A text came in at 7:30 this morning. My husband was letting me know gas is now $4.00/gallon. I was already planning on running errands today, so I figured, I'd take extra money for gas. After homeschooling and combing through Ibotta ( https://ibotta.onelink.me/iUfE/8cc13c64?friend_code=xkyapkc ) for my Walmart coupons, we headed out. As we pulled into the gas station around 2pm, they were already raising the price another $.10/gallon.
Current inflation rates are being reported at 7.5%, though many economists would argue it's higher, because the federal government has changed the metrics by which inflation is calculated. We've seen this before. The 2008 housing crisis brought a crash in the stock market and housing prices Inflation soared over 7% and $4/gallon gas prices were seen throughout the country (Lest we forget). Matt and I watched helplessly as our own home lost about $200,000 in value (we're still dealing with the aftermath of that today).
As Gen X-ers, we're especially equipped to deal with this kind of crisis. With our sarcastic attitudes paired with the knowledge that the world doesn't care about us, anyway, we know there's only 1 thing to do in times like these: deal with the current terrain.
What is the terrain? To put it simply, your dollar does not go as far as it used to. I'm only going to address this issue in terms of food, because, well, I'm a farmer and I deal with food.
How can we handle rising food prices? First, let's understand why food prices are rising. 1 aspect is oil prices. When fuel goes up, it costs more money to get your food from the field, to the packer, to the distributor, and to the store. Fuel isn't the only thing that uses petroleum, Plastic does, too. The more packaging something has, the more expensive it's going to be. Another aspect is manpower cost. As wages rise, and taxes increase, the more foods are handled and processed, the more is costs a producer to make that food.
In the end, it's not just about saving money, but also feeding your family. When money is tight, your best best is to look for the best value on the most nutritionally-dense foods. This means buying more whole foods like dairy, eggs, raw, unprocessed meats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Where does stew come into the picture? I can start by saying it's just plain delicious and it's still winter. End of discussion. For the sake of argument, let's investigate our dinner from tonight: rabbit stew. It was made with things we already had on hand, so it wasn't affected by the 6.5% increase in food prices we've seen over the last year, but, I'll present my argument with today's prices. I will also use chicken instead of rabbit, so you can really see how inexpensive this is.
Here is a list of ingredients we used (I'm going to use Walmart's current pricing, unless otherwise stated):
- About 1lb of chicken breast ($2.66/lb)
- 1 large carrot (a 5lb bag is $3.88. I'm going to estimate a large carrot costs about $.40)
- 1 rib of celery ($1.96/bag. I'm going to estimate a rib at around $.25)
- 1 large potato (I bought a bushel of potatoes from a local farmer for $25. 1 potato is about $.20)
- About a TB of fat (we render our own fats from beef and pork that I get for free)
- About a TB of flour (a 5lb bag of flour is $1.67, I'm not even going to try to break it down by TB)
- 1/2 C of frozen peas (2lb bag is $2.22. I'm going to estimate 1 C at around $.55)
- Total cost: $4.06. We can even bump it up to $4.50 to account for water, spices, and fat. This recipe made 4 large servings, meaning you're paying $1.13 per person for this meal.
Let's compare this to a prepared meal you can buy like a family-size frozen lasagna. $12.00 at Walmart, or $3.00 per serving. That's almost 3x the amount you spent on the stew.
What's the takeaway here? Save money by cooking at home. Involve the kids. Make it a family occasion. Even if money isn't tight (yet), savings here can give you more leeway to spend it on higher-quality ingredients from our local farmer's markets.
Signing up for CSA's and farm subscription programs (like mine) can also be a hedge against the seemingly non-stop increase in food prices because it's a pay upfront program. It may feel like a big expense upfront, but you get all the vegetables you need during the season, and they're already paid for! Being a CSA member also gives you access to our members-only Facebook group to share more recipes, storage tips, and contests.
Hang in there, friends!