I’m not an economist, but I can tell you that when I needed a green pepper last week, and my grocery store was selling them individually – literally, just one, wrapped in plastic – it was $3.49.
No green pepper on God’s green earth should cost $3.49.
My weekly groceries, which were just the bare minimum and did not include cleaning supplies, snacks for the kids, or adult bevy’s, came to $376 to feed a family of five.
Today is Thursday, and my fridge is empty. I’m also out of grocery money because I can’t budget more than what I’m currently spending, which is more than I should be spending.
We’ll be eating some super creative meals until next week.
So, when I read that economists have slapped a number on what they mean when they say “rising inflation,” I was so mad I wanted to spit.
According to CBS News, the average American is now spending $5,200 more on basic necessities than last year.
We are talking food, gas, and heat as basic necessities.
“The prices that people notice the most are often energy and food,” Paul Ashworth, chief North America economist at Capital Economics, told CBS News.
“You fill up every week, and you go to the grocery store every week, and there are inflationary pressures there still.”
Moody’s Analytics noted that inflation is costing families an estimated $296 more for the same essential goods each month.
That makes this 7.9% inflation hike since last year the highest in the past 40 years.
How much longer is this going to last?
Well, buckle up, friends, because economists paint a grim picture for the immediate future.
At the beginning of the Russian invasion, energy prices for oil and gas surged, understandably.
And while oil prices have dropped significantly in recent days, that doesn’t mean the price at the pump has dropped or is estimated to go down any time soon.
Bloomberg told CBS News that oil could see prices as high as $160 a barrel later this year.
Food prices will likely continue to soar as well since Ukraine and Russia are known as the global breadbasket.
With war interrupting the growing and harvesting seasons, there will be far less grain to go around.
Americans are seeing the biggest price hikes in meat, with beef prices up 20% and pork prices up 14%, sending more and more people to look for protein alternatives.
What is worrisome is that many families are having to turn to food banks to help keep food on the table.
And to make food budgets even more frustrating, Congress failed to fund the Federal Universal Free School Lunch Program.
Instead, they opted to let that program die this summer, putting 10 million kids at serious risk of food insecurity.
The reality is, many families will be financially crushed just trying to eat.
So, what can families do to stretch the food budget? Here are a few frugal ideas that might help:
Start a Doomsday Garden.
Ok, they actually used to be called Victory Gardens, but Doomsday sounds fitting. You can grow fresh, nutritious veggies if you have a yard or even some containers.
Luckily, the growing season hasn’t started yet, so it’s not too late to grab some seeds and get planting. Here’s a great 101 guide from the New York Times for how to start.
It sounds weird, but shop everywhere.
Try local grocery stores, convenience stores, small mom & pop shops, even big gas stations. You might be surprised by what you’ll find that can be cheap and easily stored or frozen.
Begin to reduce or cut out meat from your diet.
Vegetarian is a simple way to cut huge costs out of your budget.
Create a co-op of families.
You can pool your money to bulk order shelf-stable foods like powdered milk, rice, dehydrated fruits, pastas, canned soups, and more. Here are some Lifehacker instructions for how to get started.
Tap into your inner grandma and start making big ol’ casseroles.
They are the OG comfort food, and the leftovers can be frozen.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an extra $5,200 laying around that I can throw at gas and groceries.
We’re staying home more, eating from scratch, and finding hope by living as simply as possible because that $3.49 green pepper isn’t going anywhere any time soon.