Lisa Says: Some suggestions for saving on food costs from the Organic Food Depot where we shop. Rex got stuck on beans and rice (a combo that has all 16 amino acids) in Nicaragua last summer, so we have started buying beans in bulk and cooking red beans and brown rice at least once a week. VERY delicious and SO inexpensive.
This is a little lengthy but interesting info about what they’ve experienced with food prices going up (and ‘best buy’ dates in #1 – I didn’t know that !). You can skim down to the suggestions if you like. Let me know if you need any seedlings for suggestion # 4 !
Lisa Hamaker, BA, CNHP
“Stock” Tips for 2009
Many financial pundits are sporting newsletters these days suggesting the road to economic recovery will be long and difficult. Even our local Wachovia bankers think it will be the end of 2010 before we begin to see “daylight”.
The general advice, which seems prudent, is to conserve cash, get out of stocks and bonds, pay back debt and increase personal savings. Many will further suggest investing in gold and silver (although many of these are just stocks and no more secure than any other stock).
However, since you can’t eat gold or silver, we’d like to offer another low-cost investment strategy for these times: stock up on a little extra food.
For many years prior to 2008, we would receive 50 to 60 price increases from our suppliers at the beginning of each month. Then beginning in the spring of 2008 and extending throughout last summer, we were getting price increases for 500 to 600 items per month, 10 times the norm.
Prices appeared to stabilize around Thanksgiving and held more or less steady until recently when we noticed increases starting up again.
One idea we’ve heard is that last summer food manufacturers passed along price increases due mostly to the high cost of oil, until the economy slowed so much that people, shocked by the higher prices, quit spending money, leaving manufacturers with unsold inventory. Further price increases would not help so they absorbed the costs and held prices steady or even lowered prices until their inventory was gone by the end of the year. Now they mostly have a much smaller inventory onhand and are beginning once more to pass along their increased costs.
Another idea we’ve heard is that we’re seeing higher costs due to inflation and devaluation. Since early last year, there has been a sharp decline in the value of the dollar relative to currencies such as the Euro, and a good deal of organic food such as olive oil and pasta is imported from Europe.
Whatever the reason for the increases, they appear to be real and here to stay.
We are not, of course, financial wizards, nor making any predictions about “doom and gloom” scenarios or the end of the world as we know it, (though if that’s your cup of tea see “Food Scarcity And The Decline of Civilization”), but based on day-to-day observations, we do see prices steadily rising and want to suggest some strategies for using “food” as a good investment.
Here they are:
Buy a little extra food online though our website each week.
Shop for low prices. Buy your extra food online when it’s on sale.
Buy “bulk” for even greater savings.
Grow a garden this summer.
Consider Long Term Food Storage – i.e. having a 6 mo. or 1 yr. supply on hand
1. Buy a little extra food online though our website each week.
This is easy and doesn’t have to break your budget. You don’t need to stock up on lots of 50 lb. sacks of wheat (though if you want to, they will last a long time and are always a great value, especially if you have a grain mill for fresh flour).
Instead, think “small, but steady”, just like the tortoise and the hare. Add an extra 2 lb. bag of rice or an extra jar of honey to your order each week. Pick items which have a very long shelf life, e.g. rice, wheat, sugar, salt, flax seeds, raisins, etc. We just brought in 1 lb. bags of Shiloh Farms organic dried beans (Anasazi, Adzuki, Garbanzo, Kidney, Lima, etc.). If you have the space, you can freeze grains like wheat and oats for very long term storage.
Many foods today have a “best buy” date rather than an “expiration date”. That’s because, except for infant formula and some baby food, product dating is not generally required by Federal regulations. If there is a date, it doesn’t necessarily mean the food has gone bad or spoiled. Increasingly manufacturers are using shorter and shorter “Best Buy” dates on products to fool people into thinking the food has expired, forcing stores to take it off their shelves and buy more. In reality this ploy just means more sales for the manufacturer. It’s a game and to some degree a scam.
As an investment, if inflation gets much worse, you will have made money (or more accurately saved money) when you consume your (lower cost) food in the future. When prices jump suddenly, incomes don’t go up as quickly or by the same percent. Therefore, in the future, you could be spending a much larger proportion of your income to buy the same item(s), i.e. you will be buying in “inflated” dollars.
If inflation doesn’t get any worse, and prices stabilize, then you can order / buy a little less each week and use up your store of food if you want, or maybe just keep it for a “rainy day”.
Either way, you don’t lose anything, and might gain a significant advantage.
2. Shop for low prices. Buy your extra food online when it’s on sale.
Buying “on sale” makes your money go further. It typically saves an additional 10% to 25%, and if you think about it, there are very few investments these days which give a “guaranteed” return that high. As you know, shopping through our online system already saves you 15% over shopping in the store even when items aren’t on sale, but you save much more when they are!
Be sure to put items you might want into your personal catalog online. Then when any of them go on sale (and over 4,000 items are on sale each month), our system will send you an email so you can “stock up” on a little.
3. Buy “bulk” for even greater savings.
“Bulk” foods are much less expensive per unit cost than their smaller, prepackaged counterparts.
If you do want to buy larger quantities in “bulk” (remember you have to click the “bulk” checkbox on our website to see bulk items), find a friend or neighbor to split the quantity with you if you don’t want it all. Unfortunately, we have no facilities for splitting large bulk bags.
Online, there is an excellent selection of bulk items in 25 lb. bags, an easy to store, easy to handle, low cost option.
4. Grow a garden this summer.
It’s good exercise and gives an excellent return on invested time. Based on spring seed sales so far, the National Gardening Association predicts a 19 percent increase in home gardening in 2009.
It’s not terribly difficult to grow a garden. You need a spot which gets sun most of the day. Make sure you have access to water. You can start your own seeds in little plugs of peat moss or peat pots, then plant them when the weather warms up. If you don’t have the space, you can also buy small seedlings from home improvement centers like Lowe’s or Home Depot.
If you haven’t done it before, start small, don’t try to grow lots of everything, unless you like lots of squash. Only grow what you can tend.
There are numerous websites and books in the library which tell you how to do it. There’s even a series running in the Virginian Pilot showing how it can be done on an apartment balcony.
Seed catalogs are free, and a packet of seeds is inexpensive. One of our favorites is Park Seed Co. because they’re a Southern company and their varieties do well in our hot, humid summers. Another is Southern Exposure Seed Exchange which has a lot of heirloom and organic seeds.
Standard varieties are available locally in the big discount chains and home centers, with good selections of organic seeds this year, but don’t wait too long as the best varieties usually sell out quickly. Remember, this year lots of folks are thinking about growing a garden.
If you’re very successful and have a lot of food from your garden, you can give it to neighbors or preserve it through canning, drying or freezing for winter eating. One of our favorite books is “Putting Food By” by Janet Greene and Ruth Hertzberg. You can find it at the local library or online at booksellers like Amazon. Anyone interested in food preservation should have this book in their library.
5. Consider Long Term Food Storage – i.e. having a 6 mo. or 1 yr. supply on hand
Many families, especially members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have long term food supplies equal to 6 months or even 1 year for their entire household.
Why would you want to consider this? Natural disaster, personal emergency, financial crisis or layoff, and helping others during crises are reasons which come to mind.
You might feel that building a long term food supply is so far beyond your means that you don’t think you should even make the effort. But it doesn’t have to be done all at once.
There are numerous websites which tell you how to start with a small one to three month supply and build from there if you want.
In general, the key is to start small, building up a one week supply, then expanding that to two weeks, and then to a month. Set a budget. Buy foods which you would normally buy anyway. If you have perishable items in your stock, rotate through those, eating and replacing them more often so they don’t go bad. And don’t forget water. You might not think of it as a “food”, but it’s awfully difficult to live without. Commercial bottled water in PET containers especially ozonated or with a high pH (e.g. Iceland Springs) tends to have a shelf life of 2 years or more if kept in a cool, dry place without sunlight.
TELL YOUR FRIENDS
So there you have our “stocking up” tips for 2009. They may not be glamorous, nor rival the “stock tips” you’d get from investors like Warren Buffet, but they will give you a solid, satisfying and tasty return on a very small investment of time and money.
Join us today in “stocking up” and “plant a seed” in others. Tell all your friends who you think might be interested as well. Help them sign up and teach them how our online ordering system works. We’re here to help everyone get the best possible food at the lowest possible price for health, and yes, prosperity too.
Thanks for being a member and helping us towards our goal.
Your friends at OFD
Genny, Jim, Cindy, Jamie and the rest of our great staff
Organic Food Depot(r)
Your Link To Healthy Savings(tm