The Summer of 2012 is sure to go down in history as having produced one of the most severe droughts in the heartland of America. Corn, especially, has been all but wiped out, and that is bound to have a major impact on supermarket prices as we head into winter. Just since July, corn prices have surged 50 percent.
Dealing with this problem will not be as easy as simply avoiding corn until a new crop comes to harvest next year. The problem is that in our culture, corn has a wide array of uses. It’s used to feed cattle and poultry. With the supply so low now, the price of feed corn is way up. Already we’re seeing the price of meat and poultry soaring. Corn is used in sweeteners for every imaginable kind of processed food, including ketchup. And it finds its way into gasoline and ethanol, too.
While the drought may end soon, we should look for higher prices on all things related through much of 2013. So what can we do? Kathy Kristof, CBSNews.com columnist, recently suggested five simple, yet effective tips to steer clear of high prices as a result of the drought.
1. Eat fruit. While the unprecedented summer heat was horrible for many crops like corn and soy beans, it’s been a great season for fruit. Watch for great prices on summer and fall fruits, especially grapes, suggests Kristof.
2. Switch. Corn, beef and poultry are likely to be expensive at least for the foreseeable future. Reasonable substitutes might be oatmeal for breakfast and lots of fish. Look for products that use simple sugar, not corn syrup, to stay on budget.
3. Shop local. If you do not live in the drought-stricken regions, look to your local farmers markets and independent grocers for locally-grown produce, meat, poultry and eggs. That’s where we can save a bundle promises Kristof.
4. Stock up. There may still be time to stock up on meat and poultry before we see price hikes kick in. That’s because as farmers saw no end in sight for the drought, many went for early slaughters rather than pay hugh increases for feed. This can cause a temporary over-supply of product. When you see a great sale, load up the freezer.
5. Cook your meals. Price hikes are going to hit processed foods more than raw ingredients. To stay clear of those budget-busters, cook at home, from scratch and you’ll just naturally avoid many processed foods. That’s good for your budget and for your health, too.
You don’t really need a degree in nutrition to figure out food prices. But it’s to your advantage to know your prices. For example, if you don’t know what chicken costs normally, you’ll have a difficult time knowing if $.79 a pound for whole chickens is a good deal or not. Just so you know, it is. And when you see that, back up the truck!
Question: Do you keep track of food prices? Many shoppers keep a little notebook of prices at their area stores for items they purchase regularly. What do you do? Join in the conversation here.