- mandarin oranges (the Kroger brand has a variety that is just mandarin oranges in mandarin orange juice--not heavy syrup): was $0.50 regularly last year. Now? $0.75 (that's a 50% raise)
- canned pumpkin: on sale regularly for $0.79/can last year. Now? "on sale" for $1.79 (that's more than a 100% raise)
- frozen vegetables: formerly on sale for $0.88/1-pound bag or at least 10/$10. (regular price: $1.02). Now? a 12-ounce bag on sale for $0.88 and regular price is $1.49. Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.
We tend to buy very few processed goods; ironically, many of those things seem to be holding steady--or at least jumping more slowly. We can still get Triscuits and the like for close to $2/box. But the produce and other "healthy" types of things are definitely on the rise.
So what do we do? We panic! Just kidding. We scour the internet for money-saving recipes. We start stockpiling and coupon-ing like mad. Wrong again.
We trust. The Lord has promised over and over to take care of his people, to provide for them. I hear friends complaining and assuming their grocery budgets are going to skyrocket. Well, they might go up some, but that's not the end of the world. We, on average, spend far less a percentage of our income on food compared to most of the world's population. Food is relatively cheap in America. And the Lord will always provide--even if it's only enough for that particular day (remember those Israelites and their manna?).
We adapt. The recipes that might have been cheap to make a few years ago might not be the most economical now. An example is the ubiquitous casserole with some sort of dairy-based sauce. Dairy products are now not much less expensive than meat; meat is one of the few things that isn't going up as much (we've been able to get boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale at Kroger for $1.99/pound every other week now for years). So, we make different recipes: perhaps a bean-based dish that uses a small amount of meat OR dairy as an accent. Asian stir-fries use no dairy and small amounts of meat. Indian recipes frequently use dairy but little to no meat. You get the picture.
We practice good stewardship. We use what we have (all of it), get creative, and don't buy what we don't need. This goes for other areas of life as well. We must eat, and, if the food budget goes up, perhaps we get a cheaper hair cut, don't buy movies the same week they come out, get a cheaper cell phone plan, etc. We just notice our food budgets more because it's something we buy every week. But there are frequently other areas of the budget that could more easily be cut.
We resist gluttony. If every American ate only what he or she needed, then I bet most of our food budgets would decrease along with our waistlines.
We practice delayed gratification. Most products go on sale at some point or another. Do you really need to have beef roast this week when chicken is on sale? Perhaps you can make snickerdoodles for a while until chocolate chips go on sale. Or perhaps you just choose to cook the more expensive stuff less often.
You can, of course, practice the other strategies for reducing the budget (cooking from scratch, shopping the sale items, bulk-buying, etc.), but they won't help you as much in the long run as the right attitude will :). Before you rush out and buy the latest cookbook that promises to show you how to feed your family for $50/week (and end up spending extra money to buy the book), adjust your approach and see what you can come up with in your own, no-doubt-well-stocked kitchen.
Feel free to share your ideas, strategies, and attitude adjustments in the comments!