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If you’re like me, you’ve stood at the checkout counter recently at the local grocery store, staring at the sum displayed on the cash register. And you’re in shock.
How did I shell out this much money and end up with only a few items in my grocery cart?
Inflation is a word that’s on a lot of people’s minds these days. Simply put, inflation refers to a way of economic measurement that indicates the price of goods and services has gone up over a period of time. Inflation also means that the purchasing power of a country has gone down, so its currency is not as valuable as it once was. In other words, there are too many dollars out there chasing too few goods and services.
In the United States, the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, measures changes in the average prices paid by consumers for goods and transportation and services. You can go on that web site right now and see what I mean. The months of April and May, the little inflation bar graph just keeps climbing up and up.
Right now, the inflation rate is 5%.
Soaring snacks and decreasing dollars
Here’s an example of what I encountered at the grocery store. A bag of pretzels I usually buy was $2.19 several months ago. When I went to buy the same bag of pretzels recently (same size, same brand), the price was now $2.39. So, there’s a price increase of 9%.
Remember that inflation is measuring the average. Friends in the construction industry say that certain raw materials went up 400% over this past year.
We still haven’t seen all the fallout from 2020 and the government lockdowns and the supply chains interrupted and farmers having to slaughter livestock and the restaurant industry getting sucker-punched, etc. Then there’s the stimulus checks. I think I’ll decline going off on that particular tangent.
But you get the point. Too much money has been pumped into our economy and the value of your money is decreasing.
So, what can you do about that?
Please know, this is not meant to be financial or investment advice.
But, what are some practical steps to take right now as you realize that your money is not going as far as it used to:
The “B” Word
The first thing is to come up with a budget.
As Dame Ramsey says, “budgeting is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” If you go to Dave’s web site, everydollar.com you can get his budgeting tool for free. My husband and I did this. It’s a great way to get organized and start tracking how much money is going out each month and where is it going.
Even if you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck, I recommend everybody has a budget. It’s just a smart thing to do and it will give you an overview of what is happening to your income, where you can cut back a bit, and also help you not to go adrift in the sea of your finances.
If you’re single, this is something you can do with just your finances. If you’re married, sit down with spouse and have a serious look at your income, along with your spending. Where can we cut back (restaurants, entertainment, etc). Are there areas we can renegotiate (cable or satellite TV contracts, even your mortgage). A friend and I were chatting about this recently and she was inspired to try to refinance. She texted me two days later and said they were able to drop her mortgage rate down a percentage point, which was huge for them.
Get it now
The second thing you can do in the face of inflation is to buy what you know you’re going to use. Items with longer shelf lives, including canned goods, popcorn, rice, detergent, and toiletries can be purchased in bulk.
If you have a freezer, consider purchasing items that you regularly use and can be frozen. For me, this would be shredded cheeses, bagels, and certain frozen veggies. I also have several frozen pizzas and pizza dough in the freezer. We raised our own pasture chickens last summer and I still have a couple of those guys hanging out in the ice box.
Coffee. Tea, Honey. Vitamins. Whey protein. Again, double check expiration dates but if these are things you use, why not pick up an extra one or two next time you’re at the store. (Buy coffee as whole bean instead of ground to extend the freshness).
Salt. Sugar, baking soda and baking powder, spices, vegetable oil and olive oil. Peanut butter. Syrup. Rice. Pasta. Spaghetti sauce. Apple sauce. Now the last two items, spaghetti sauce and applesauce I prefer to make myself and can, using our own homegrown tomatoes and apples. However, I still will purchase store bought spaghetti sauce. I know it’s something I’ll use and that way, the pressure is off if I don’t make and can enough spaghetti and tomato sauce over the summer and fall.
What disappeared first?
Think back to what flew off the shelves during covid. Toilet paper and cleaning products were nowhere to be found. Don’t find yourself in that boat again. You don’t need to hoard. Just have a sturdy supply of what you know you’ll use.
Have your friends help keep tabs on sales, stores, etc. I know the different groups I’m part of, just friends I know through kids’ sports or school or church, we often will shoot each other a message about sales and specials. That way you have an extra set of eyes out there, and can give a heads up to others.
Don’t forget your faithful critters
Pet food: not long ago, there were reports of cat food shortages in different places around the country. Stock up on pet supplies and animal feed.
Something I’ve bought even though we don’t normally use them any more in our household is a few packages of baby wipes and some diapers. Why? This is in anticipation of friends who are expecting babies. I know when I bring them a meal or if they have their baby showers, I will be giving diapers. They’re so practical, always needed and welcome. So why not stock up on a few now when the price is presumably lower then it will be next month and be able to share the love later.
Plant the seed
Something else you can do in the looming threat of inflation is to start growing some veggies now that you know your family will eat.
I grow my own spinach, but in the heat wave we just had, much of it bolted. If I’d had a little more forethought, I would have planted some of it in a cooler, shadier spot and I might have avoided that. So I bought a package of spinach at the grocery store, and for what I paid for just one tub of spinach that will last me one week, I could buy a packet of seeds that will grow multiple spinach plants both in the spring and in the fall.
If you and your family eat a lot of potatoes or carrots, these are foods that can be grown and which can be preserved in the ground to some degree. I often will find carrots and potatoes that I’d missed harvesting last season and they are still good.
Where’s the beef?
If you have a freezer, consider buying a half a cow or a quarter – go in with a friend or family member. If you don’t live in an area where you readily know how to access fresh beef or pork, call your ag extension office or look into the local 4-H clubs. Two years ago we bought a half a pig from a boy who was raising his for 4-H.
Increase your cash flow
Another idea is to get a side hustle. “Help Wanted” signs abound right now. Many places are giving signing bonuses. I drove by an industrial complex this week and saw a major retailer whose distribution site is within the complex and they had a $200 signing bonus advertised. That is not uncommon right now.
If you don’t have a ton of time or a schedule that allows regular hours at a second job, consider babysitting. Pick up some odd jobs if you’re handy.
Warm weather means it’s a great time to have a yard sale. Do yourself a double favor and get rid of a bunch of stuff.
Maybe you’re like me and you happen to live off the beaten path and it’s not a great place to have a yard sale. Consider teaming up with a friend or two that has better front yard sale real estate and have a joint effort. I did this a few years back with a friend who lived on a main road and we sold a ton of items. Now the important thing to remember is that when you get that cash, make sure you don’t just pocket it and blow it on coffee or fast food or some other form of entertainment. Commit ahead of time to banking the money right away and either keeping it in savings or applying it immediately to debt.
Take a vacation from that pricey getaway
Now here’s an idea that might make some people squirm. Consider foregoing that pricey vacation. We opted not to go for a week at the beach this year, although factors other than money were involved in that decision. I know when we do go, and yes it is a great time, we go through a lot of money in a hurry. There’s the cost of the house rental, fees, linens, taxes and surcharges. Then, there’s the gas to get down there and back, along with a stop each way for something to eat. When we’re down at the beach, there’s dining out, ice cream, rides and games, entertainment, and oh – don’t forget shopping.
Now my husband would say to all of this (and I tend to be the frugal one while he tends to rationalize spending), “We need a vacation. We work hard. We need to relax and have family time.”
Well, I found out this year when we did a stay-cation, that we had very meaningful and fun family time driving to a place about 25 minutes away that I hadn’t been to since I was a kid and hiking, then going for ice cream afterward. My husband also took the kids for a day trip to a wildlife refuge and a playground, and that was another sweet memory.
State parks, farms, museums, rail trails, historical sites, and even fishing are all some fun alternatives to make memories as a family that cost very little compared to the standard vacation we’ve done in the past.
Add a tool to your skill belt
Another practical thing you can do right now is commit to learning one skill that will come in handy. For example, I have a bread machine and I use it fairly often. However, if we had a power outage or my bread machine stopped working for some reason, we would be relying on getting bread from the grocery store. And what if that staple suddenly was in limited supply or the price skyrocketed? I do not want to be dependent on the supply chain for such a basic and necessary item we use in our household.
So, in a couple weeks, I am actually meeting with a friend who is going to work with me on baking some varieties of bread from scratch. Not just me, but my children, too. And to be honest with you, I’ve been wanting to add this skill to my inventory for quite some time – I mean, despite all the other things I’ve accomplished in homesteading – I feel every pioneer should be able to bake bread from scratch, right? But setting aside time was a real challenge. So this opportunity presented itself a couple weeks ago and I jumped on it.
Last but not least
Finally, ask the Lord to show you where how to prepare for what’s ahead. James 4:2 says “You do not have because you do not ask.” God wants to give you good things that will build you up. \
Regardless of where you are in your faith, you can hear from God. There’s a remarkable little book called God Guides by Mary Geegh. Mary was a missionary to India for 38 years and she has story after story, of how every impasse that she came to was resolved by listening to the Lord. She shares of seeing conflict resolved, even with other workers in her field, by just waiting on Him and hearing Him speak. Once, another woman was being unreasonable and Mary finally decided to put it before the Lord. As she waited in silence, she heard God tell her to bring this woman an egg. Very simple, seemingly silly. But when Mary came to visit her, this woman exclaimed, “I was so hungry all day for an egg! How did you know?” and it broke down a barrier between them.
Hindus often came to Mary as she was very respected in their community, and would seek her advice with problems they were facing. Mary would instruct them to listen to the Lord with her, and they both would pray and hear God speak a practical step to take in a situation.
So, I encourage you simply to ask the Lord to guide you in steps now that will help in the future. Sometimes you’ll get an impression about something, sometimes it’s an idea that keeps coming back. Some people get pictures of things in their minds. Some people even hear from God audibly. That has not been my experience, but I know some people do.
What are you doing in the face of inflation? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. And please, come back soon for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Homesteading.