How To Ride Out Inflation
First there were empty shelves, now the shelves are (relatively) full, but the prices...OUCH.
You can feel the gouging.
It doesn't matter why prices have jumped. You and I are still the ones paying for this pony ride.
Recently, I was asked what they should stock up on in this era of rising prices and global uncertainty.
I was frank and said: "Almost nothing."
Unless something is absolutely necessary or an absolute bargain, I do very little grocery shopping anymore. I'm literally living on the foods I've stocked up over the last two years. I'm biding my time until prices stabilize or come down.
That might be fine for someone like me who stays stocked up, but what about people with a very tight budget, or people with no room to store extra items, or those who don't know how to plan that far ahead?
Expect a bumpy ride.
The good news: Inflation rarely lasts more than a year. Think of it as Pandemic 2.0.
The bad news: Inflation can make even a few weeks feel like years. It's going to hurt every time you shop.
These are my tips when time, money or space is at a premium but you still want to get the most for your dollar.
- Focus on budget foods: Beans, peas, oats, rice, flour, sugar, pasta, and eggs. If your budget is extremely tight, these will be your go-to foods.
- If you want to plan for long term storage, you can buy fresh foods already shelf stable. Dry foods can be bought in bulk and easily repackaged and stored. Vacuum seal them for the longest shelf life.
- Make food from scratch rather than buying processed food. The more "they" do for you the more it costs you.
- The exception is powdered milk. I use powdered milk exclusively for baking and making things like oatmeal or pancakes. Pour a little into whole fresh milk for drinking. This makes it go farther without affecting taste.
- Always look for the clearance bins in stores for foods that have been dented or near expiration. But prepare for competition. A lot more people are doing this now. If you can find out when they put out the clearance items you might score some good buys.
- Defray your grocery bill by growing a garden or at least a few potted plants. Fresh is always better than grocery produce. Trade home grown produce with your neighbors.
- Don't forget ethnic grocery stores. They often have produce and some canned goods cheaper than "Western" markets.
- Eat differently. Steer away from foods that have gone up dramatically. If meat is high switch to more vegetarian and local foods grown in your area and in your season.
- Plan a week's menu around the loss leaders grocery store flyers put out every week. For example, pork butt was on "sale" last week. This makes pulled pork, pork stir fry, pork fajitas, and pork kabobs.
- Don't want to eat pork all week? Make ready-to-eat freezer meals to serve at a later time. Just heat and serve.
- Don't fall into a pity party. Just because you can't afford T-bone steaks doesn't mean you can't make a pie or cake from scratch. Something sweet always softens the blow.
- Eat your leftovers. This is a constant battle in my house. While I can eat the same thing every day of the week, Greg yowls like I'm feeding him ground glass. When we used to live 300 miles apart I would find dozens of half eaten foods (turning into science experiments) in his fridge. Now that we're living together again, he grumbles when leftovers are on the menu.
- Invest in good storage containers. If you have leftovers you need a good way to store them. Invest in glass whenever possible. If you're going to freeze leftovers or other foods, make sure they are clearly labeled. Use a vacuum sealer to get all the air out. Oxygen will affect taste and texture more than anything else in frozen foods.
- Don't waste food. If you know you won't finish those bananas, toss them in the freezer or dehydrate them. Almost any food except maybe lettuce can be preserved for later use. Once in a blue moon I might have waste. It's usually because the item didn't taste good to us. If I can't disguise it inside a meal, I usually give it to the dogs or chickens. If it truly is inedible, it goes in the compost bin.
I'd like to tell you this inflation swing will end soon, but I seriously doubt it. All you can do is work around the high prices wherever possible.
My second prediction is: Recession. This one scares me to death. The last bad recession was in 2008. In the first four years of the recession we lost nearly a third of our retirement savings. The US didn't recover until 2015.
My third prediction, and this would be the wrench in the works is: China. Don't worry so much if we go to 'war' with the Russians. Worry more if the confrontation is with the Chinese. In that scenario, I implore you to stock up as much as possible and as quickly as possible.
Russia and China could both turn out to be paper tigers, but unfortunately, the Chinese economy is deeply rooted in our own. If they rock the cradle we may both fall.
I can't speak to other governments' policies, but US policy has been pecking away at whatever monies we've tucked away, spending them on stimulus checks, covid drugs and testing, student loan forgiveness, and the Ukraine crisis. And who knows where else it's being funneled that they're not transparent about. The fact is the money will run out eventually. Ask yourself. What happens then?
There's never been a better time to practice self sufficiency.