Man, groceries are getting REALLY expensive

Pipersville_CarolSeptember 25, 2008

I was shopping at a discount grocery store this morning and was shocked to see a jar of Helmann's mayonnaise priced at $4.55. Almost FIVE dollars! This was for a standard-sized jar, not teeny and not huge, a quart at most.

That $4.55 jar of mayonnaise scared me more than the $700 billion bailout!

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I agree that food prices are awful. In our house, it's just my husband and I and we have finally bitten the bullet with a Costco membership. Between their gas and the few food items I buy, this year's membership fee has paid for itself.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2008 at 7:28PM
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WE are now buying most of our food at Costco. Today though I bought 1 orange and 1 green pepper at QFC. They cost $1.50 each. Not scarier than the bailout though

    Bookmark   September 25, 2008 at 8:35PM
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There has been talk that the bail out will result in a big uptick in inflation. With that in mind, if you have been planning to make a major purchase, it might be a good idea to do it sooner than later.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 8:59PM
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YUP! Hubby went to grocer today...told me that the normal 39oz cans of coffee are now packaged in 34oz cans.
'Pork 'n Beans'-(I know, not the healthiest)- "You want HOW MUCH for a little can o' beans?!!!"
1 lb hotdogs (another not healthy)...$5 bucks a pound!!!???
...a Good cut of steak (on sale) cheaper. INSANE!

Odd is, we have a market 'down the road abit'...'GREAT' prices on produce and 'great sales' on some other stuff. This market is NOT a big food chain type market, yet they can offer lower prices? Doesn't make sense.
A) Major Food Chain, Garlic (when lucky) 3/$1.00
B) 'Rogue" Market, Garlic (on sale) 3 pkgs of 5 = $1.00

A lot of "someone's" are getting away with a lot of BS...

Can't afford to eat proper anymore. I suppose that's to keep the healthcare/pharmas in business.?

Oh WAIT! Have to make a comment on dish soap:
The cheapy off-brand stuff we used to get for 79 or 99 cents (for in the sink - NOT DISHWASHER) - now over $2.00/bottle.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 4:49AM
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It's the "competition" in the marketplace that's supposed to keep the corporations' activities competitive ... reasonable ... right?

But - they love competition among their suppliers (keeping prices negotiable, i.e. reasonable - they have the power).

They love it among their customers - who can hardly gang up on them. But some form consumer co-operatives ... and credit unions - wouldn't it be great if the users of the financial institution were also the owners?

They hate it among their competitors.

And will do whatever is necessary to get rid of it - buying them out, squeezing them out, whatever. As pur economy matures, in how many areas of national business do you see more than half a dozen or so large corporations dominating the market? And now we have even fewer large financial agencies.

Ever heard of a "big-box" store: unfriendly to small locally-owned business.

We've had, following on major consumer complaint, several government investigations of the gasoline business. Their report always concludes that, yes, there really is competition in the gasoline business ... including the matter of their pricing.

When consumers see four gas stations on a corner change the price from precisely the same prior to midnight ... to precisely the same amount, exactly on midnight ...

... we have a market area of something like 350,000 ...

... and there may be something like, oh, maybe half a dozen local folks who believe the report!

But we don't see four gas stations on four corners, much, any more - when they collude over prices, you only need one station to serve a given area.

As fuel costs increase - buying stuff locally produced, e.g. really fresh foodstuffs at a farmers' market, makes increasing sense.

And I prefer a tomato fresh from the vine to one that was picked green in California and encouraged to get red en route by an infusion of some kind of gas shot into the trailer after loading ... that, when I eat it in winter when there's snow on my northern garden, I say looks like a tomato ...

... but tastes like cardboard.

Have you considered making a community garden in some open space in your city, e.g. along a cleared electric line right-of-way?

How about consumer assisted agriculture: pay a farmer early in the season to grow stuff for a number of consumers? It's a growing means of acquiring not only reasonably priced, but fresh, edibles as many consumers seek cheaper, smarter and more nutritious edible goods.

Think outside the box!

ole joyful

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 7:47AM
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ole joyful's suggestion about consumer assisted agriculture...

We have them in our "community supported agriculture".

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 8:42AM
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In certain things, economy of scale can produce savings. In others, not so much, if anything. Your small local chain can occasionally obtain produce from smaller suppliers who can offer seasonal or modest amounts that cannot work for large chains because they are not buying for one store, they are buying for a dozen or a hundred. The size of the combined order is delivered to a distribution center where it is divided up between the individual stores and trucked out.

Supermarket chains usually have a net profit margin of around 2%. Not exactly stunning compared to a recent tech company's announcement that profit margins "fell" from 38% down to 36%.

Food prices have jumped due to commodity prices increasing. These are dollar-denominated, so as investors have switched into throwing money into commodity markets, the demand increased so prices increased. Also, the ethanol mandate has taken a large percentage of corn off the market, and corn is one of the staples in American food, in its many forms. That demand, added to the poor weather, topped by the rise in overall oil prices, directly translates into higher food prices.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 5:29PM
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Hello again, pipersville Carol,

I neglected to greet you as I intended in my earlier post - I remember dealing with some issues that you were involved with, several months ago.

I hope that things have been going well with you and yours.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   September 29, 2008 at 2:11AM
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Obviously, we have no farmers in this group!!

First of all -- corn and bean prices have gone up. Currently, local market are $5.87bu/corn and $10.72 bu/soybeans. 3 years ago --corn was barely over $2/bu. less than it was in 1975!!

Ethanol has nothing to do with the price of corn. We have increased production another 160 million bushels since 1995. Last year, ethanol used around 65 million bu. That is 95 million bu more -- think China and India. They are buying it. Big time!

The cost of corn in your in your cornflakes? 4%. The rest is marketing, labor, advertising, packaging and transportation cost.

Last fall a Farm Bureau in Texas did a breakfast -- eggs, toast, orange juice, sausage -- you paid what the farmer is paid. It was under $2.

I am a market farmer -- hand and knees. Rain, shine, 90 degree heat. And I am struggling to have enough money to pay for next years inputs. Its typical. Most of my friends have lost thousands of dollars this year due to weather. I planted one section 3 times -- to watch rot away from rain. One field never got planted.

Hog prices are down, cattle prices are down. I am barely breaking even on $3/doz eggs.

As we say out in the field -- don't cuss the farmer with your mouth full.


    Bookmark   September 29, 2008 at 8:32AM
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Hey Carol!

I recognize you from the PA Gardening Forum :-) One of the ways I have been able to cut grocery costs, is to shop at the local farmers markets for all my produce and only buy what is in season. Right now there is a ton of local produce to be found that is fresh, local and helping out one of our farmer neighbors.

Another possibility is to make a lot more stuff from scratch. Yes, $5.00 for a jar of Hellmans is outrageous, the following is not only cheaper but much tastier and super easy to make! This particular recipe is from Alton Brown.


1 egg yolk*
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 pinches sugar
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 cup oil, safflower or corn

In a glass bowl, whisk together egg yolk and dry ingredients. Combine lemon juice and vinegar in a separate bowl then thoroughly whisk half into the yolk mixture. Start whisking briskly, then start adding the oil a few drops at a time until the liquid seems to thicken and lighten a bit, (which means you've got an emulsion on your hands). Once you reach that point you can relax your arm a little (but just a little) and increase the oil flow to a constant (albeit thin) stream. Once half of the oil is in add the rest of the lemon juice mixture.
Continue whisking until all of the oil is incorporated. Leave at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours then refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Food Network Kitchens suggest caution in consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs due to the slight risk of Salmonella or other food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, we recommend you use only fresh, properly-refrigerated, clean, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2008 at 2:24PM
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For a balanced look at the ethanol/corn crop issue, I Googled and found this interesting article from Amber Waves' website titled "Ethanol reshapes the Corn Market".

Not only do we not have many farmers in this group, unless our tax and agricultural policies change, there will be fewer and fewer of them in the future. No one goes into farming to get rich, I'm afraid. The market is geared to large corporations who can take advantage of government policy and influence changes.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ethanol current and future

    Bookmark   September 29, 2008 at 3:57PM
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Lena M

Hi from a newbie to this forum.

I had not noticed the prices until this Fall, it was oranges at >$1 each, and bread at $3.50/loaf that got to me.

Cathy, my best to you. (No farmers, no food!) Below is a link to look for local food sources in the US. Buying locally-produced food directs more income directly to farmers, it tastes a lot better than stuff trucked cross-country (or -continent), plus no risk of melamine or other contaminants.


Here is a link that might be useful: Local Harvest

    Bookmark   September 29, 2008 at 4:58PM
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Thank you Lena. I have been a member of Local Harvest since 2003. Huge support for my business.

The other thing some of you may not realize, in 1980 -- the average apple in America traveled 200 miles to get to the consumer. In 2000 -- it was 1200 miles. that means it needs to be picked earlier and earlier off the tree to get to you when ripe. Several studies found that almost 20% of the nutritional benefits develop in an apple in the last few days on a tree. Basically -- the longer they hang on the tree -- the healthier they are for you.

There are many ways to cut grocery costs -- I can almost 700 jars of produce and am now teaching classes at our local farmers market in conjunction with the Dept of Human Services and Buy Fresh, Buy Local. We expected 10-15 people at the last class -- we had chairs for 50 and they were standing behind the chairs.

You can save money -- but you have to work at it.


    Bookmark   September 29, 2008 at 9:34PM
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Hi clink ... and all,

In your story about the percentage of the total cost of the corn flakes that pays for the corn ... I think that you missed something.

"The cost of corn in your in your cornflakes? 4%. The rest is marketing, labor, advertising, packaging and transportation cost."

How about "profit" - for everyone in the chain that touches it (or they don't carry on for long).

But there may be none for the farmer ... s/he gets paid the going price, set by the buyer ... and keeps her/his total costs (in almost all cases, set by others) below that ... or dies.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   September 30, 2008 at 4:12AM
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For all the ballyhoo of high grocery prices there are plenty of good deals to be found if you just spend a little time looking at your local sale circulars. Most stores do "loss leaders" (items priced at or below cost just to get you in the door). Once you're there, you don't have to stay. Might want to look at small, independent stores too. Off the top of my head:

Rib Steaks, choice grade - $5.99 /lb.
Milk - $1.99 / gallon
Krakus Ham - $3.38 / lb.
Red Peppers - 69 / lb.
Hamburger, 90% lean - $1.99 / lb.
Chicken leg quarters - 69¢ / lb.
Split chicken breast - 99¢ / lb.
Gala apples - 69¢ / lb.
Green grapes - 69¢ / lb.

Don't forget your coupons.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2008 at 12:58AM
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It's nice, mike_kaiser, that you have those prices in your area! But most of us do not.

Food prices vary widely throughout the USA and the world.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2008 at 8:33AM
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Mike -- Where are you? Do you ship to Chicagoland? -- LOL

I'm often on the Maui forum on TripAdvisor. If you think prices are high on the mainland, consider the cost of groceries in Hawaii. (Where Big Island beef goes abroad and mainland grocers have shut down local egg sales via crazy inspection laws. Eggs come from CA; no small producer can afford the level of inspection.)

    Bookmark   October 2, 2008 at 10:13AM
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Edible landscaping will be most important to feeding what is left of us when TEOTWAK arrives.

I think we have a real food crisis brewing for the world. Not enough young farmers replacing the old, we will run low of fertilizer as the NG dries up and that food which is grown is devoid of nutrition and not healthy. And to make matter worse, fewer people can even afford to buy produce.

With the recent food shortages in the news I have to wonder as Richard Heinberg brought up "Who will be growing our food 20 years from now?"

"The average American farmer is 55 to 60 years old. The proportion of full time farmers younger than 35 years of age has dropped from 15.9% in 1982 to 5.8% in 2002. Who will be growing our food 20 years from now?" from "Peak Everything" by Richard Heinberg

"Amish farmers can't compete in conventual agriculture farming. 40 years ago 90% to 95% of the Amish were farmers. Today less than 10% are farmers." from: "How the Amish Survive" DVD

And even if the farmers keep up with production, many people cannot afford the high prices of produce. At Krogers a butternut squash was $7, a large apple was $1.85, a rutabaga was $3, an artichoke near $5 and a lemon was $1.35, a bag of cherries was $14.75, ONE organic yam was $8.25.

And these high priced produce are being offered when times are still relatively good What will this stuff sell for when gas is $10 or $15 a gallon? Peak oil, peak NG, peak water and food as well as peak uranium will fuel mass starvation as our artificial and unsustainable world decomposes around us.

As people buy less produce due to affordability issues and the produce stops selling and rots on the shelves, the farmers will grow less produce that just rots unsold and less potential farmers will be entering that field.

Book and DVD list. All available from your local library.

Beyond Oil: the view from Hubbert's Peak
by Deffeyes, Kenneth S.

The Coming Economic Collapse - how you can thrive when oil costs $200 a barrel
by Leeb, Stephen

A Crude Awakening - the oil crash
Lava Productions AG, Switzerland DVD

The End of Suburbia - oil depletion and the collapse of the American dream
by Greene, Gregory DVD

Fed Up

High Noon for Natural Gas: the new energy crisis
by Darley, Julian

The Long Emergency: surviving the converging catastrophes of the twenty-first century
by Kunstler, James Howard

Oil Apocalypse
History channel DVD

Peak Oil Survival: preparation for life after gridcrash
by McBay, Aric

Powerdown: options and actions for a post-carbon world
by Heinberg, Richard

Resource Wars: the new landscape of global conflict
by Klare, Michael T

A Thousand Barrels a Second: the coming oil break point and the challenges facing an energy dependent world
by Tertzakian, Peter

Twilight in the Desert: the coming Saudi oil shock and the world economy
by Simmons, Matthew R.
Well written book examining 12 of the key Saudi oil fields.

Who Killed the Electric Car?
Sony Pictures Classics release

Zoom:the global race to fuel the car of the future
by Iain Carson and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2008 at 11:24AM
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The "value" ... as measured by the price ... of quite a few companies' stocks ...

... aren't.

ole joyful

P.S. I have no grandkids.

As I see major troubles looming ahead for the world as a whole, but especially for people in our area who have, within about three generations, grown accustomed (addicted ?) to living high on the hog, I don't believe that it can continue. But, thinking that many of the current generation seem to be becoming too brittle to cope with such oncoming privation very well, I'm thinking that I'm a bit grateful that I lack those grandchildren.

Maybe I should use some of what might have been their inheritance to help dig wells so that a least a few African Moms and kids can have unpolluted water and a life at least slightly improved.

o j

    Bookmark   October 5, 2008 at 5:42AM
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I found a 'Hawaii' price in our Chicago Sunday Tribune: 18 oz. box of Cheerios is $4.49 on SALE. Not that this would be of interest in Hawaii, where you have to hunt to find cereal that isn't sugar-coated. There's plenty of SPAM, though!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2008 at 12:44PM
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Mike -- Where are you? Do you ship to Chicagoland? -- LOL

I live in Chicagoland. Forget Jewel and Dominick's and look at the small "mom and pop" grocery stores. Remember these are sale prices, not every day prices. A different brand of lunchmeat ham is on this sale this week. :-)

    Bookmark   October 6, 2008 at 5:29PM
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Mike -- That's great! Will you reveal your Mom and Pop stores to the rest of us in the area? I used to shop Treasure Island, but just as we moved from Wilmette they closed the store near our new home. My DIL in Jeff Park shops small stores and saves.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2008 at 9:53AM
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I thought prices have came down quite a bit from their highs earlier in the year. I don't think high prices are necesarily a bad thing. Food is still cheap as a % of income. People still eat way too much, 40% overweight. I think high costs will motivate or force people to change. The recommended serving of meat/protein is only 5.5 oz a day. It should also encourage people to eat less processed food.

I've seen some other positives too. We've had several farmers markets or similar start in the last year. There is definately more interest in local foods. Most of the food money stays in the U.S. The good thing about the U.S. is while times are tough, we have a ton of waste/excess we can squeeze out of are lifestyles, without dramatic changes in our living standards.

One thing I noticed, growing up in the 70s in the midwest, most people in a middle class neighborhood had a garden, a grape arbor and fruit trees. Now I'm the only one in my upper middle class neighborhood with a garden and one of a few with fruit trees. My garden is even very small (10' x 20') and not the large gardens (50' x 100') we had as kids. I remember fish and wildlife was much rarer because everyone fished and hunted. Now most animals are almost over-abundant (deer, geese, coyotes, etc). A lot of the places I fish have a problem with over population (stunted fish), because no one will harvest fish anymore.

When people start ploughing up their backyards to plant potatoes is when food is expensive.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2008 at 2:13PM
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chris -- You've got me thinking of Scarlett in 'Gone With the Wind', grubbing for any overlooked potatoes and declaring, "I'll never be hungry again!"

I just read an article listing how much many foodstuffs have incrreased over the year. Just about everything was up 20% -- that's a LOT. There are more Americans on food stamps every day. We get pleas all the time from places like the Chicago Food Depository. TV news just had a story on the big tent city in Vegas, saying they are in many cities.

I can't believe Americans want to carry on 'doing business' under the same regime that brought us to this.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2008 at 5:25PM
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One thing I noticed, growing up in the 70s in the midwest, most people in a middle class neighborhood had a garden, a grape arbor and fruit trees.

We had a garden when I was growing up and a grape arbor too. Which explains why some 25 years later I still don't like grape jelly. Mom made us eat everything including beans that stayed on the plant much too long and were rather chewy. With the exception of tomatoes, I don't see any real advantages to planting a garden because the quality of grocery store produce is so good. I can't tell any difference between cukes or peppers I've planted vs. ones from the store. Is there some cost savings, maybe.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 11:09AM
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One of our national chain markets had green peppers advertised at $3.99 per pound. Red peppers (ripe green ones) were two for five dollars. I have a vegetable garden, and I have so many peppers I don't know what to do with them. Literally. I've canned and frozen all I can use in a year. I donate them to a local food kitchen. Most years, ditto on the tomatoes (and store bought tomatoes taste like sour cardboard, btw). My cukes (hundreds of them) all came from three ten cent packages of seed. Cukes at the market are decent, but they're $1.18 cents each this week. Last year, I froze enough corn on the cob to last us a year. I think I had three dollars invested in seed. Four ears of corn on the cob were three dollars and ninety nine cents at the market today..........some cost savings, maybe?

Basic food prices have been rising for some time now, but have been camouflaged nicely for most families who don't cook from scratch. I've watched for years how the amount of meat has decreased in things like TV dinners, and the cuts of meat changed to cheaper meats. Container sizes redesigned so that consumers won't notice that they're a few ounces shy of what they used to be. Sale items exempted from unit pricing so you can't compare them to other brands nearby on an ounce to ounce basis. Juices "cut" and re-labeled juice cocktails. The switch from cane or beet sugar to corn sugar. Changes from standard unit sizes. Noodles are hard to find in pound packages anymore, eight ounces is the standard. Even bacon is now being sold in twelve ounce packs, instead of 18, and I wonder how long people use it, since the price is about the same before they notice it doesn't go as far as it used to?

The reason I've seen this coming a long time, is that my grocery shopping is nearly all basic commodities. Sugar, flour, milk, coffee, tea shopping. The price increases on those are generally whopping and obvious. It's easy to hide price increases in highly processed foods with fillers because you can change how much 'real' food goes into them.

I have also been planting fruit trees for the last decade. My free peach tree gives me one and half bushels of peaches. They are selling for seventy five dollars a bushel now. I have since planted three more. My apple trees, the most expensive of which I paid fifteen dollars give me endless supplies for juice, jellies, pies. A friend of mine was just complaining that the store wanted $4.99 for a small bag of apples. My shallots will store for a full year and still be usable, and my leeks grow in my garden until January. Both of which are 'gourmet' fare at the markets and will set you back at least four to five dollars a pound.

I live in the country, and can plant or raise nearly every thing we eat, but even people living in town can plant a fruit tree instead of an ornamental and enough vegetables in pots to make endless salad meals through the summer.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2008 at 1:42AM
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modern life interiors

How about 6 bucks for a box of cheerios.
Between your mayonaise and my cheerios, thats some tasty meal for 11 bucks.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2008 at 2:24PM
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Higher food prices have led people to become interested in food storage. If you're interested, check out this blog:

    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 3:03AM
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The Garden Web Harvest forum is another good resource, as are their fruit and vegetable forums. I think the trend for homes to have pantries is also a reflection on buying when you find a good price.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 4:34PM
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When we moved out here in the middle of nowhere, I wondered what I would do without a Sam's Club. Well, it didn't take us long to realize that we absolutely wouldn't 'do without'. Our nearest Sam's is a 3-hour round trip so now we go once every two or three months. Yes, when we go, we spend about $400, but we save a ton even with the cost of gas over what we would spend at the local grocery (which is 1-hr. round trip).

Also, I do lots of canning with tomatoes, peppers, veggies, apples and other fruits that come into season. I can't imagine spending $.50 for a pepper in the winter when I have lots of chopped peppers in the freezer.

If you really want to save, you can.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 5:48PM
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Fifty cents? You can't buy one for twice that price here, and they're still in season locally. In fact I picked six just a few minutes ago from the garden.

I also live away from stores, and that pantry not only is a money saver, because I can afford to stock it with goods I buy cheaper, but it's also the 'emergency' stockpile every home should have for cases of natural disasters.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 7:08PM
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Sure helpful if, in the case of such a "natural disaster" (or "fairly frequent current disaster") as prolonged unemployment ...

... a family has several hundred dollars' worth of non-perishable food stored.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 5:31AM
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Amen for including money issues as a good reason to stock a pantry. My biggest savings scheme, aside from growing my own food, is to have enough non-perishable items on my shelves, that I am NEVER in the position I have to buy them until they come on sale somewhere. If I am having a week or month where other expenses are higher than expected, then I just fall back on the pantry surplus. And, it also saves me from those panic trips to town for one item.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 5:37PM
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You know they really are getting expensive and what I have done is eat out, then I don't have to buy anything except deserts. LOL

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 9:04PM
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Eating out is less expensive?

Even in the desert? And even if one eats dessert at home?

If I thought that ... I'd be thinking that I'd been gazing at the stars too long, I think.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 2:37PM
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Even the CSA (community supported agriculture) prices are skyrocketing where I live. Last year a friend of mine paid approx. $400 for a share. Next year it's increasing to over $700. That's quite a hike.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 3:00PM
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Did you not see the LOL! About deserts, a cheese cake at Olive Garden at is $5.95 and I can get two slices Of Italian Creme cake at the grocery store for $1.99. That cake is so good, umm,um.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 6:17PM
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