Food prices are going to continue to rise in the coming weeks and months as U.S. farmers continue to suffer from the worst drought to hit the country in the last half century. The unfavorably dry weather in the U.S., a major food exporter, is affecting food prices across the globe. (Scientists say climate change is to blame.) Grain, specifically corn, is reaching record high prices, affecting the price of meat, dairy, and processed foods.
Certain states are even asking the federal government to waive the law that mandates that about 40 percent of corn not go to food, but to ethanol food production. Using food for fuel in times of severe drought tends to create a spike in food prices, something seen last month, when food prices surged 6 percent. The latest estimate of this year's U.S. corn supply is worse than originally anticipated—experts say it will be 13 percent lower than last year's harvest.
While we can't say exactly how food prices will fluctuate in the coming months, the United States Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service predicted last month that beef, pork, poultry, and dairy prices will rise by September. A price spike for packaged and processed foods like cereal and corn flour will likely take 10 to 12 months to surface.
Interestingly, most of the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified and promoted by chemical companies as higher yielding crops. Research by the Rodale Institute and others have found that chemical farming systems actually weaken the soil, making it more susceptible to drought. On the other hand, well-managed organic soil acts like a sponge, so it retains water reserves for times of drought.
Here's how you can keep your household's food prices down in the coming months:
Cut back on meat
Sure, going full-out vegan could be a money saver, but even cutting back and serving a few more meatless meals a week can do wonders not just for your bank account, but for your body, too. Learn to cook with non-meat protein complements, such as dried organic black beans and hemp seeds, for potent protein sources that cost pennies per serving.
Turn your waste into healthy meals
Poultry bones and vegetables scraps and peels usually destined for the garbage can be turned into nutritious stock for soups. Bones from grass-fed animals raised on pasture and produce grown organically are your best ingredients because the peels and bones will be less contaminated with chemicals. Read How to Make Homemade Soup Stock for directions on how to concoct a delicious broth base from scraps.
Stock up in season
Visit LocalHarvest.org to find sustainable farmers in your area, and then buy directly from the farmer in season to save cash by cutting out the middleman. You can also buy larger quantities of quality meat by buying a whole, half, or quarter part of an animal and freezing it or splitting it with friends.
Want to really take matters into your own hands? Start hunting and foraging for some of your own food. This wild food won't just entertain your palette, but will also help restore your local ecosystem to a more balanced state, too. Experts recommend hunting and foraging invasive species to create meals like zebra mussels, Chinese mystery snail fettuccine, Himalayan blackberry smoothies, crayfish-spinach-artichoke dip, and "Cossack asparagus" made with shoots of phragmites.