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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How are you eating?

This blog wasn't ever intended to be strictly about eating at restaurants. In the beginning I'd planned on posting recipes and pictures of food I'd prepared at home since it still fell under the general title of "Eatin' in Lincoln." That only happened a couple of times as you can see if you go back through the archives and now I'm at a point where I'm not eating in Lincoln so often that I rarely buy groceries.

The last couple of times I've gone to the grocery store and bought bread and pasta and vegetables and fruit I've been bowled over by the prices compared to what they were a year and a half ago when I still cooked dinner at home five nights a week. Then I read this story in yesterday's NY Times which lays out some of the reasons for why groceries are expensive although I don't think it went far enough.

Number one is the rising global demand for staples like wheat to make bread. There are more people on this planet at an increasing rate and more people mean more mouths to feed and those people are looking to basics like flour. That means an increase in the price of those staples worldwide. Of course, the increase in the price for oil that increases the price of diesel that powers the tractors that reap the wheat is another force on the upward rise in food costs.

What I'm wondering about (and what I thought was glaringly missing from the NYT article) is something that is controversial here in Nebraska. It's no secret that more Nebraska farmers are planting corn to sell to ethanol producers to make a tiny, tiny dent in the cost of gasoline. Continuing to grow only corn is clearly unsustainable according all the things I learned growing up in an agricultural community. At what point do farmers (who have it as good as they have had in decades) abandon the short-term gains of ethanol for the prospective long-term gains of rotating various crops in high demand? Will it take a Manhattan Project-like government emphasis on finding sustainable alternate fuels? Or will the demand for food outstrip the demand for fuel since everyone on earth eats but a much smaller percentage drives?

I guess that was a roundabout way of asking you if you've felt any financial pressures from what you've seen at the grocery store. I've definitely noticed it but since I don't buy that many groceries I don't feel it, yet.


Anonymous Chris said...

About the middle of 2006 I started seeing the price of my family's weekly grocery trip to Russ' Market slowly but consistently escalate. Right now we expect to pay $30 more per WEEK in groceries than we did at that time for virtually the same cart of food. In fact - we are better about coupons and buying on sale now than we were then.

$30 x 50 weeks = $1,500 a year.

Will my paycheck go up that much this year? Not likely.

Let's not talk about gas prices, electric bills, etc... It will give me heartburn.

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Mr. T said...

Thanks for linking to the NYT story, that was an interesting read. I've noticed significant increases in prices for imported fruits and veggies from other countries, no doubt due to increased transportation costs and the weak dollar, as well as domestic beef and all sorts of seafood/fish.

The beef prices have been the most striking, particularly since we here in "the bread basket" have the assumption that it should be cheap. I wonder if it truly is a reflection of the increase in corn prices due to ethanol argument.

8:27 PM  
Anonymous clove said...

I've been lamenting increasing grocery prices for awhile now. My parents are even considering raising some chickens because the price of eggs has gone up so much. Next maybe they'll get their own dairy cow!

Have you read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollen? Packed with information, although it's a bit long and his writing style is a little flowery. I still haven't gotten all the way through it, but it's quite enlightening about corn and polydynamic agriculture, among other things.

Any day now people will wake up and realize that we have to start supporting local agriculture. At least, I hope that happens.

I like your blog! Glad to see that someone from Lincoln is talking about something other than Husker football. :)

3:41 PM  
Blogger Swoof said...


I've been trying to track down a copy of Omnivore's Dilemma at the libraries but a couple of years after that book was published it's still always checked out.

I haven't been writing about this subject lately but visits to rural Nebraska lately have given me some food for thought.

12:29 AM  

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