While driving home from work the other day, I was listening to a call-in show on NPR. A woman called to find out the best way for her family to save money for their child’s college fund. It made me think about how expensive our little bundles of joy can be. The good news – kids don’t always separate you from your money – sometimes they actually help you keep some! Here are a few ways your kids will help fatten your wallet come tax time.
I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but it’s hotter than a billy goat in a pepper patch outside. Excessive heat conditions combined with very little rain have worked together to create the worst drought conditions the country has seen since at least the 1950s.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been staring longingly at your fall sweaters and closing your eyes to imagine the smell of wet leaves on the ground. That’s right, I’m ready for fall. I’m done with this summer business. It’s for the birds.
But now, it seems we’ll be feeling the effects of this dry weather long past the dog days of summer. Dry weather means no rain. No rain means no water for plants. No water for plants means limited crops. Limited crops then translate to record prices on corn and soybeans, which then means – you guessed it – higher prices at the supermarket. I can hear your collective groans and I concur.
Let’s take a look at what you can expect the next time you load up that shopping cart.
According to CNNMoney, the USDA is predicting that ground beef may jump up 4% from last year to around $2.88 per pound, while steak lovers can expect to pay 25 cents more per pound. Chicken will take a little less of a hit with prices expected to rise 5 cents to $1.34 per pound, while eggs will increase 1–2 cents per dozen. And before you go stocking up on cookies, you should know that the price of a gallon of milk is expected to rise to $3.66 per gallon, up from last year’s $3.57.
These higher prices are a product of wilting, drought-stricken corn crops. In the past month, corn prices have jumped 20% and soybean prices have jumped 15%. Because corn is the primary food source for these animals, any change in corn price affects the price of beef, chicken, pork and dairy products as well. The surge in the cost of soybeans will affect products such as oils and fats. This includes margarine and peanut butter, which may jump to $1.91 and $2.18 per pound, respectively.
I know. Ugh, right? But wait, here’s a little ray of sunshine for you. Even though corn-based ethanol is a component of the gasoline we use to fill up our cars every day, prices aren’t expected to be affected by the loss of crops. So, while you may notice prices climbing at the pump, take comfort in the fact that they could be much worse. It’s little consolation, but hey, it’s something.
The effects of the drought will not be limited to the United States, however. On the world front, food supplies have declined for the third year in a row. Weather conditions in the United States, Europe and India will push food-import costs up to $1.24 trillion, according to the United Nations. This is an extremely precarious situation given that in recent years, high prices drove millions of people worldwide into extreme poverty.
Now I know this all may seem a little overwhelming, but there are steps that you can take to try to alleviate the stress on your wallet. Planning your food budget and coupon clipping can make a world of difference when you tally that bill. I have to admit, it feels pretty fantastic when I look at the total savings at the checkout counter after I’ve strategized and come armed with coupons. Just think of yourself as an Olympic saver, with scissors and the Internet as your tools of trade. Research the best deals online at sites like CouponCabin.com and CouponMom.com, where you can match your local store’s weekly deals with manufacturer’s coupons for the most savings. Get the whole family in the act and have everyone keep their eyes peeled for weekly coupons in the mail and your local newspaper. Also, consider working in a couple vegetarian dinners into your weekly routine, cutting down the amount you spend on meat.
Have any more tips for frugal grocery shoppers? Let me know in the comments below.