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

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