Food has gotten really expensive. Here are some easy tips to spend less and add nutrition.
As detailed in this recent article on FoodDive.com, the price of food is heading up, up, and away.There are a variety of reasons the prices of food can rise. What does this mean for healthy vs pre-packaged and processed food choices? It is important to remember that despite rising prices, processed foods are only going to damage your body. This can be seen in our post processed foods vs. whole foods where we discuss the differences.
With enough planning, food knowledge, and recipe know-how, you can still eat nutritious food despite the food price increase predicament. But before we address that, let’s take a look at some reasons food prices are experiencing inflation.
Thebalance.com states that there are five standard causes for an increase in food prices.
First, let’s address the higher oil prices. As food needs to be transported from place A to place B, across state lines and even countries, vehicles or planes use oil/gas. Many countries decreased oil production during the pandemic as there wasn’t enough demand, but now with countries opening, there is increased demand and many refineries and oil production is still behind. When there is decreased supply, and increased demand, prices rise. Additionally, traditional farmers use fertilizer that is derived from oil byproducts (another reason to eat organic!) which has now become more expensive.
Next, we have government subsidies. For example, let’s look at corn. Corn farmers are subsidized by the government to use a certain portion of their corn in the production of biofuels instead of putting the corn into the food supply. When there is less food supply, the prices of food items are forced up.
Third, the World Trade Organization (WTO) limits stockpiles. If a country, such as the USA, decides to heavily subsidize their agricultural industries, farmers receive an unfair trade advantage. To lessen this advantage the WTO limits the stockpiles, reducing the amount of food available in a shortage.
Fourth, extreme weather changes, such as droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. have a significant role in the food that is grown. Although we may experience as many of these extremes here in North America, many parts of the world are affected in their ability to produce food that is transported to other countries, phys.org.
The fifth reason is eating grain fed meat. As we eat more grain fed meat, there is yet another demand on the raw materials such as corn and soy. Most grain fed animals are fed the cheapest commodity crops which is why their meat is less nutritious than pastured animals.
Thebalance.com adds the COVID-19 is a recent trend that has also caused a rise in food prices. In 2020, food prices climbed by approximately 3%. As we were required to stay at home, many people were concerned about supply chain disruption or the ability to obtain food and stocked up on significantly more food than usual, driving prices up.
After lockdowns were implemented, many borders were closed and supply chain disruptions did occur while companies maintained lockdowns, and the supply to meet the demand was impossible to balance.To further see how we have been affected by the pandemic, see our post on the health side effects of the pandemic & lockdown.
So, yes, there are many reasons for food price inflation, but can you still eat in a healthy and economical way? Absolutely!
One of the best ways to still get in your ever-important fruit and veggies at a lower cost is to eat in-season. Mindbodygreen.com lists four reasons why this is important. They are as follows:
When we focus on eating foods that are within the current season, they are more nutritionally dense. For example, broccoli, a fall vegetable, has a higher vitamin C content in autumn compared to the broccoli grown in the spring, because this follows their natural growing and ripening rhythm.
Eating foods in season produces better tasting foods and decreases the environmental impact as we are not importing food from far away places so we can have on demand bananas. Even tropical fruits have their own seasons! Lastly, eating in season means lower prices! The next time you are shopping for strawberries in the Winter, take a look at the cost. Then notice the price drop in late Spring/early Summer.
To help you eat in-season, why not start your own vegetable garden? Some people, even those who live in a city, have found ways to have their own chickens. Health.harvard.edu states that growing your own food gives you better access to fruits and vegetables, therefore you will eat more of them.
You can also control the types of fertilizers you use; therefore, your food won’t be covered with chemicals. You will likewise benefit from peak nutrition, as you can pick them and consume them within minutes. You can also grow throughout all seasons; all it takes is knowing which vegetables grow best when. Check out harvesttotable.com for some great tips.
Meal planning is an excellent way to ensure all the food you purchase has an intended use and helps you repurpose leftovers into multiple meals. Today.com has some great suggestions for multi-purpose food items. For example, leftover roasted vegetables can be thrown into a blender with some stock to make a soup. If you plan your week this way, you have two meals based on the same ingredients used, and you can use up your scraps.
While planning your meals, consider participating in a pastured cow share with your neighbors or friends. You will be able to purchase the healthiest form of beef, that is locally raised, helps the environment and is easy on the pocket book. More and more research is showing the benefits of adequate animal protein for mental health benefits. A large review paper of over 160,000 people found people who avoided meat had increased rates or risk of depression, anxiety, and/or self-harm behaviors. Just be sure to choose pastured or organic wherever possible.
Consider using a grocery app on your phone. This allows you to compare and get the best value on higher-priced items. Lifewire.com compares the top ones for 2021, from Basket, Flipp, Grocery King, Grocery Pal, Instacart, and My Grocery Deals.
But if you still are finding that fresh food is too expensive, consider buying frozen. According to health.harvard.edu, as vegetables and fruit are flash-frozen, they lock in much of the same nutrients as fresh. You will find that much of the protein, fiber, and mineral content are similar between the fresh and frozen.
Want to ensure that the food you cook can be eaten as leftovers and still taste as good as the day you cooked it? Try using reusable glass containers. Not only do they help to lock in freshness and nutrients, but they also are better for the environment.
The last suggestion for combatting increased food prices is to make use of your pantry food items. A can of sardines or mercury free tuna can go a long way! They are nutritious and quite versatile. They can be added into a salad or eaten as a standalone protein.
Nutrition should never be sacrificed just because the price of food continues to rise. I once read a comment that said, you can pay to eat healthy now, or you can pay for medicine later!
My Toolbox Genomics empowers individuals in their healthcare journey by creating reports focused on genetic predispositions derived from published research. Test results and suggestions are intended to lead to consultation with one’s healthcare practitioner. MyTBG reports do not diagnose disease or medical conditions. Any lifestyle changes should result from consultation with qualified healthcare practitioners.