets,” Sleziak-Johnson said. “You can contact your local MSU Extension office for more nutrition information or visit the MSU Extension website."

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