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Kitchen Table Economics: Thoughts on Rising Food Prices

By Beth H. Watson

My kids’ school cafeteria manager recently let us know that prices were going up. She always seeks out the best deals, but even a bargain costs more these days.

I wasn’t surprised. The grocery store is one of the first places we notice rising prices. After all, everyone needs to eat, and we shop for food often. 

Current U.S. Department of Agriculture data peg the increase for groceries–the feds call it “food at home”--at 4.5 percent for the 12-month period ending Sept. 30. Non-vegans’ pocketbooks have suffered the most: Meat is up over 10 percent and eggs, nearly 13 percent. Want beef? You’re paying 17 percent more than you did a year ago.

A few thoughts on this reality as we head into the season of celebrations involving family and food.

First, 4.5 percent is no joke. You’re more likely to feel pinched if you were already having trouble making ends meet, as well as if your income hasn’t risen. I am fortunate to not have trouble paying for groceries, but I still don’t like how the price of certain basics cuts into money I could use for other things. 

Second, it may be time to evaluate what you are eating. This could have a positive effect on your health as well as your bank balance. Non-meat proteins like beans are, on the whole, better for you than beef. They’re also less expensive. For example, a 4 lb. bag of pinto beans yields about 9.5 pounds of food for under $4. An equal amount of ground beef at Mineral Wells’ busiest grocery store would cost about $35. 

Third, let’s consider personal, or lifestyle, inflation. I saved my last grocery receipt for this purpose. Sure enough, listed among staples like canned tomatoes and frozen vegetables are a few indulgences and convenience items. Think pre-cooked chicken strips on the convenience side, keto bread and specialty dips in the luxury category.

In the end, as long as you can afford to eat, you have to ask whether rising prices matter to you. I am not in the market for a new car or a new home, so while changes in those markets are interesting and affect the stock market and the economy in certain ways, my personal budget doesn’t budge.

Still, I’m making a few adjustments due to the rising price of groceries. For one, I pay more attention to what we have on hand, while still stocking up on staples with long shelf lives. 

I’m also breaking out the list of frugal family favorites–including lots of beans!–developed long ago when we committed to saving every spare nickel for a big goal. 

While most of the time we encourage our clients to tune out the 24-hour news cycle, when the news hits our bank accounts, it’s a good time to reevaluate our current situation, including our goals, our spending, and our values.


Beth Henary Watson is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM with Corner Post Financial Planning.


Next in the Kitchen Table Economics Series: “What if something happens to one of us?”

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through ICA Group Wealth Management LLC, a registered investment advisor. ICA Group Wealth Management LLC and Corner Post Financial Planning are separate entities from LPL Financial.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Neither Corner Post Financial Planning nor LPL Financial provides legal or tax advice.