Should You Stock Up On Groceries In Advance Of Inflation?
In 2008, consumers were shocked to see gas prices spike, hurtling past the four dollar a gallon mark and forcing many families to rethink their vacation plans. But gasoline wasn’t the only commodity to increase in price as food prices surged as well, in part because delivery costs increased while demand for some items, such as certain grain products, outstripped supply. Budgeting is crucial during times like these.
Though gasoline and food prices have retreated from last summer’s highs, there is something else that could threaten costs, possibly putting undue pressure on millions of families. Inflation, which hasn’t reared its ugly head in more than a generation, is poised to make a come back. The culprit? Government debt, including the $700 billion TARP bail out last fall, the proposed $900 billion “stimulus” bill and the likely multi-trillion dollars in additional expenditures coming our way.
All debt must be repaid and it is often left up to succeeding generations to pay off what they’ve inherited. In the meantime, that debt will have to be handled meaning that more monies will go toward servicing that debt than what you have been paying thus far. Likely, by 2010, we’ll see taxes increase across the board which will put pressure on prices to start moving upwards. No one knows how much of a hit we’ll be faced with or when it will kick in, but it will happen.
Stock Up And Save
One way that families can prepare for higher prices is to purchase some of their goods now in advance of price increases. When it comes to food, certain items have a long shelf life and can be kept for many months. This means that you could purchase food items at today’s more reasonable prices and use them many months out when food prices begin to rise. Regardless of when the impact of the federal debt kicks in, higher gas prices this summer will start to move food prices upward as well.
The Virginia Cooperative Extension of Virginia State University has published guidelines for food storage, but we’ll only take a look at long shelf life items, the foods you’ll want to buy in bulk now for later use.
Dried Fruit – If never opened, dried fruits can last for up to six months. Meanwhile, canned fruits and fruit juice have a longer shelf life, up to one year. You’ll want to follow temperature guidelines as extreme temperatures can ruin or shorten the lifespan of what you are storing.
Dry Milk – Fresh dairy milk will last 8 to 20 days, though it is possible to freeze milk and thaw it out months later for consumption. Dry milk, which is often a good alternative to fresh milk, can be stored under cool conditions in an airtight package for up to one year. Evaporated milk has a longer shelf life, 12-23 months.
Corn Meal – At room temperature, corn meal can last for a full year while refrigerating it extends its life to eighteen months, or two full years if frozen. Flour can also last for a full year and for two years if frozen.
Pasta – One of the most popular meals in many family households is one that includes pasta. And for good reason too: pasta is filling, wholesome and has a long two year shelf life.
Rice – Last summer, there was a huge worldwide rush on rice as people who rely upon this staple thought that there was going to be a shortage. Prices spiked and stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club began to limit the number of bags customers could purchase. Brown rice lasts six months; white rice for a full year.
Meats – Besides refrigeration, having meats on hand can be a challenge, unless you are willing to go with the canned variety. Canned ham will last a full year as will corned beef and chili. Most other canned meats will also last a full year including everyone’s favorite mystery meat, spam.
Fish – Like meat, fish has a one year shelf when canned. Includes tuna fish.
Of course, anything that is opened will see its shelf life drastically reduced, perhaps down to just a few days for some items. If buying in bulk, you can transfer items to new, sealable containers, and mark the date on them when it should be used.
Save On Groceries
Besides storage, there are some other ways you can save on groceries, perhaps trimming as much as 30-50% off of your food budget:
Buy Sale Items – You don’t have to be a coupon clipper to save at the grocery store, in fact some items are “clipless” requiring only a store program card to reap savings. Take out your weekly circular and choose those items which are on sale. In many cases, you’ll be limited to four of each, but you can still come away with significant savings.
Shop Wholesale – Sam’s Club, BJ’s and Costco offer wholesale savings on food items, especially big bulky foodstuffs. If you live in an area where there is a food co-op, consider joining for additional savings. At one time in our nation’s history, food cooperatives were the rage. Likely, we’ll see a comeback in them as prices climb.
Shop Discount – The largest discount store in the country is Aldi’s, a German owned food store that also owns Trader Joe’s. With Aldi’s you can find the similar items to what your grocer offers at prices which are far lower than the supermarket. A full 95% of the items are Aldi branded items, some of which compare quite well to name brand foods.
Clip Coupons – Coupon clipping was popular all through the post-WWII era and beyond. Sunday papers and Wednesday inserts make buying your local newspapers worthwhile. Some families buy multiple issues of the Sunday paper, scour for coupons, and then head off to the store for significant savings. Couponing takes a lot of work, but the savings can be phenomenal.
Relying On Yourself And Others
Relying on the government to provide for you could be a strategy that brings you much grief. America has always thrived on self-reliance (with neighborly help) and innovation, two attributes we’ll all need in the months and years ahead whether we’re buying food for our families, saving money, or paying down our debt.