Drought Stressed Corn

5 Ways to Drought-Proof Your Grocery Bill

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.

Drought Stressed Corn

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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

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7 replies
  1. Beck
    Beck says:

    When making spaghetti sauce only use 1/2 pound of ground beef rather than a pound then add a can of mushrooms to get the thick feel of a meaty sauce. You can add bits of chopped pepper, onions and so forth in most meals and cut the meat in half. Or just eat marinara sauce – no meat. We always have a garden this helps with our food cost. One could go in with several other families and split a side of beef to lower costs. Chicken dishes same thing use less than the recipe calls for. Have beans once a week, soup once a week, a big salad once a week so you cut back on how much meat you are consuming.
    I know what I buy and what the best price is for which items. If I have a coupon and it is on sale at Kroger I use the coupon there because they double it up to 50 cents in other words that would be a $1.00 off. Because $1.00 coupons are not doubled and if the item is not on sale then I use that coupon at Walmart. Even if Walmart matches sale prices they do not double coupons my Kroger and Walmart are within the same stretch of road not even a 1/4 mile apart so it is worth it to go to both stores.
    Shop what is on sale meat wise and that will be what you eat that week or try shopping only every 2 weeks. I have a friend that only shops once a month but I can’t get to that level. I know shopping less would save me a lot of money.

  2. Danielle@Analytical Mom
    Danielle@Analytical Mom says:

    Since cows are not actually healthy when they eat corn anyway, the corn shortage could be a great opportunity for people to just switch to grass-fed beef! Corn prices are usually so low because they are subsidized by the government. Support your local sustainable farmers instead! eatwild.com provides a directory of grass-fed meat in each state. If you’re not dependent upon one cash-crop like corn, not only will the drought not impact you much, you’ll also be eating much healthier!

  3. Kristine Smith
    Kristine Smith says:

    I have kept a pricebook for many years now and it definitely helps me purchase with confidence. I like to use a small address book and a pencil. I list items under the corresponding letter tab (for example: Rice in the “R” section). I note the item and then leave room to note a few variations, perhaps. I include the brand, package size, price, date and store. I use pencil so that I can update when prices or package sizes change. The tabbed letters of the address book make it quick to look things up on the fly. I also keep a small calculator in my purse so that I can easily calculate per ounce/piece/etc to compare items. I’ve even had friends call me when they’ve seen a sale or special to find out if it really is a good deal.
    More of a commitment but providing a great deal of peace of mind is keeping an organic garden filled with foods to eat fresh, can, dry and store and raising our own meat and eggs so that we know the animals are raised on healthy pasture, treated humanely, and will provide superior nutrition. We are even raising a goat now to provide milk for our own dairy products. I know that not everyone has the space or physical ability to grow on the scale we do, but perhaps you have room for sprouts, a small kitchen garden, or a few layers.

  4. Joy
    Joy says:

    I keep my eye on prices of the stuff I regularly buy. Also, I make sure to check the “get rid of quick” spots on the local store for fruits, veggies and meats and can get some good deals there. For beef I get the bulk box at Sams and divvy it with friends which gets it down to about half of what it would be elsewhere and then I divide and freeze the meat. It lasts for months that way. I have gotten bulk grains at the health food store and I just discovered a national co op (Azure Standard) that has some great prices and does once a month drop off. They have locations all over the country, no fees to join, and the orders can be done online. 😀 I plan on using them often in the future.

  5. Ernestine S. Bonicelli
    Ernestine S. Bonicelli says:

    One thing most of us could do is scale back meat, chicken, fish and all proteins to what the recommended amount is. Most are used to eating several times what our body needs. For me, as a diabetic, I am allowed only six ounces of meat or other protein per day. That’s two ounces per meal. Even if you eat 4 ounces, that is likely much less than you usually have, and it is beneficial to health as well as the pocket book.

  6. sadnana
    sadnana says:

    I know that many people believe that the expense of buying organic food is unnecessary and/or that the organic food industry is some sort of racket. There’s plenty of information out there for anyone who wants to know more about this so I won’t attempt to persuade anyone here. But for our family only organic will do because our assorted medical issues have responded so well to cutting out the chemicals present in non-organics. This improvement in our health has had the added benefit of cutting down on medical costs. So, for us, the issue has become how to afford to shop this way.
    As with non-organics, organic food producers and sellers have sales and provide coupons. We can also save by buying in bulk and ordering a case of a product that is on sale; that typically saves 10% off the sale price before any coupon savings. An example: DH loves his instant oatmeal, normally $2.69 per box. On sale it is $2.29 but if I order a case of 12 the price comes down to $2.06. Finally, I use a $.50 coupon to bring the final price to $1.56, a total saving of 58% per box. With 8 packets in the box his healthy breakfast cost a measly $.19.
    Meat costs are an issue for everyone. Recently I discovered that my favorite brand of organic bacon was available in a slightly different package at a discount food store for $1.00 less. And every week my favorite whole foods grocer puts a meat item on sale. I’ve discovered that there are more coupons for organic meat products than for non-organics.
    It also pays to shop at different retailers. I’ve discovered that many online sellers give great discounts on groceries and personal care items and even offer free shipping. Recently I purchased gluten-free pasta (my kids and I are gluten intolerant) that costs $3.09 at our local grocer for just $2.23. And in the same order I saved $2.00 on a bottle of my favorite shampoo. I would advise anyone who wishes to switch to organics to approach it just as you would any other purchase. Do your research. Know the prices at local stores. Take advantage of sales and coupons. And track your savings not just in dollars and cents but in reduced medical costs and better quality of life.
    I would advise anyone who wishes to switch to organics to approach it just as you would any other purchase. Do your research. Know the prices at local stores. Take advantage of sales and coupons. And track your savings not just in dollars and cents but in reduced medical costs and better quality of life.

  7. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    I use the app “Out of Milk” to help me identify good prices and track price history. If you purchase national brands, there’s a UPC scanning feature to enter all the data in for you. I recently broke down and bought a Costco membership b/c we’re hosting a German teenaged exchange student who’s eating us out of house & home. Their deals on ingredients (lunchmeats, dairy, produce, meat) and formula for our baby have made the membership worthwhile. I don’t touch any of the pre-made dinners, which I can still make from scratch at home for less.


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