Shopping During High Inflation Times
Lately, I've been seeing a lot of articles advising people on how to hedge the current super inflation we're facing today.
But if you're just now trying to do something about inflation, you're way too late.
There's damage control which we'll cover in a minute, but the time to prepare for higher prices was last year when you were hearing about supply issues, transportation logjams, and the mass employee early retirement.
For myself, the minute the initial rush on toilet paper, alcohol, and masks was over back in May of 2020, I restocked on EVERYTHING.
I specifically focused on things I couldn't grow or make myself. We grow our own fresh produce. We have animals for meat, and I also have a source for organic beef right off the hoof. But manufactured items like plastic wrap, alcohol, and even razor blades have to come from the store.
You can't outrun inflation. You can only outlast it.
This brings me to damage control.
Since you can't go back in time to stock up, all you can do is soften the bite by buying less, buying alternatives, going without, or growing your own.
What I find disturbingly evident from the past two years is how easily government and big business control us. They can casually restrict certain drugs that were once freely available, confiscate your donations if they don't like where it's going, or order you not to go to work. It's a dangerous precedent.
Which brings up a stark truth. The more self sufficient you are, the less control big business has over you. It really bugs them too because that's real power--quiet, unassuming power.
99.99% of us are still tied to the umbilical of government or big business. We need our savings, our life-saving drugs, our heat, air, and fuel to power vehicles.
But food is still the one thing we can control, and it's a biggie. If you can't control anything else in your life, learn to master this one.
It doesn't mean you have to grow your own food--though that would be ideal. Instead you can start by buying in bulk, buying on clearance, buying through a coop, or buying directly from a farmer and meat producer.
Back when we were little, my parents used to drive to the country and buy 200-300 eggs from an egg farmer. With six kids we could go through a carton a day and that's not counting eggs for baking and other recipes. It was cheaper to buy from the farmer than the grocery store. It was better for the farmer too because he wasn't paying a middleman.
I'm angry at the way prices are being driven. It's unconscionable because many of these hikes could've been avoided. In 2020 just when I was seeing forced isolation and job losses creeping in, I read an article that said Costco was preparing to rent its own ships and shipping containers to avoid the fallout that was surely on its way.
Of all the stores I've been to, Costco has been the least affected by inflation. It pleases me that we both came to the same conclusions.
Automakers reacted too slowly, but they're beginning to compensate. While we can build cars without a problem, we need the microchips that are currently only made in Asian countries. Several automakers are now building chip manufacturing plants in the states. They're a bit late, but at least they're thinking for next time.
Those same chips are what's making appliances, computers, and electronics more expensive and harder to find. It's never a good idea to rely solely on an outside source for a very crucial component.
In the end, it'll take a few more years to recover. Don't be surprised if prices don't return to the rates you remember. No company is going to willingly give up a nice profit even after their costs go down.
At this point all you can do is work around high prices. Here are a few ideas.
- Do without.
- Buy cheaper. I keep two sets of (gym) shoes. One for being out in polite company and the other for mucking the pens. My muck shoes are abysmal. If any of my friends saw them they'd feel obliged to start a GoFund Me page. The brand I usually buy has been out of stock for over a year. My second favorite brand is now $60. Too much for mucking pens. Since I desperately need a new set of shoes, I'm going to opt for cheapie shoes from Walmart. At least my feet will be dry.
- Buy alternatives. Historically, if people can't afford beef, they switch to chicken. If chicken is too pricey, they switch to pork. The last time inflation was this high was in the 1970s. We ate a lot of rice and pasta back then.
- Join a coop or create an informal group that will buy in bulk.
- Grow your own. Easier said than done. It took me years to get good at gardening and I still get the occasional bad harvest.
- Shop at farmers markets.
- Buy beef, chicken and pork direct from the farmer.
- If you live near good fishing, buy a fishing license.
- If you have a home with a back yard you can raise, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and quail. Of course, that means you have to learn how to dispatch them too. This takes practice and a pragmatic frame of mind.
- Buy used. Thrift shops, flea markets, estate sales and garage sales are goldmines. I pride myself in knowing that 80% of the stuff in my house was bought used or on clearance. The only things I will buy new are mattresses and sofas.
- Eat out of your pantry/freezer. Some people do a pantry challenge where they cook strictly from only the food they have on hand. And they do this for a whole month! It's a great exercise.
- Plan menus. This one requires discipline and creativity. Center your meals around a main protein like whole chicken, ground beef, or pork roast. How many different kinds of meals can you make from one of these items?
- Buy whole ingredients instead of box mixes and precut/prepackaged foods. Here's a recipe for pancakes from scratch. It allows me to control the sugar and the type of flour used for my diabetic husband.
- Barter. This doesn't work for everyone but if you're lucky enough to have a friend or neighbor who can barter with you for skills, labor, time or supplies that is a win-win proposition.
- Buy on clearance. Here's the sad part. Everyone else is doing this too. I'm an expert clearance hunter, but even I'm coming up empty handed nine times out of ten. That's how bad it is.
Inflation has hit all of us. Analysts think inflation will moderate by 2023, but don't expect prices to come down. They will likely stay wherever they land once the inflationary ride is over.
Bottom line: work around inflation. If you can avoid buying electronics and appliances for a couple of years you'll be in a better bargaining position.
On the flip side if you have a car or appliance you no longer need, there has never been a better time to sell. Many chip-centric hardware is going for a premium.
Are you doing anything differently to offset inflation? Is there anything you won't buy anymore because of price?