How to save food and money as grocery prices rise
According to the September 2013 Consumer Price Index, overall food inflation for groceries for 2014 will be above the historical average at three to four percent.
Be prepared for increased grocery bills as the year goes on. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the retail food prices rose 0.4 percent in February and again in March. This is the largest increase since September 2011. The BLS also reported that the prices consumers paid for meat, poultry, fish and eggs, as well as for fruits and vegetables, saw a particularly steep incline from January to February 2014, rising 1.2 percent and 1.1 percent respectively. Unfortunately, this isn’t the end of rising food prices.
There is more than one reason for these increased grocery prices. One reason that produce has become drastically more expensive is because a drought has devastated the nation’s growing fields. A second reason is because different diseases are affecting both animals and fruits, raising the prices animal producers have to pay to feed their livestock. Finally, rising exports have thinned U.S. supplies, making it more difficult to stock the grocery stores.
It is important to carefully handle food so that we throw out very little, if any, and let none of it spoil. This is where food safety comes in. Michigan State University Extension offers these food safety tips to help you not only save food, but save money as well:
- Use a list when shopping. Always place meat, poultry and fish in plastic bags to avoid juices from leaking or dripping onto other food. Meat should also be stored in a bowl or on a platter in the bottom of the refrigerator so that the juices don’t leak onto other foods.
- Use separate coolers or insulated bags with ice in them when transporting your food home from the market, one for the raw meat and one for produce, milk, juice, etc.
- Purchase whole pieces of meat, poultry, fruit and vegetables and cut it up yourself. Always sanitize surfaces, like cutting boards, counter tops and knives that the raw meat or poultry have touched, to prevent cross-contamination. Sanitize using one teaspoon of regular chlorine bleach to one quart of warm water.
- When you bring produce home take care of it immediately. Know what produce should be kept in the refrigerator and what can be left at room temperature, as well as what needs to be in airtight containers. Refer to the MI Fresh bulletins to learn about how to handle all kinds of produce. Your refrigerator should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
- Take care of what you buy. If you aren’t going to use up fresh produce in a timely manner then freeze it for later use. Refer to MI Fresh bulletins to see how to freeze or can various produce. Produce is best when it is optimal quality, not when it is starting to wither and loose moisture.
- Plan meals with what you have in your refrigerator so that you aren’t throwing out food that could be used to make a casserole or soup.
- Store food in airtight containers in the freezer.
- Keep a list of food in your freezer so food doesn’t get lost at the bottom.
Knowing we will continue to pay higher prices for our groceries gives us good incentive to be very careful with the food that we do buy.