rising food costs

Feeling the Food Price Pinch

I don't know about you, but in the past couple years, I've seen our average grocery bill increase by about 50%. Yes, my kids are bigger now, and the adolescent boy complains every night about how he's starving all the time, and his sisters have learned not to leave food they plan on eating unattended, but that can't account for the entire upswing. So I was glad to see some recent articles that told me the rising costs weren't all my fault.

The Wall Street Journal cites the unrelenting drought in California, which has gone on for three years, impacting the crops in the graphic below:

And USA Today expanded on the carnage at the cash register by looking at the 10 fastest-rising food costs:

1. Bacon. Possible explanation? The delightfully-named Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) in hogs.

2. Ground Beef. Culprit? Drought.

3. Oranges. Blame: Citrus greening disease in Florida and drought in California.

4. Coffee. Guilty party? Drought and producer stockpiling.

5. Peanut Butter. Pointing finger? "Poor growing conditions" and possibly increased Chinese demand, for Pete's sake!

6. Margarine. The Reason Why: who cares! You seriously should not be eating this fake food anymore anyhow. Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter. And it was called just plain Butter.

7. Wine. Whodunnit? Drought in California and general demand increases. Apparently we're drinking more to comfort ourselves for rising food prices.

8. Turkey. For want of a nail...drought led to rising corn and soy prices, which led to more expensive feed.

9. Chicken. See Turkey. That, and the whole world is eating more and more chicken because agro-industrial practices have made it comparatively cheap.

10. Grapefruit. See Orange.

What does this mean for our farmers market? I expect we'll see higher prices. After all, a rising tide lifts all the boats. I know that Skagit River Ranch cut way back on their chickens because of the feed costs, especially since they can't make up the dollars lost by cramming chickens in crates on top of each other. It'll be interesting to talk to the farmers and ask how Washington's precipitation is doing, from their perspective, and what rising costs of their own they see.

I do have a couple money-saving reminders for you, though, so all is not lost. Remember, if you can find your vegetable or fruit on the "Clean 15" list, there's no need to buy organic.

Thanks, Mary Crimmins, for the cute graphic!

I've taken to stretching a pound of meat with a can or two of black beans, and remember that saturated FAT promotes satiety faster (and slows spikes in blood sugar). Add more butter. More cheese. More whole milk and cream. Slather those bagels and pieces of toast and what-have-you in cream cheese! As I mentioned last week, to everyone's relief and good health, fat is back on the menu.

So raise your milkshake to an end to the drought, and here's hoping prices come down soon.

Why Middle School Band Concerts May Save Your Life

3.5 weeks until Opening Day of the Bellevue Farmers Market. Meanwhile, as we limp along on our storebought, heavily-processed, packaged-in-plastic food, we need all the help we can get. Therefore, I'm happy to report that, the elementary- or middle-school band concert you've been dreading--I mean, looking forward to--might just prolong your life.

A recent study presented to the American Heart Association found that "people who took part in bimonthly group sessions built around music or laughter lowered their systolic blood pressure (the top number in the reading) by an average of five to six points after three months." Lower blood pressure means reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. Participants showed improvement whether they attended music sessions or "laughter sessions," and the overall improvements were equivalent to "someone adopting a low-salt diet, losing 10 pounds, or taking a blood-pressure-lowering medication"!

Given our busy lives, you may feel you don't have time to listen to music or that there isn't much to laugh about, but that just goes to show you haven't attended a children's band concert lately. Music and hilarity all in one place. A total two-fer. If you can catch a local school talent show, even better. I heard recently that a friend's 3rd grade daughter was writing her own song and accompanying herself on the ukulele. If that doesn't lower your blood pressure by 6 mmHg right there, there's no hope for you.

And we need a little help with our blood pressure. Latest reports bemoan rising food costs, with "prices of wheat, corn and other staples soaring." Economists blame everything from crop yields to weather to political unrest to oil prices and estimate American food prices will rise across the board by 3-4%. Unaffordable food is nothing new for many places in the world, where people spend 30-70% of their income on food, with the result that the cheapest calories become the only options, whether or not those calories are any good for you. Consider the story run in the New York Times recently about Bolivians' native quinoa now priced out of reach, "hastening [the Bolivians'] embrace of cheaper, processed foods and raising fears of malnutrition in a country that has long struggled with it."

Then there's the plastic packaging. Discovery News cites a study finding that the levels of BpA in the bloodstream could be reduced by half if the participant went on a strict, very-limited-exposure plastic "diet." No plastic wrap, packaging, containers, water bottles, etc. (Unfortunately, the link wasn't working for me when I checked it again. Hopefully they got their server fixed...) Nice to know, but almost impossible to implement. We're doomed!!! Time for another band concert...

Hang in there, and we'll see you all in six weeks at our source for music, laughter, and fresh, unpackaged food--the Bellevue Farmers Market!

(P.S. All food may be getting more expensive, but the Market accepts WIC Fruit/Vegetable Checks and EBT Cards.)

*** Bellevue Farmers Market 2011 Coming Soon!***
May 12th
3 - 7 pm
First Presbyterian Church
June 4th
10 - 3 pm
Washington Square