If you’ve got the freezer space and see a great deal on beef, pork or poultry, you might want to stock up now, before the cost of a steak increases by as much as 25 cents a pound or the price tag on your Thanksgiving turkey gives you sticker shock.
All the experts are warning that your food bill is about to take a bigger bite out of your budget due to the extended drought and extreme heat in the Midwest this summer.
The USDA has projected price increases on meats, poultry and dairy products as soon as this fall and cereals, soft drinks and other processed foods in the early part of next year. “Lack of rain and high heat have affected the US corn crop and corn affects everything,” says Sue Perry, assistant editor of ShopSmart, a Consumer Reports publication.
So here’s the bottom line: Consumers will have to shop smarter, sharpen their coupon skills and even do some stockpiling.
Start now with these suggestions:
Got room in the pantry? Buy extra jarred spaghetti sauce, dried beans, cereal, spices, peanut butter, canned goods and other non-perishables whenever they go on sale.
Pick up extra bottles of vegetable oil and salad dressing.
As it gets closer to fall baking season, watch for sales on flour, nuts and flavoring extracts. (Be sure to check all expiration dates and don’t buy anything you can’t use before it spoils.)
And if you’ve ever considered canning, dehydrating or otherwise preserving foods, this might be the time.
“Buying fresh produce in season and in bulk and putting it up now can save on your food bills later,” says Linda Piotrowicz from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture.
The good news is that Connecticut crops have escaped the drought and extreme temperatures choking the Midwest and there are deals to be had on local produce at area farms — if you know where to shop and what to shop for.
“Try pick your own. You provide the labor, you get a better deal,” says Piotrowitz. “Ask for seconds. farmers may have produce that has a blemish here or there that they sell for less than the perfect stuff. It may not look as pretty, but it still tastes great. If farmers have fruits or vegetables that are already ripe and need to be used immediately, they’ll often give you a deal on that as well. Can it, jar it, or chop it up, pop it in a plastic bag and pop it in the freezer.”
You can also get ready for the coming increases by sharpening your couponing skills, combing circulars and becoming a sales detective. Perry suggests such websites as www.Spoofee.com and www.SundaySaver.com.
“Even when prices go up, stores are still going to have sales and you’re not going to want to miss them” says Perry. “These sites make it easy to compare prices and find the best deals in your area.”
Check out alternatives to the grocery chains. Discounts grocers such as Aldi and Price Rite offer good deals on a changing mix of foods, as do dollar stores, warehouse clubs and big box chains like Walmart and Target.
Experiment with house brands. ShopSmart says consumers can save as much as 60 percent over national brands.
Get ready for skyrocketing prices by changing your menu. Experiment with cheaper sources of protein and consider adding a meatless meal or two to your weekly food plan.
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