Moping over mocha: feeling the food price pinch

Allyson Kenning
By Allyson Kenning
March 9th, 2011

Lately, I have been with a couple of people while they’ve filled their gas tanks, and I couldn’t help but get a physical pain somewhere in my body when I saw how much they paid. Even my dad’s little Subaru, though fairly fuel-efficient, costs more to fill than my weekly grocery budget–and I won’t even go into how much a relative of mine spent filling his truck. Last week, gas prices locally were anywhere between $1.19/L and $1.23/L. When I go to the coast in the near future, I expect those prices to be even higher.

Even though I don’t even have my own car, I do pay attention to some basic market numbers on the news–mainly the dollar so I can salivate over cross border shopping prospects–but I also keep an eye on gas prices, because I know that even though I get myself around via bus and on foot, gas prices have a very profound effect on my life.
Apart from my pretty hideous heating bills (something that makes me cry on a monthly basis), food prices are where I feel the cost of gas hitting me the most. I have written before about how I feel about some local food prices and what I’ve implemented in my own life to try to keep my food costs down. And I wrote about my hydroponic lettuce and herb set-up, which has been a huge blessing in keeping my diet healthy and varied on the cheap. But this week’s announcement by Westfair Foods (owners of Extra foods locally) that as of April 1st they’ll be increasing their grocery prices by 5% in response to rising gas prices, has only made me think of how, if other local retailers follow suit, I am only going to have to become more adept at wringing a quarter from a nickel when it comes to my small grocery budget.
In light of all this, I’m not surprised two local food banks are reporting increased usage amongst the working poor.
Milk is going to most likely be one of my big sacrifices. Currently at Ferraro’s, four litres of 1% milk, which is what I usually buy, because, call me crazy, I enjoy a good mocha in the morning, goes for $4.99. With their Moo Card program, the average price only comes down to $4.50/jug. I go through a jug every eight days or so. My morning mocha is about to meet an unfortunate demise and I am foreseeing a lot of tea (which I don’t like nearly half as much!) in my future.
Incidentally, the price of chocolate was on the news last week, too; because of the political unrest in the Ivory Coast, cocoa prices are expected to rise.
I have also pretty much stopped buying things like cream cheese, cheddar cheese (unless it’s on sale), and deli items (unless I get a sudden craving for Serafina salad). I have also long since stopped buying the “local” (from Creston, or sometimes Castlegar) organic eggs at the grocery store, too, because they are too expensive. Now I buy the cheapest eggs I can find, and I live with it even though the yolks are pale and pasty and bland.
My DIY food preservation and gardening regime is about to get kicked up a notch. I am considering adding a food dehydrator to my collection of kitchen gadgets, so I can not only dry my own herbs (both the hydroponic ones and the ones I plan on growing outside this year) but also so I can make more of my own snack foods. I plan on doing some small-time sprouting. I plan on canning more. There are people out there in the food blogging world who make their own cheese at home, and that appeals to me, too. I’d love a smoker as well, but that is definitely not in my budget. That said, the possibilities with such a device are endless…
And I have to say the Rossland Real Food Association is providing me with some much-needed bright spots on the local food landscape. For instance, on Sunday they put on their very first seed swap, and for a couple of bucks I came home with some seeds for Mountain Orach and tatsoi, two greens that grow very well here, and a package of cabbage seeds. The orach and tatsoi seeds came from Scotty Miller, whose talk at the conversation series last month provided me with a lot of things to think about in terms of how I can live with less reliance on grocery stores. While I am enjoying my hydroponic lettuce, these two new greens are going to give me some variety I’m sure I’m going to need come summer. Another bright spot has been that conversation series, and I have come home from talks so far with tons of ideas.
Also on Sunday, I got some locally-raised eggs from Paterson for $3.75/dozen (the least expensive eggs are Ferraro’s are usually $3.79). I came home from the seed swap feeling energized and hopeful.
The seed swap was well-attended and vibrant, which was great to see. It demonstrated that there are more people out there wanting to grow their own food than one might assume. And once more, I got to talk to people who have experience growing gardens and who have a wealth of knowledge to share. I came home with a lot of ideas and inspiration–something I really needed that at that particular time.
Now, if only I could grow a cow that produced nice mochas for me…

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