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High Food Prices

Food prices are up, salaries are not.

So, how do you keep up with the ever increasing cost of food while on a tight budget?

George w Bush was known for the funny things he said by mistake.

He famously once said: “it is hard to put food on your family”.

That made people laugh but the sentiment is true. It is hard to ensure your family have what they need these days.

It’s Not Just You

If you have been to the shops recently you will have noticed the shift in food prices.

Some items, like potatoes, went up by over 100% in the last 2 years, most fruit has gone up by 25% in the last year, eggs went up 80%, sugar 65%, rice 61% spaghetti 50%, and bread 40%.

These items prices have jumped by a significant percentage, while most other items at all the shops, just seem to go up by a few cents every time.

The result is either (1) you spend more than you previously did, to buy the same items or (2) you end up having to sacrifice some nice-to-have items.

It’s not just at your local store, it is world-wide. Food prices have gone up globally and look to continue increasing as climate change impacts farmers, and as rising fuel costs continue to push up transportation costs.

People Are Buying Food On Credit

If you have debt, you may feel like you are paying and paying and not getting rid of your debt.

In fact, you may even be buying food on credit, this means that the price you are paying is the price PLUS interest, pushing prices up further. And the interest rates are high right now.

The SA Reserve Bank often say they want to keep interest rates high, in order to drive inflation down.

What high interest rates can’t directly affect is the price of fuel (dictated by the OPEC club), the collapse of local freight and shipping and the effects of war in Europe on wheat and energy supply.  Interest rates also don’t affect the value of the Rand to US$ and navigating the knock-on effects of tricky international political relationships between the USA, SA and Russia. High interest rates also have little impact on the way the weather is changing and how often farmers are having to cope with floods and fires.

All this means that the food you buy, costs much more than the price tag at the shops.  If you are in debt review, you are buying food with cash or using your debit card, protecting you from this extra hidden cost.

Your Food Budget

When you enter debt review, you will receive advice from your Debt Counsellor regarding your budget.

This will cover items that you maybe left out in the past due to poor cash flow (like saving something each month, car services, licenses, insurance) and things you regularly need (like data, transport and groceries).

This budget is related to your needs at the time of applying for debt review, and is hopefully realistic and sustainable.

So, when you begin debt review, you should feel confident that you will be able to afford to feed and nourish your family.

Those not in debt review should also have a realistic food budget, and try to stick to it each month. Don’t leave it to chance, make a plan.

‘Don’t leave it to chance, make a plan’

Of course, having a budget does not mean you will stick to it, you will need to do your best to adjust past, less than ideal, shopping habits to match your new budget.

Price Creep

Over time, prices for food go up.

You can ask an older person what they used to spend on groceries for a month and will quickly find that you will easily spend more than that for a single packet of groceries these days.

While that is a pretty extreme version due to the time-lapse, you will also notice prices creep up over the time period that you are in debt review. Most people take between 3 to 5 years to sort out their debt through debt review.

Over that time, prices will go up enough to place you under pressure.

Debt Counselling Practice DebtBusters have released stats that show consumers have lost 40% of their buying power as inflation has outstripped salary increases over the last few years.

Make Adjustments

All this means that, if you entered debt review a while ago, or if you have been relying on credit to buy food, you need to continue to make adjustments to how you are shopping.

This may involve meticulously tracking what you are spending on groceries. Many of us shop on several occasions across a month, and so the total figure may not be too obvious unless you start to keep a good record.

Once you know what you are spending, then you can start to think about what changes you can make.

Some stores are more expensive than others. Normally, convenience stores are priced higher than bulk sellers (like Makro etc).

Having things delivered many times may incur high delivery costs which you could avoid by making fewer bulk shopping visits.

Which items you choose at the store also impacts on cost. Looking for items above and below the eyeline can help identify cheaper alternatives.

Doing a “pre”shop online before heading to the store (or even while in store on a competitor’s site) can help identify items where you can save significant amounts.

If things are really tight you could look at amazing dehydrated food products like AFOODABLES where you can feed a family member for R10 a meal. Or you could try simplify meals and shift to… 2 minute noodles once a week.

It does not need to be said, but eating out is pricey.

Could you rather buy the Steers Burger Patties (or whichever brand) at Checkers and try recreate them at home instead? While your chips may not be as good, you will not end up paying an extra R15 for a thin slice of cheese if you want one.

Whatever you come up with, the idea is to not only make one adjustment when you first decide to tackle your debt, but to keep your finger on the pulse over time as prices shift.

Keeping Food On Your Plate

One of the main benefits of starting debt review, is knowing that you will be able to afford the essentials each month.

While debt review is not designed to be a walk in the park, it will help you keep “food on your family”, petrol in your tank and data on your phone.

With the way prices shift over time, you will need to be vigilant that you are adjusting your habits to keep pace with inflation.

We may see bigger and bigger jumps in food costs in the future, as bad weather and other issues affect prices. When this happens, you too will need to make big jumps and changes to keep pace. It’s a pain, but is a necessary part of learning to live without debt.

This is called ‘living within your means’.