Drought and Food Prices: How to Minimize the Effect

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

When I began researching this article about the effects of this year’s drought, I expected to discover a disheartening amount of information and statistics about decimated crops and corresponding soaring grocery prices. What I found instead was that, while indeed there is a drought in the midwest U.S., we need not expect grocery prices to rise, much, at least. Whew, that’s good news.

I did learn some interesting things about the drought that I’ll pass on. The fact is, the corn that was affected by the drought was not the sweet corn that we enjoy on the cob but rather feed corn grown for animals. As a result, rather than higher corn prices, we’re likely to encounter higher prices for meat due to the farmers’ higher costs for feed. In a lucky break for consumers, the Department of Agriculture reports that farmers who can’t afford to feed their livestock at these higher prices are sending them to auction early. That will result in an abundance of meat on the market which will in turn mean lower beef prices for consumers by November and December. Unfortunately, because farmers are selling off the meat now, their herds will be smaller and meat prices will as a result spike again by early next year.

The bottom line is, while it’s creating some degree of pressure on farmers, the drought isn’t causing as much concern as it would if it were affecting human-consumed crops directly. Corn prices have gone up slightly but will only marginally affect food prices overall, even taking into consideration corn byproducts and corn used in packaged foods. Grocery prices are expected to rise between 3% and 4% next year, which is only slightly higher than normal.

With all that explained, this seems an opportune time to briefly discuss things you can do to survive temporarily higher prices on groceries. Incorporate these behaviors into your buying habits:

  • Stock up when items are on sale – Purchase extra pasta, cereals and canned goods, for instance, when they’re on sale. Their shelf life is fairly long and it’s always convenient to have some extra staples in the pantry. Employ this philosophy with meats and frozen foods if you have enough freezer space available to store them long-term. It’s wise to keep a plentiful supply of foods on hand that you’ve purchased at low prices.
  • Keep apprised of the food market news – When you hear in the news that coffee prices, for example, will be rising, that’s your cue to take advantage sales and redeem coupons before prices skyrocket. Coffee a good example of a food item that will store for a long time on your shelf to get you through a spike in prices.
  • Voluntarily cut back on your purchase and consumption of the high-price items – I rarely purchase anything unless the price is right. I wait for the lowest prices to enjoy even my favorite foods. When seafood prices are high, I plan meals with different proteins or mix it with more affordable foods until prices come down again. When meat prices are high in general, I plan occasional meatless meals,
  • Find more affordable substitutes – When it’s not springtime and asparagus is expensive, I choose other, more affordable green vegetables, like broccoli. We’re fortunate to have such abundance, keep an open mind in the store to find other, more affordable foods when your preferred groceries are too pricey.

Price fluctuations are a fact of nature, sending ripples through our economy. You don’t have to be a victim of higher prices – take charge and purchase wisely!

How do you survive temporarily higher prices?

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