The fiscal cliff is, thankfully, no longer looming. Cuts to the SNAP program have been bandied about for months. And the latest ‘lack of a farm bill’ issue entails reverting back to the last permanent farm bill – from 1949 – that could have doubled the price of milk.
According to the brief on the McConnell-Biden Plan, the farm bill “[e]xtends for nine months portions of the current farm bill, including provisions that would prevent milk prices from increasing and continued direct payments to farmers. Eliminates conservation programs and financing for fruit and vegetable growers and organic farmers and does not include disaster assistance.” So while your milk costs may not double, looks like fruit, vegetables, and organics might be screwed.
If I was a paranoid type, I’d wonder if Congress wanted bread lines.
Which got me thinking – do people really know how much money it costs to eat today? Do you know what a doubling of the cost of a staple item would do to your family’s budget? How much of us pay close enough attention to how much each meal costs to make? And how expensive is it to eat healthily?
One of my Christmas break lunches, according to NPR in 2009, cost less than $10 for four servings. That’s still roughly $2.50 per person. Cheaper than eating out, for sure, but more expensive than eating crappily at a drive through. One of the reasons my family tries to eat seasonally is because it’s cheaper. Sure, it’s more work than buying a can of tomatoes off the shelf, but I can buy half a bushel of tomatoes for $10 at a farmers’ market in the summer (or less if it’s the end of the day and the farmer wants to get rid of them). For the price of three or four cans of tomatoes, I can process about 8-10 quarts. That saves me money down the road – and brings a little kiss of summer to these snowy winter days.
One of my goals for this year (since I hate the word resolution) is to better manage my family’s staple items. That requires planning ahead. Shock! Horror! But it’s doable, and much better for my psyche to know I have what I need in the cupboards to make the dinner I intend to make than it is to make a screaming trip to the store and get dinner on the table at 8:30.
It is glaringly obvious that food prices are increasingly political – I’m doing what I can to depoliticize my kitchen.