Rising Food Prices: What You Can Do About Them

Posted on Mar 9 2011 - 2:11am by Mike Lieberman

The rising food prices have been in the news a lot lately. I mean c’mon it helped to cause an uprising in Egypt.

Here in the States, the food prices are starting to rise as well. While indeed that may be true, it’s not the food that is too expensive it’s everything else that goes into getting the food to your plate that’s causing the price to increase.

The Daily Green had a great post titled For Every Dollar You Spend on “Food,” Less than 16 Cents Pays for Food. They broke down where the money goes based on what the USDA reports.

Wait how much actually goes to the food?
As you can tell by the title less than 16% of each dollar goes towards the actual food. The other 84% goes towards the marketing of the food.

They break down that 84% even further. Food processing (19%) and services (34%) make the lion share of that 84%.

Food processing are the ones that process your food into the “food” products that can be found on the shelves. Food services are the ones that distribute, package and label the food.

Pretty much what this means is that most of the money that we are paying for food goes to the middleman NOT to paying for the food. This system doesn’t seem like one that can work and is sustainable in the long term.

That is the real issue.

Great food prices are rising, but what can we do?
Our current food system relies on these middlemen to provide us with our food. I say we cut these middlemen out of the equation thus bringing down the price of food.

There are a few ways that you can cut out the middleman and get your food from closer to the source.

  • Start to grow your own food. You might not be able to fully survive off of what you grow, but every little bit matters.
  • Go to your local farmers market and buy directly from the grower. There is no middleman involved there.
  • Join your local CSA. This is a good way to connect with others in your area and to support the local farmers.

By doing any of those or a combination of them, we can combat the high prices of food and help to cause the change that we want to see.

What are other things that we can do about the rising food prices?


25 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Hannah (Culture Connoisseur) March 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm -

    Learn to cook. So many Americans eat out or buy processed “Ready-to eat” or instant foods because they don’t want to cook things themselves, or have actually believed the lie that the only bread (etc.) available to them is the kind on a grocery store shelf. As one example- making bread may be a little more time consuming, and may take some time to perfect, but in the end you save mountains of dough (pun intended) and know what you’re eating.

    Also, cutting meats completely out or cutting it to less saves money as veggies at the market are a lot cheaper, much healthier, and go a lot further. (At least that has been my experience.) I’m not a vegetarian or vegan, but by making 1/3 of my meals meat, 1/3 vegetarian, and 1/3 vegan I have drastically reduced costs. And I feel healthier!

  2. Mike Lieberman March 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm -

    Nice. It ain’t all that difficult and time can be made if you make it priority. Appreciate the tips.

  3. Amanda Howe March 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm -

    Totally agree with you Hannah on cutting out meat. I started out just trying to simplify my grocery bill and recipes. After a few weeks of not buying or eating meat for economic reasons, I couldn’t believe how good I physically felt. I could do more, save the money, save the time and effort, feel better, and I could actually grow food instead of buying it. From there, it’s not a hard step to veganism when you start cutting out expensive dairy products and replacing them with more cost effective, nutrient rich and long-lasting alternatives.

    Besides, cooking from scratch is such a pleasure in itself. When you are master of your ingredients and your process, you are empowered.

  4. Donald Calvin Joseph Rice March 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm -

    ditto on what Hannah said about cutting out meat. i fast from meat about half the year for religious reasons, and the other half, i follow what Hannah is saying: reduce the amount of meat on my plate and eat more whole grains and fresh vegetables. i work out, ride bikes, and have had no ill effects on my work outs.

    i think pointing out that only 16 cents on the dollar goes to support the actual production of supermarket bought food, is very important. when you go to a farmer’s market, you know that 100% of that cost is going to the local farmer, and into the local economy. knowing where my food comes from is more important than cost, but as you point out, most of what i’d pay at the store is not for the food, but for packaging, etc.

    i try to grow food; i’m not great at it. yet. i keep trying.

  5. Anonymous March 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm -

    totally agree. cutting out processed foods saves a ton of money. I’m not a vegetarian and I do like a good steak, pork tenderloin, chicken whatever etc but i rarely buy meat because a. it’s expensive and b. I don’t crave it.

    I think another big saver is not shopping at big name grocery stores. The small Asian mart I go to for 90% of my shopping has better prices than any of the big stores. Plus they have much more local product. The only thing I don’t buy from them is meat.

    Going to Safeway or IGA and seeing $4.99/lb red peppers or $2.99/lb tomatoes when they are half price at some small shop around the corner makes me sick. Pure price gouge.

    Pricing at farmers markets I’ve found to be a little inflated though I think the one close to my apartment is probably the most expensive one around.

  6. leah March 9, 2011 at 5:33 pm -

    Cook with your friends! Everyone bring some ingredients.. cook/laugh/learn… bring home food for your family and your freezer! We’re starting some cooking circles this spring. It’s hugely money saving to learn to make the staples.. then you might only buy extras.. for example.. I usually have precooked rice, premade refried beans, premade lentils, premade roasted potatoes in my fridge.. every day/2nd day make another pot.. between those 4.. they can be mixed together in so many ways.. by itself, or add something to it each day. and if you want to add meat or something that costs a bit more, you’ve already saved so much that you can!

  7. Tara March 9, 2011 at 5:46 pm -

    While I’m not always the best at growing my own food…I do manage some. 🙂 Also we make a family outing of going to our local growers and buying fresh fruits and veggies from them! They taste great and we are happy to be supporting our local growers.

  8. Mike Lieberman March 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm -

    You go girl. Eating “healthy” doesn’t have to be expensive and can certainly help out in so many other ways as well. What’s the latest thing that you’ve tried for the first time?

  9. Mike Lieberman March 9, 2011 at 6:17 pm -

    Most peppers are so expensive because they are imported from Israel. Gas prices are high and it takes a lot of gas to get them here.

    Talk to the vendors at your local market to find out why prices are so high. Would be interesting to find out from them.

    Check out http://www.EatWild.com for where to buy sustainably raised animal products in your area.

  10. Mike Lieberman March 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm -

    I’m far from great at it either. I mean two salads in 10 months…that’s far from great, but I’m learning and have become much more appreciative of it because of this.

  11. Mike Lieberman March 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm -

    I like the cooking circle idea. You ever do one of those? How’s it work?

  12. Mike Lieberman March 9, 2011 at 6:20 pm -

    True. I often forget about the pick your own. Totally wanna go to some this year. Any that you recommend?

  13. Lds4u March 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm -

    Hi, so far I’ve done cooking duets! a friend comes over we cook, learn, laugh. As the healthy living increases, more friends asking how do you make _________? so I’m feeling the need to start bigger circles of cooking this year/spring. Love to grow into teaching cooking to small groups.. considering doing small cooking classes for my son’s distributed learning (homeschooling) center.

  14. Mike Lieberman March 9, 2011 at 7:46 pm -

    I like that. I idea. I like it a lot. I’m going to steal it and say I came up with it myself 😉

  15. Hannah (Culture Connoisseur) March 9, 2011 at 9:17 pm -

    Thanks for that link. Finally able to find something close to Orlando.

    Solution to pepper prices…grow your own! 🙂 My pepper plants just started producing and I have about 4-5 on each (red and green)… when I look at those little guys all I see are big fat dollar signs. MONEY, baby, MONEY.

  16. Hannah (Culture Connoisseur) March 9, 2011 at 9:20 pm -

    Thanks for the asian market idea. I have tons of them in my area and never think to go there but for frozen pot stickers and cookies.

  17. The Crimson Pirate March 9, 2011 at 9:28 pm -

    Cutting out the middleman, learning to cook and therefore moving to more real food and less proccessed stuff, and growing and raising (I ain’t giving up meat) your own real food to cook are all exellent ideas. But the biggest culprit in all rising prices over the last century is inflation and that is a byproduct of the fractional reserve banking system administered by the Federal Reserve. The dollar is worth less than 1/10th what it was before the Fed was created.

    Please grow and raise your own food as much as possible. It’s healthier, cheaper, and better for everything and everyone. But look into all of the other things the gov is doing to us that affect prices as well.

  18. Liz McLellan March 24, 2011 at 7:18 am -

    Two things I did that helped a lot – I started thinking about gardening and cooking differently. Admittedly I really enjoy both activities… but I found when I started thinking of gardening as my exercise routine (at least for 6 months of the year) I could ditch the gym membership…And when I started thinking of cooking as my way to bring the people I love together in a world that is moving too fast sometimes it stopped feeling like a chore and more like a pleasure. I know its not always possible to arrange one’s life just so… but how we think about what we are doing makes a huge difference about how we feel about what we are doing. More mindfulness for me has mean much more joy – even though I have less money coming through my hands because often they are in dirt.

  19. Mike Lieberman March 24, 2011 at 1:38 pm -

    Love it. Changing the way you think about things is certainly powerful. You’ve certainly inspired me.

  20. Geocko April 1, 2011 at 4:31 pm -


  21. Sabrina Smith Saxon May 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm -

    I am living with my son and daughter-in-law for now but they/we are planning a garden this year and also plan to visit the farmers markets regularly for things we aren’t growing. There are several indy farms in Vermont including pick your own farms as well. With three grandchildren we should be able to make family outings to some of these places. We also will be getting some chickens this summer for eggs and also a couple of goats. That’s the plan anyway ….

  22. Sabrina Smith Saxon May 3, 2011 at 3:05 pm -

    great idea!!!

  23. Mike Lieberman May 3, 2011 at 5:17 pm -

    Nice. Now just gotta put some action behind that plan 😉

  24. Anitaburns1 December 25, 2011 at 7:52 am -

    We have an edible landscape, back, side, and front yards. It is amazing how much can be grown in a suburban home. We also make our own bread, jam, tomato sauce, pickles, “sodas”, dried fruits, cookies, ketchup,yogurt, and much more. It is not only cheaper, it is better tasting and we think, healthier.

  25. Mike Lieberman December 26, 2011 at 11:40 am -

    That’s awesome. I’d think it’s healthier too. In many ways.

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