The cost of fresh produce is dramatically increased here. Onions were $0.99 lb and peppers $0.89 each this month.

Initially I thought the cost was tied to imports as this produce isn’t in season in the Pacific Northwest right now and I purchse from a local produce market. However, these prices are double what they were this time last year. Peppers are generally 2-3 for $1.00. Onions never more than $0.69 for yellows.

I log food and household item prices on a spread sheets. It’s a habit that began when we relocated; a way to manage and defend the household budget. Three years later I find the practice worthwhile because I 1) know where I get the best value at a glance 2) can project seasonal price fluctuations and 3) know when to anticipate lowest price points (everything cycles to a lowest price point once every three months) so I can stock up.

Anyway, I’ve noticed the price of stuff creeping up – sugar, flour, etc. and was shocked to see some produce nearly double over last month’s prices.

Yes, I know the country had a tough winter and soggy spring but the weather wasn’t real cooperative last year, either.

I instantly realized that we’re headed into growing and harvest seasons which will help hold produce down costs until next fall when more imported good end up on the dinner table. With harvest season just weeks away it’s time to create a plan to stock up on things that we use regularly so as to buffer the increased costs of imports we’re likely to face next fall.

If you don’t have a tomato bush (or several) potted for the summer, now is a good time to get it going. Peppers, too. If you don’t have a yard or balcony you can sacrafice a sunny window and get one of those hanging planters. Pots of fresh herbs thrive on sunny windowsills almost as well as in the ground.

If you know how to preserve food by canning or drying plan accordingly. When prices go down (as more local stuff becomes available) stock up and preserve some stuff for the fall, winter and spring. I didn’t purchase the $0.89 pepper, I opted instead to use some that I had dried last summer during peak season when they were $0.25 each.

You can see from the following excerpt that wholesale prices of food went up 2.4% in March and prices at the retail level responded with a 49% jump. Processed food didn’t rise because what’s in the cans and boxes is made from food stuffs that cost less last year. Processed food prices will jump later this year and next as these higher priced foods are used in their manufacture. Plan now or pay later!

‘…The big story in the March PPI was wholesale food prices, which rose 2.4%, matching the biggest gain in 26 years. Prices of fresh and dried vegetables soared 49.3%, the most in 16 years. Prices of seafood, meat and dairy goods also rose. But prices of processed foods were unchanged….”
reference: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/wholesale-prices-jump-07-on-higher-food-prices-2010-04-22?dist=beforebell

My wife is a killer.

Electric blenders are her favorite prey. Our garage is a graveyard of sexy buttons and shiny chrome camouflaging snapped connecting pins and burnt-out motors.

We’re not talking inexpensive junk here. A pretty fair sampling of the Who’s Who of popular blenders is down there, quietly waiting for the day when someone inspires a new use for what’s left of their innards. The wife has tried to explain what this might be, but her logic has so far eluded me. Personally, I think she just can’t throw away anything that her eye tells her still looks brand new. I, on the other hand, would like nothing more than to take each of those worthless illusions of strength and bong them over the head of the engineers and marketing types who conspired to separate, on average, one-hundred dollars a pop from my pocket, knowing full well that the thing would last less than a year, and probably no more than six months, once I got it home.

My frustration came to a head late last year in the middle of breakfast. Breakfast at our house is Yummy Drink. That sounds juvenile, I know, considering that neither of us will see fifty again. But this concoction of my wife’s, which combines aloe gel and fruit concentrates with several dry ingredients and frozen fruits, tastes better than the best milkshake that I’ve ever had. It’s hard on blenders, but it’s very, very good for us.

So there we were…me, fairly drooling on the table in anticipation, and the wife measuring and pouring what would become Yummy Drink into our latest barely six-month-old Iron Man blender. But when she hit the button…nothing! Not so much as a burp!

An unblended Yummy Drink is decidedly unyummy. And because there’s no way to return the relatively expensive ingredients to their individual jars and bottles, the only course was to dump the whole thing down the drain. After I finished yelling, I decided to find a way to end our blender problems for good.

To my surprise, I learned on the Internet that our experience was pretty typical. I guess Americans have come to accept throwing away hundred-dollar appliances. But as I soon discovered, the way to end that extravagance was to spend even more money!

“Ever hear of a Vita-Mix?” I asked the wife.

“Oh, yes!” Whatever had been going on in the kitchen had stopped. “You want a Ferrari before you die…I want a Vita-Mix!”

If you’ve ever been to a county or state fair, you have a passing acquaintance with this very high-end blender. A salesman, sweating beneath a gigawatt light bank, demonstrates for an enthralled audience of women and their apprehensive husbands the apparently endless tasks that this blender of blenders can perform. “Bushel of carrots? No problem.” Blurp! “Frozen beets?” Blurp! “Raw grains?” Blurp! “Grind your own flour?” Blurp! “Cook healthful soups without using your stove?” Blurp!

Well, I bought one. “Gulp!” I chose a reconditioned unit that I bought online from Vita-Mix. It cost me three-hundred and eighty dollars, including shipping, and it came with the same seven-year warranty as a new machine. Now I have at my fingertips two full horsepower to mangle whatever I choose (That’s more than my first go-kart had!), and a promise in writing to replace those ponies should they falter. And – so far – I get my Yummy Drink without fail.

Should you and your mate have a blender that’s up to the task and want your own Yummy Drink, combine one heaping scoop of protein powder, one heaping tablespoon of vitamin powder, four scoops of cold milled flax seed, two-thirds cup of aloe, two shots each of cherry and pomegranate concentrate, one peeled frozen banana, two cups of water, and two large handfuls of frozen strawberries, peaches, melons and blueberries, which we get in a single package at Costco. We also get the cold rolled flax seed at Costco. The rest comes from our local Vitamin Shoppe.

The strawberry has met King Kong. And finally, King Kong has won!

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