This quarter’s Stretch Your Dollar menu and recipes are available on fillyourplate.org
Arizona retail food prices at the supermarket are down in the third quarter of 2012, according to the latest Arizona Farm Bureau Federation Marketbasket Survey. The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 basic grocery items was $49.25, down $1.94 or about 4% less than the second quarter of 2012. Comparatively, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s national survey was $51.90, down $1.00 or about 2% lower compared to the second quarter of 2012.
With the exception of bacon, most of the quarter-to-quarter decreases in the marketbasket of foods reflect meat and dairy products.
“Basic items in meat and dairy are at reasonable prices for the time being,” said Julie Murphree, director of PR, Marketing and Agriculture Education. “And while for most of this year, food prices have been relatively stable to somewhat more expensive we were a bit surprised that the survey for this quarter reflected a drop of nearly two dollars. However, we did predict last quarter that meat prices, certainly pork, might have a preliminary drop as U.S. pork producers rush animals to market and cattle feeders cut cattle purchases to maintain smaller herds so both can manage the higher feed grain costs as a result of the mid-west drought.”
“During our quarterly food marketbasket, Arizona Farm Bureau always releases information on how to save on the family food budget,” said Murphree. “But we’ve recently updated our food saving strategies to a new list of 18 tips to make sure our Arizona families have the best available resources to make informed decisions and certainly straight-forward information on stretching their food dollars. This should give our holiday food shopping flexibility to buy a few special items for the menu.
The importance of improving farm practices is not lost on Arizona Farm Bureau members. “To feed the majority of Americans, crop and livestock agriculture must continually become more efficient, and in many cases, larger to spread energy and labor costs across more acres to help stabilize prices at the grocery store,” said John Boelts, vegetable farmer from Yuma, Arizona and Yuma County Farm Bureau president. Boelts, who said the cost for just one refueling of one large tillage tractor can be more than $600, explained that labor and energy are the two largest farm operating costs that must be controlled.
“We still believe we’ll see higher prices in 2013,” adds Murphree. “And, watch for increases in those food items that today have decreased.”
To access an entire menu focused on those food items down in price in the first quarter and designed around stretching your food dollar, go to www.fillyourplate.org. Look for the latest “Stretch Your Food Dollar” menu and the additional food savings tips.
Of the 16 items surveyed in Arizona, eleven decreased, five increased compared to the 2012 second quarter survey. The national survey quarter-to-quarter comparison shows 7 decreased and 9 increased.
In Arizona, off-the-shelf prices for shredded cheese showed the greatest decrease in price down 81 cents to $4.06 a pound; potatoes down 38 cents to $2.45 for the 5-pound bag; milk down 37 cents to $2.50 a gallon; sirloin tip roast down 31 cents to $5.58 a pound; deli ham and boneless chicken breast are both down 29 cents to $4.28 and 3.55 a pound respectively; eggs down 8 cents to $1.87 a dozen; flour down 4 cents to $2.20 for the 5-pound bag; white bread down 4 cents to $1.55 a 20-oz loaf; toasted oat cereal down 2 cents to $3.10 a 8.9-oz box and ground chuck down 2 cents to $3.59 a pound.
Salad mix showed the largest price increase up $22 cents to $2.89 a pound. The other items that increased in price were bacon up 17 cents to $4.30 a pound; vegetable oil up 15 cents to $2.73 for the 32 oz bottle; apples up 11 cents to $1.45 a pound and orange juice up 9 cents to $3.15 a half gallon.
The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index report for food at home.
“In the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. That figure has decreased steadily and is now just 16 percent, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s revised Food Dollar Series Department statistics,” explains John Anderson, American Farm Bureau Economist. The USDA’s new Food Dollar Series may be found online.
Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the Arizona farmer’s share of this quarter’s $49.25 Market Basket total would be $7.88.
The Farm Bureau Market Basket Survey is unscientific, but serves as a gauge of actual price trends across the state. Arizona’s bargain shoppers statewide should find individual items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages and certainly cheaper with discounts and in-store specials. Arizona Farm Bureau seeks to identify the best in-store price, excluding promotional coupons and special deals.
Arizona Farm Bureau’s New 18 Money Saving Tips to Stretch Your Food Dollars:
- Sort your pantry and organize to clearly know what’s available. This should be a regular effort in order to make sure you’re using everything you have, not buying unnecessary items and can determine what you really need.
- Create a week-long menu. From the planned menu create your shopping list based on local grocery store circulars you receive in the mail or newspaper.
- When planning your menu, think of ways to maximize the use of the “Stretch Your Food Dollar” menu as a springboard to create your own menu. Gather ideas for meals based on the items down in price from Arizona Farm Bureau’s “Stretch Your Dollar” menus on fillyourplate.org. Let the Farm Bureau’s menus inspire your creativity!
- You’ve created the list; stick to it. If you can stick to your list, you’ll curb impulse spending on items you don’t really need.
- Don’t shop on an empty stomach. Studies suggest you might spend 10 to 15 percent more on your food bill when you’re hungry.
- Don’t take the kids grocery shopping. As with an empty stomach, kids can influence your impulse shopping.
- Stick to the basics. While basic food items like dairy, meat, fruits and vegetables can sometimes seem expensive, you’re gaining more value per unit and certainly more health benefits. The fewer processed food items you purchase, the more you’ll save.
- Regularly survey the weekly grocery store circulars. This will build your knowledge of prices for products you regularly use and give you a sense of which grocery stores tend to have the lowest prices. Take advantage of weekly advertised specials, especially for nonperishable staples.
- Be wary of the coupon trap. Use coupons only for those items you normally buy. Don’t let coupons cost you money by buying items you don’t really need. A sale has no value to you if it means you’re spending beyond your budget. Do take advantage of “ad-matching” since lots of savings can be found here.
- Assess the unit price. This shopping tool lets you compare prices between brands and between sizes. Located on a shelf tag in front of the product, it provides costs in like units for the item. Generally, information is given in cost per ounce, per pound or per count.
- Shop the edges of the store, and if items at the ends of the aisles reflect a super deal buy. As aisle-end items are dramatically marked down, they might be a valuable substitute on your grocery list. But they’re budget busters if they become purchased food items you don’t use in your food preparation.
- Use grocery store club cards; also compare prices to store brands. Store club cards can generate great savings. Plus, while you might love a certain brand, also compare a popular brand to the store brand for price comparisons and possible savings.
- Peak season is prime time to buy fresh produce. The peak of the harvest for fresh fruits and vegetables offers you the best prices and the best quality. Take advantage of this and buy often. To always know what’s in season, go to fillyourplate.org and select the tab “Arizona Produce in Season.”
- When not buying fresh, consider buying frozen. Most frozen vegetables are picked fresh, immediately flash frozen, are less expensive and will keep longer.
- Buy in bulk, but don’t buy more than you will use. Bigger is not always better. Larger-sized packages usually cost less on a per-unit basis. But it’s not a better buy if it’s too large to use before it becomes stale or spoiled.
- Move in on “family pack” savings. Meat departments often have a section that offers larger-sized packages at cents-off-per-pound savings. Repackage these larger sizes into smaller quantities at home and freeze.
- Be flexible at the meat and produce counters. This is one area to be flexible with your list. This allows you to take advantage of unadvertised “in store” specials and switch from one item to another.
- Use open dating codes, especially on perishables to maximize shelf life at home. Open dating is used on perishable and semi-perishable products to let you know at a glance if the product is fresh. Most stores use a “pull date” – the last day the item is offered for sale. This still allows a few days for using at home. For stores that use a “pack date,” especially with meats, inquire how long the product will remain fresh at home.
Stretch Your Food Dollar Menu XIX
Arizona Farm Bureau put together a menu to help you stretch your food dollar by utilizing items that have gone down in price. This quarter’s items down in price are shredded cheese, potatoes, milk, sirloin tip roast, deli ham, chicken, eggs, flour, white bread, ground chuck and toasted oat cereal. To obtain actual recipes for the “Stretch Your Food Dollar Menu XIX” go to www.fillyourplate.org and click on the recipe tab.
The cost of all the items on the “Stretch Your Food Dollar Menu XIX is about $71.40. Note that most of the shopping list items for this quarters menu are non-processed…keeping costs down.
About the Arizona Farm Bureau
Arizona Farm Bureau began a quarterly Market Basket starting the fourth quarter of 2006. The Arizona Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization dedicated to preserving and improving the Agriculture industry through member involvement in education, political activities, programs and services. Go to www.azfb.org to learn more. To obtain “Stretch Your Food Dollar” menu and nutrition information go to www.fillyourplate.org.
As a member services organization, individuals can become a member by contacting the Farm Bureau.
For information on member benefits, call 480.635.3609.