Food Prices: Why They're Rising & Saving on Food Costs
In a nutshell, food prices are rising due to increasing costs in taking raw ingredients from the ground and converting them into the groceries that you can purchase at your local supermarket.
Food prices throughout the world have gone up sharply and Oxfam has already given the world the warning that this trend will grow over the next two decades.
Floods have hit farmland in countries like Australia, which is a world exporter of wheat and sugar cane around the world.
February 2011 saw the monthly wholesale cost of food at the highest recorded level yet, as per the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s figures (FAO).
Food prices are even higher than the peak they reached in 2008, when the shortage of food sparked worldwide riots and demonstrations. In addition, oil prices have crept up during 2011, peaking at their highest level over two years.
Some examples of factors that can increase food prices are below:
- Droughts in a country that produces wheat can lead to increases in the price of many food products including food and cereals.
- Raising fuel prices also has an effect on food as the cost of bringing the food to the supermarkets increases.
- Increasing rent - as the price of renting space for shops increases this will have a knock on effect on the price of the goods they sell.
So how can you combat raising food prices to minimise the effect on your food budget?
Bring down your brands
Firstly, let us remember that supermarkets are trying to extract money from your pocket. Their aim is to sell you goods that have bigger profit margins.
The question you have to ask yourself is 'Do these more expensive goods offer me a noticeable difference in quality?' If the answer is no then why pay the extra money?
Typically branding has the following pecking order:
- Supermarket own brand basics e.g. Tesco Value Mayonnaise (9.6p/100ml)
- Supermarket own brand e.g. Tesco Mayonnaise (16.9p/100ml)
- Regular brand e.g. Hellmann's Mayonnaise (39.9p/100ml)
- Premium brand e.g. Maille Mayonnaise (84.1p/100g)
The question you should be asking yourself is can I cope with moving down a brand?
If you're not sure then why not try it? Instead of buying a premium brand why not try a regular brand and save yourself over 50%? If you're not satisfied with the product then move back up.
By trying this with all of your shopping you will quickly see which products offer no noticeable difference to you but increase the cost of your food bill.
Compare all supermarkets online
mysupermarket.co.uk is a fantastic site that allows its users to compare products from the big four online supermarkets, namely Asda, Ocado/Waitrose, Sainsbury's and Tesco.
The most ingenius function on this site is that you can do a shop encompassing products from all four supermarkets and then export the items to the individual supermarkets without the need to find all of the products again. And if that wasn't good enough you can even save your basket for future shops.
Don't buy your produce in packets
Have you ever noticed how much more expensive it is to buy your produce (fresh fruit and veg) pre-packed as opposed to from a stall.
Even within supermarkets you may find up to a 30% markup on buying mushrooms already packaged as opposed to hand selecting your own and putting them in a bag.
Take for example Broccoli.
Tesco sells Brocolli loose at £1.97/kg whereas the pre-packed Broccoli costs £2.39/kg, that's over 20% more just for a bit of cling film!
The same comparisons can be made with all fresh produce.
If you're lucky enough to have a local grocery stall near you then you'll most likely find things are considerably cheaper there.
Try it out and see.
Shop wisely & check what's in your cupboards
Try to avoid regular small shops, firstly they take up more of your precious time and secondly you tend to spend more money and you don't even realise as you're spending regularly throughout the week.
Top tips for saving on your shopping expenditure
- Do a big weekly shop for everything you know you will need throughout the week, this will include tinned food, meat, frozen food, cleaning products, bathroom products and anything else you may buy.
- Before you do this shop make a list of exactly what you need.
- Look through your cupboards and see what you already have and how it can be utilized throughout the week. For example if you have all of the ingredients for a Spag Bol other than Mince then buy mince and you'll have at least one meal ready to go.
- Buy your spices in bulk from specialist shops. Those small jars of spices are very expensive. Go to any small ethnic store to find the same spices in much larger containers for much lower prices.
- Freeze your meat. Never get to the point where you have to throw away meat. If it's nearing its use by date and you can't use it then stick it in the freezer.
- Cook yourself large meals and save leftovers The price per portion of meals goes down as the number of portions goes up so cook more and save leftovers.
An excellent method, albeit it one that takes more effort, is to plan exactly what you're going to eat during the week and then buy food specifically for these meals.
Beating expiry dates on food
Foods bought from your supermarket will almost always have a best before date on it. However, there are also use-by dates, display until dates and sell-by dates to figure out.
Use by date
Use by dates are typically on foods that contain meat, fish, eggs and dairy.
It is not recommended that you eat any food beyond its use by date even if it seems ok on appearance.
Remember that these foods can make you very ill if you eat them after they have 'gone off', particularly eggs, which contain the salmonella virus.
Best before date
A best before date is not a date based on the safety of a food product.
Rather this date is a
based on the recommended time the product should be eaten by for quality purposes.
Best before dates are usually found on tinned foods, frozen foods, dry foods such as pasta, cereals, flour etc.
If a food product is past its best before date you do not necessarily need to throw it away.
Use your own judgement to see if the food is edible or not.
Display-until and Sell-by date
Display-until and Sell-by dates are references for shops only. They allow shops to know when products should no longer be on display. Any product containing one of these dates should also contain a use by or best before date.
Don't worry about the display-until date, focus on the use-by date. You will usually find display-until dates on fresh fruit and vegetables.