Mapping Food Prices

There’s much discussion of rising food prices, but what does that really look like? Here’s a closeup. (Zoom in on the top portion.)

Like usual, the story is a bit more complicated than it may appear. As we see in the illustration, the cost of food is increasing in many, but not all categories. The prices of some items–snacks, “other fresh fruit,” seafood and juice–are rising at a rate lower than inflation (4 percent). The same goes for eating out at “full-service” (non-fast food) restaurants.

Not to belittle the suffering that rising food costs bring, but some items were actually cheaper in March 2008 than March 2007. Pork, lettuce, citrus and “other fresh vegetables” all dropped in price during that span. Now’s your time, bacon lovers!

How does this relate to food waste? In this armchair economist’s view, higher prices will likely cause folks to value their food more and, hence, waste less of it.

Price increases will probably nudge folks to plan meals, create disciplined shopping lists and make fewer impulse purchases that often aren’t used before they go bad. I’ve certainly seen an uptick in blog posts advising how to save money and waste less. I’m also guessing that food inflation will prompt less eating out. Based on the numbers, however, that may not make strict economic sense.

What about you? Have you noticed an increase in your grocery bill? If so, (how) has it changed your behavior and view of food?

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