Musing on food and cooking ...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How Long Before There Are Bread Lines?

The AP reported this afternoon that Sam's Club has started limiting the amount of rice that customers can purchase at any one time:

Sam's Club, the membership warehouse division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., is limiting how much rice customers can buy because of what it calls "recent supply and demand trends." Sam's Club says it will limit customers to four bags at a time of Jasmine, Basmati and long grain white rice. Rice prices have been hitting record highs recently on worries about tight supplies.

This is incredibly bad news. For many poor folks, rice is often the food of last resort. It is generally cheap and plentiful. Rice can often be purchased when you can't afford to purchase anything else. White rice, while not super nutritious, will at least fill the belly.

Combine this news with other bad food news, and the situation starts to look Great Depression bad. For the last couple of years, the costs of lentils and dulses has skyrocketed, due to short supplies from India. For a time, in fact, India had stopped all export of lentils due to lack of supply.

We all know the price of wheat has gone up incredibly recently. For bakers, 50 pound bags of flour have gone up to (last check) $58 - more than 3 times what it was at the start of the year. According to King Arthur Flour Company, prices are likely to come down - eventually - but they will never be low again. Last week, a loaf of whole grain bread was giong for $3.29.

Some bulk food places are not even selling flour anymore. There are shortages on other grains as well. One place I regularly look at has no access to barley or quinoa at the moment.

Beans are still relatively cheap, but for how long? Potatoes are also being touted as the new poor economy food. Have none of these people ever heard of the Great Potato Famine?

A large portion of this problem is related to the cost of oil and therefore the cost of gas and diesel. The problem is compounded by the fact that a huge portion of the world's corn supply is being funneled into ethanol production - not only is there less corn meal to eat but a huge percentage of crop land is being diverted to grow corn specifically for ethanol.

As prices continue to spiral out of control, more and more people are going to have a hard time making ends met, buying food, or, heck, even getting to work.

On a personal level, I am trying several things. First, if I can ever get the damn sod up or find someone to help, I will be putting in a large garden. I will be stocking up on beans before their prices go bonkers. I think another 25 pound bag of rice from the Asian market would be a good investment right now. I am hoping to sell my car - either outright or at least trade it in for a smaller car that gets better mileage. As gas goes up, I will stop driving at all - I am just at the tipping point where it would be cheaper to park the car in the garage and get a Metra pass than it is to buy gas ($95 a month for a pass Waukegan to Lake Forest vs $64 a tank of gas (16 gallons at $4 a gallon)). I fill up about every 2-3 weeks, right now.

Hell, it would be cheaper to keep a horse. And I could eat it if things got really bad...


Little Merry Sunshine said...

I heard about this limit on rice a couple of days ago on one of the political blogs I read and it is frightening.

The cost of food is rising way too fast.

I shop at one of the cheap ethnic markets in Arlington Heights, clip coupons, and read the sale fliers. I know exactly where to get the cheapest meat, unless it's really on sale, and will make special trips. For some food Costco is still the cheapest and the quality is great (pretty much food I can buy in bulk like rice, oatmeal, etc). Although I have cut my grocery bill significantly over shopping at Jewel or Dominicks, I'm still paying significantly more than a year ago.

And to think, W and McCain think the economy is A-Ok.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Milk and flour are outrageously high. When only the wealthy can eat, this country will go the way of Rome.

Anonymous said...

Girls & guys-
Try shopping at an Aldis. So far they do not have a limit on staples and their shrimp and fish are relatively inexpensive. The produce sometimes leaves something to be desired, but if you plan on using it right away, it is a good buy.
H's Madre.

Little Merry Sunshine said...

Tag! You're it! I tagged you over on my blog. Go over and see what's in store for you! :)