Nearly everything at the store, from beef and cereal to fruit and veggies, costs more than it did a year ago. Inflation is the culprit eating away at your budget.
You may not have noticed yet because it takes a while for these changes to trickle down. But we need to be keenly aware of what’s going on to stay ahead of this. We need to know what to do now.
Beat the Shrink
Inflation doesn’t always show up in the price of an item. It may appear that nothing has changed, but check the product size. It’s a sneaky and common way that retailers hide inflation. They shrink the size of the product but leave the price the same.
Sugar used to come in five-pound bags. Now that same sugar comes in four-pound bags with no change in price.
There was a time when coffee came in one-pound and three-pound sizes. Have you looked lately? Most brands’ pound of coffee is now 12 ounces. A three-pound container is closer to 30 ounces.
Your best defense to beat the shrink is to start noticing. Look for hidden inflation every time you shop. Know your prices. Check the labels. Compare brands.
Buy in Bulk
Basic pantry staples are much cheaper when purchased in bulk quantities. These are items that store well in a cool, dark pantry for a very long time—rice, beans, flour, oil, and so forth.
Roast and Grind
With the price of coffee up more than 25 percent over the past year, perhaps it’s time to get serious about roasting and grinding your own coffee beans.
You’ll cut the cost by half or more and enjoy drinking some delicious coffee. I’ve been home-roasting coffee for more than a decade. Currently, I roast with a Behmor 1600 home coffee roasting machine and import raw green coffee beans from Costa Rica.
The Coffee Bean Corral is an online bulk supplier that has good prices on green coffee beans in bags of 5 to 132 pounds, starting as low as $5.75 per pound. There are lots of online videos to teach you how to home-roast coffee.
Use a Tea Ball
If you’re a serious tea drinker and you buy those little boxes of tea bags, you’re spending way too much per pound for your tea. Do the math, and try not to choke when you discover how much you are spending per pound.
Here’s a novel idea: Get a tea ball, also referred to as a loose tea infuser. Or if you prefer disposable tea bags, you can buy empty tea bags to fill yourself. Now you can purchase fine, fresh loose tea in bulk and slash your per-tea bag cost in ways that will have you singing hallelujah!
Grow a Garden
Wish you could grow an edible garden but don’t have the space for it? I’ve got good news.
You don’t need acreage, a big yard, or perfect conditions. In fact, you really don’t need any yard at all. There are myriad ways you can get started today growing your own food—in a barrel or big pot. On a deck or porch. You can even grow vegetables in a black trash bag! It’s easy.
Consider joining a local community-supported agriculture, or CSA, program. Or join an online produce supplier such as Misfits Market or Imperfect Foods.
Members of CSAs pay dues, which buy shares of a local farm. These dues go directly to pay for seeds, fertilizer, water, equipment, and labor. The harvest is divided between shareholders. Costs to produce can vary widely, depending on location and other factors.
To get started, go to LocalHarvest.org, and search their network.
And now for this distressing fact: Almost a third of food grown in the United States never gets harvested because it doesn’t meet the superficial standards of a traditional grocery store. And yet, there are millions of food-insecure households in the United States.
Both Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods are committed to fighting food waste by making healthy, quality food more accessible. If you are not offended by misshapen produce, you can save at least 40 percent by ordering from these companies.
Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Mary invites you to visit her at her website, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at EverydayCheapskate.com/contact, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at Tips.EverydayCheapskate.com. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Copyright 2021 Creators.com