Time to Tighten That Money Belt

No one exists in a bubble and recent world events are making that statement oh so clear.  Our American economy is impacted by the steps our leaders are taking to encourage a peaceful end to the strife in eastern Europe.  With household prices rising, it might be time to tighten that money belt.

An article published March 7 in Morning AgClips reports that a “benchmark gauge for world food prices went up in February, reaching an all-time high…” The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Food Price Index tracks the monthly changes in the international prices of commonly-traded food commodities.  These are items like vegetable oils, dairy products, grains, meat and sugar.  This is an indication that the prices increases we have already seen for staple foods are probably not going to level off.  It might do us all good to explore our meal selections now and start making adjustments.

Some options we might explore to save money on our groceries including buying in bulk, taking advantage of sales and discounts and preparing big batches for meals.  When you have the storage space to buy food items in bulk, you can often save quite a bit of money.  You will spend more for the bulk package but that’s ok. When you break down that bulk price to a per meal or per item cost, you’ll realize what a difference that makes.  For example, a one pound bag of rice where I shop costs about $1. The label says that provides 8 meals. This works out to .13 cents a meal.  At the same store, a 10 pound bag of rice is about $6. This provides 80 servings at just .8 cents a serving.  It may not seem like much but it makes a difference, much like that .5 jump in fuel costs per gallon makes a difference.

Some of us may be looking to cut food costs by growing our own food.  This can be a good option but there is much to know about fruit and vegetable gardening in Florida.  Check out this handy guide to get an idea of how to get started. Also, contact your county’s Horticulture Agent or Master Gardener Volunteers for more information.

When buying in bulk or stocking up during sales, store food at the proper temperature. Don’t overload freezers and coolers – it makes them work harder and you’ll drive your energy bill up as an unintended consequence. Keep dry goods away from access to pests and rodents. Also, be sure to rotate your inventory to make sure it doesn’t sit around too long. Remember the saying – First In, First Out! FIFO!

Expect  costs for dining out to increase as well.  If food prices are increasing for you, they are also increasing for the restauranteur. Food delivery fees will probably rise along with the food costs.  You might want to look at your spending plan and make sure you are estimating your dining out costs accurately. If your spending plan is tight, you’ll need to adjust for those increases by decreasing spending somewhere else.

One other consideration to save money is stock up on non-perishable items.  The cost of things like toilet paper, garbage bags, laundry detergent and toothbrushes are not likely to come down. Just the opposite, really. So if you can buy them at today’s prices, think of the investment you’ll be making in your future.  Another option is to make your own household cleaners using products you probably already have in your cupboards. That can save you a significant amount of money.

This morning, several news outlets are reporting that fuel prices jumped about .40 over the past couple of days. This means that if you have to fill up a 10 gallon fuel tank from empty, you are paying $4.00 more to do that than you did 3 days ago.  For those of us who fill our tank once or twice a week, that works out to be around $30 monthly cost increase. Where in your spending plan are you going to find that $30 a month?  Time to tighten that money belt.

To reduce our fuel costs, we can look at ways to reduce consumption.  If your budget and credit situation is in the right place, you might be looking for an electric vehicle.  I heard one celebrity say last night that he doesn’t mind if fuel prices go to $15/gallon, he drives a Tesla.  Some people will have the good fortune to be able to address the situation that way.  Others will not.

We might want to go back to that old-fashioned trend of car pooling to save money.  We might explore public transportation routes in our area. Most of those community buses have wifi now and convenient stops.  Some of us might combine cost savings with exercise goals and look to ride a bike or walk whenever possible.

Finally, many of us learned during the pandemic that commuting wasn’t always necessary in the first place – we can work from home and save fuel costs that way. Until they start adding or increasing those delivery fees, we might want to take advantage of delivery services instead of using our fuel to pick up goods we need.  Shopping online might be more cost effective than ever when we consider the fuel cost savings too.

Since I want to close on a helpful note, here are some handy, helpful resources.

Five Steps to Seasonal Saving from my colleagues at the University of Florida’s IFAS Family & Consumer Sciences Department

Saver Tips and Stories from AmericaSaves.org (Take the Pledge if you haven’t already!)

A wide variety of topics of consumer resources from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau

The more you know, the better you can make smart financial decisions and take control of your money.  With all the resources your Extension program provides for you, it won’t be too difficult to tighten that money belt.


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Posted: March 8, 2022

Category: Food Safety, Money Matters, Work & Life
Tags: #food, Budget, Extension, Fuel, Money, Money Management, Rising Costs, Spending Plan, UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County

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