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.

Damage Control

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?


nightsmusic said…
I've always been pretty frugal when it comes to groceries. I didn't do my garden this last year but I couldn't move well thanks to my back and trying to plant and weed and such just was a no-go. We do have several farmer's markets here and a few co-ops so I can eliminate the middle man in most cases. I do a lot of home canning though I skipped the sauerkraut this year. I still have 30 quarts downstairs, but my other mainstays get done every year or two. Overall, we're in pretty good shape. Pretty sad how quickly we've gone to hell in a handbasket, isn't it?
Maria Zannini said…
nightmusic: You won't need saurkraut for a while, but the next time you try it, try fermenting. I did a post on fermenting food here.

I loved the saurkraut it made. It reminded me of the kraut I had at an old Jewish deli in Chicago.

I'm sorry to hear about your back. That throws all activities out the window. And it's not easy to recover from either. You can't rush it.

Every year I tell Greg I'm going to hire a teenager to weed and turn over the beds for me. LOL! I never do, but I know that day is coming.

nightsmusic said…
Oh, I do my own. I ended up with almost 40 quarts and 12 pints last time. I have a 12 gallon crock that I fill almost to the top. I used to use an antique wooden shredder, but I changed over to a stainless steel extra large mandolin slicer now. Easier to find replacement blades :) It got too difficult to sharpen the old ones. And it was tougher on my shoulder. We love our sauerkraut :)

I don't have anyone help with the flowerbeds because they wouldn't do it like I do. The girls wanted to help when they were little. I tried to let them but they were pulling the flowers as fast as I was planting them so that was the end of that!
Maria Zannini said…
nightmusic: I was hoping you had an active blog. I'd love to read about your canning experience. I pickle and ferment, but I've not done pressure canning in decades.

This year, since I lost my second freezer, I'll be canning again.
Lynn said…
Very good ideas, although I have a cautionary tale about shoes. My guy goes through a pair of sneakers every year due to working outside (it's very wet here all the time.) When they doubled the price on his favorite brand to $60 he bought a cheaper no-name pair for $29 at Wal-Mart last September. He's had to repair the soles three times in the last six months; they've not held up well at all to the wet conditions. Now the tops are splitting, too, so they only lasted half as long. If you buy at Wal-Mart I'd look for a brand name versus the no-names.

I'm substituting cheaper ingredients in some of my recipes, like swapping out ground beef ($10 a lb. here) with Italian chicken sausage ($6 for 1.5 lbs. here) in my pasta dishes, for example. I refuse to pay ten dollars a pound for ground beef. Sweet red bell peppers, which I use a lot in cooking, are $4 each at our market now, so we're going to try to grow them this spring. If we're successful I can freeze what I need for recipes.

The quality of convenience or prepared foods (especially frozen) has gone down so much I don't buy them anymore. I make my own baked goods or buy what I need at a bread store outlet where they're half off. I make and freeze my own soups, too, but otherwise I've given up a lot of the foods I used to buy for lunches or quick meals. My guy is easy to please, though -- he's happy with a PB&J sandwich. :)
Maria Zannini said…
Lynn: I'm hard on shoes too. I think it's my gait that wears them out so fast. I bought a pair yesterday. The price on the stand said $17 but when it scanned at the register it said $11. For $11 I'll take the risk, but they look sturdy. We shall see.

I mailed those seeds to you, but for the life of me I can't remember what I sent. Let me know if I included sweet peppers. I've got lots, plus, as I'm writing this, I see another pack of seeds that didn't make the original package.

:le sigh: old folks home here I come.
nightsmusic said…
Maria: I have a little blog that no one ever paid attention to so I haven't posted on it in ages, but I've bene contemplating starting it again just for my own amusement. Quilting (I have a grandchild coming) life around the flowerbeds, things like that. I should probably start posting my sauerkraut making and my jelly making and canning beets and things. Wouldn't be a bad idea, I guess. :)
Maria Zannini said…
nightmusic: Let me know if you do start back up. I love reading about gardens and food.
nightsmusic said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
nightsmusic said…
Maria, in case you're interested and it helps if I include a link, doesn't it?
Mike Keyton said…
Recession or inflation - can you have both? I fear things are soon to get worse unless intelligence prevails and even then it may prove too late. But on a positive note, offal is a much maligned source of tasty nutrition :)
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: I'm rather partial to offal having had it as a child.