How to Beat Rising Food Prices

supermarket shopping cartsupermarket shopping cartBy Donna Freedman

Outsmart Your Supermarket

Hold onto your grocery carts: Prices on everything from poultry to pasta are going up in 2013, according to the USDA's "Food Price Outlook" report. Why? A drought and the hottest summer temperatures in recorded U.S. history affected nearly 90% of the country's corn and soybean crops. And both corn and soybeans are used in animal feed. Fruits, vegetables, grain crops and animal herds also suffered. While there's no threat of a food shortage (phew!), fewer eats are being produced this year, so they'll cost more next year. Photo by Thinkstock
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Luckily, you can reduce the pain at the checkout by preparing your pantry now. "Stock a little more than you'd normally buy," suggests Erin Huffstetler,
frugality expert for About.com, who watched her own Tennessee garden wither in the relentless summer heat. No, you don't need to clean out the big-box store this second. Just buy a couple extra items when you have coupons for them or they go on sale, recommends Stephanie Nelson, author of The Coupon Mom's Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half. Read our roster of foods to stockpile now, plus learn how to get more bang for your buck, make room for these items in your home and make them last.

Dairy

Make room in your freezer: Believe it or not, it's a perfect place for butter, cheese and even milk. Check out the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Service's tips for freezing dairy products. Powdered, canned and sweetened condensed milks will also go up in price, so shop accordingly. Consider picking up canned milk at drugstores: It's often a loss leader (sold at or below cost to the store) there because you can stack manufacturer coupons with in-ad ones. The price of ice cream is also going up, so try a rich-but-cheaper dessert: pudding made with half canned milk and half water.

Meat and Poultry

Whole cuts, roasts, ground meat and poultry will go up as much as 4.5%, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Canned meats and broths will cost more, too. The high prices of feeding and watering will probably cause ranchers to take animals to market early, leading to temporary price breaks. Take advantage because these discounts won't last. Another tip: Buy and cut up whole chickens, which cost less per pound. Simmer what's left in the slow cooker overnight to make your own chicken stock.
Related: Stay full with these healthy afternoon snacks.

Pasta and Cereals

In addition to spaghetti, angel hair and other noodles, you'll be seeing increases on kid favorites like mac 'n' cheese (a double whammy: grain and dairy!) and ramen-type products. Pasta meals are economical, which might make you want to fill your garage with the stuff. But remember: Your family might eat a few pounds of pasta each month but may go through a few boxes of cereal every week.

Flour and Cornmeal

It's worth it to pick up a giant bag from a warehouse club or restaurant supply store-but you don't need to keep it all for yourself (unless you'll be doing a lot of baking this holiday season). Get together with friends to split it. Then, pour your portions into high-quality freezer bags to keep out moisture and freeze them. Baking/pancake mixes will also go up in price. If Sunday flapjacks are a tradition at your house, better stock up now.

Bread Products

Search online for bakery outlets in your area; these places often sell English muffins, hamburger and hot dog buns, bagels, tortillas and sandwich loaves. All of these freeze well. Just be sure to gobble them up in four months' time. At the grocery store, pick up crackers with expiration dates the furthest in the future so they'll last as long as possible.

Fruits and Vegetables

Canned, frozen and dried varieties will all likely be more expensive because of poor growing conditions. Related products, like salsa, soup, tomato sauce, ketchup and spaghetti sauce, will go up in price, too. If your shelf and freezer space is limited, focus on stockpiling the products you use most often. For example, you may serve spaghetti with sauce every week, while a jar of salsa lasts a month or more in your home.

Dried Beans

The thrifty person's go-to protein will probably go up in price-it's a vegetable, after all-but it'll still be a bargain compared to meat. Bonus: A cup of dry beans turns into the equivalent of a couple of cans' worth, which is a real space-saver. Simmer them overnight in the slow cooker. Save even more by buying beans in 5-, 10- or 20-pound bags at warehouse clubs or restaurant-supply stores.
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Pet Food

Many manufacturers use corn in both canned and kibble-type foods. Besides, rising meat prices affect the whole family, even Fido and Fluffy. Is storage an issue? Put unopened bags into empty garbage cans (to keep out rodents) in the garage, shed or carport. Or slide bags under sofas or beds in the house.

Donna Freedman writes MSN Money's Frugal Cool website and blogs at DonnaFreedman.com.


Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.

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