While the effects may not be immediate, the government is predicting a jump in food prices across the board in 2013 according to the consumer price index. Almost 90% of corn and soy bean crops have been damaged or destroyed. Losing two crops may seem like small potatoes. But it’s easy to forget that much of the livestock grown in America depends on corn and other grains along with grazing pastures which have also been left battered by the drought.
So what does this mean for the average American consumer?
For one, it will make high vegetable prices even higher. It’s already cheaper to buy processed foods than fresh fruits and veggies, and this year, we can expect a 3.5-4.5% increase in the price of fresh produce.
In addition, beef and poultry are expected to increase 3-4%, and dairy products 3.5-4.5%. In contrast, sugar and sweets prices will only increase 2-3%, in line with inflation.
So how can you make sure your family continues to eat healthy foods while staying within budget at the grocery store?
For one, buy more canned and frozen fruits and vegetables. This chart gives good information on which fruits and veggies are cheaper to buy in which form (fresh, or canned). (Keep in mind this data is a bit old, so the prices are lower than today’s prices.)
However, beware that many canned vegetables may not have all the nutrients of the fresh variety because of the canning process (tomatoes and pumpkins are some exceptions). Also, a lot of vegetables and fruits are canned in salty or sugary solutions which can detract from their healthy value.
On the other hand, frozen fruits and vegetables may actually offer more nutrients than fresh vegetables since they are picked and frozen at their ripest, versus fresh veggies that are picked off the vine earlier and allowed to ripen during travel and in the store. Frozen produce can also help you eat varieties that aren’t in season.
For some families, there’s another reason fresh veggies may put a strain on the budget: wastage. Many people buy tons of groceries, trying to cut down on trips to the supermarket. But if they don’t use everything in their fridge before it goes bad, it’s just money down the drain. The best way to avoid this: plan out your meals each week and only buy what you need. Leave some leeway for items that are on sale, but make sure you have a plan in mind for using them.
Another way to save money is to eat more non-animal sources of protein, such as beans and legumes. In addition to being lighter on the wallet, reducing the amount of meat you eat can have positive health benefits as well.