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Shopping Cart Blanch

April 4th, 2008 · 3 Comments · Food, Journal, News, Organic Food, Politics, The Economy, Stupid

WIN buttonI’m glad I’m not the only one who’s experiencing sticker shock over my grocery shopping bills.

Across the United States, consumers like Norris are finding that grocery shopping has become a sobering experience as their budgets fail to keep pace with food costs.

Reuters reporters visited Wal-Mart stores in Romeoville, Illinois, Secaucus, New Jersey and Santa Clarita, California, on the last day of March and the first day of April to find out how shoppers are navigating the food aisles when they have payday cash in their pockets.

Already squeezed by high gasoline prices, slumping home values, a weakening job market and the possibility that the U.S. economy is in a recession, consumers have adopted a no-nonsense approach to shopping, passing over a trip to Target or a local grocery store if they can find lower prices at Wal-Mart.

They are buying cheaper store-brand products, avoiding costly cuts of meat, consolidating trips, clipping coupons, constructing well-researched shopping lists and avoiding splurges to spend only the bare minimum.

… U.S. consumer food prices normally rise by about 2.5 percent annually, but they increased by 4 percent in 2007 — the biggest increase in 17 years, according to U.S. Agriculture Department data.

Prices continue to rise. A survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation in February showed that in the beginning months of this year, the cost of 16 grocery items, including flour and cheddar cheese, was $45.03, up $3.42, or 8 percent, from the fourth quarter.

I personally won’t go near a Wal-Mart for any reason. But my groceries cost so much more these days that I’m buying a lot more generic and store brands than I used to.

I try to buy organic as much as I can, but it’s much harder than it was even a year ago. These days I’m actively memorizing and comparing prices between the Jewel, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s on any item they mutually carry, because it’s item-to-item on who’s got the lower price. (Yes, Whole Paycheck frequently has lower prices on certain natural foods items than Jewel does, believe it or not.)

And I am now even carrying coupons in my wallet and remembering to use them. That’s huge for me, people.

If something’s on sale and it’s off the shelf I remember to march up to the service desk and get a raincheck for it after I check out. Other people must be doing that, too, because Jewel just cut their raincheck policy from one year to 30 days.

And I do this thing now, before I make a meal: I calculate the cost of the components in my head to figure out how much it all costs before I prepare it. If it adds up to as much or as more as a restaurant meal — which sometimes it actually does — I rethink it.

Welcome to the new early 70s. I need a “Whip Inflation Now” button. Except I don’t think Jerry Ford — or any Republican — is likely to help us accomplish that particular goal while their party is busy planning our 100-year stay in Iraq.


3 Comments so far ↓

  • Sherry

    Do you have an Aldi in the city? It seems I shop there more often than other stores lately. They have good prices and I hear their store brand products are name brands in different packaging. The same full cart at a big store costs me double of what I spend at Aldi.

    I no longer dream of big houses and vacations when I am a millionaire, I dream of buying ONLY organic food – funny how your dreams change as you get older.

  • Jane Hyde

    So how’re them bookshelves? Good to hear from the Ocepot. Referring back to the bookshelves post, I want to say that it’s a continual puzzle — reading books or reading my favorite newspaper? or listening (really LISTENING) to music? going out to listen to music? messing around in the garden? keeping my cats happy? doing things which will make me a better 21st century librarian? writing letters? blogging? reading blogs? responding to blogs? How does anyone focus these days? I can’t watch the movie I just rented because my favorite radio program is on…. Well, there are no answers to anything in life, but we grope our way along, blinded by too much light. What matters? Everything matters. Over and out — good to hear from you up there by the great northern lake. Down here, the loveliest of trees are almost past their full bloom but the daffodils are still going strong, lots and lots of colors of them (butthankgoodnessnotthescarypinkiseeincatalogs,they’renotnaturallooking!). And yeah, prices of things are getting scary.

  • Ocelopotamus

    Sherry — I have to admit that I don’t even think about Aldi because the one time I checked one out in the long distant past they just didn’t seem to carry anything I was looking for. Because I have, you know, odd taste in things, and I think Aldi kind of specializes in normal everyday food for normal everyday people. But apparently there is one near me in Uptown so maybe I should check it out just for giggles.

    Jane — progress on the bookshelves is still painfully slow. I envy you your blooming trees … we’re just starting to see the first buds up here, and the grass tentatively blushing green with chlorophyll.