Everyday Cheapskate: Perhaps it's time to buy a cow
The retail price of beef increased in 2011 by 10 percent, with the average price per pound coming in at $4.83 for USDA Choice.
And it's expected to rise by another 10 percent in 2012, with experts warning the price hike will hit by summer.
Now seems like a good time to stalk the sales and load up my freezer.
On the heels of rising beef prices, the cost of all foods is expected to rise in 2012. So what's a consumer to do? Start building a food "hedge fund." That means when things are on sale, buy as much as you can afford. At sale prices, not only will you be beating inflation now, depending on how much you buy, you'll knock the socks off inflation in the future.
Think nonperishable: flour, sugar, coffee, rice, beans, canned goods, canned meats and tuna. Buying these foods at today's prices is like running ahead of an avalanche, provided you pace yourself and don't slow down.
Here are few inflation-beating tips:
1. When it's on sale, buy enough to last until the next sale. We know that food retailers work on a 12-week cycle. Everything comes on sale at least once every three months. That doesn't mean every brand, but you can bank on peanut butter being on sale some time within the next 12 weeks, for example.
2. Create storage space. You might believe you just don't have room to build a stash of non-perishable food, but consider this: The space under the beds is the perfect size for canned and dry goods, stored in shallow plastic bins.
3. Buy a cow. Now, I'm not talking about a calf to raise in your backyard! I'm thinking large quantities of beef in bulk, at prices that are better than the average supermarket. There are many ways to do this, the simplest being a local butcher shop. There are also great resources online that will ship you the exact cuts you desire, packaged to fit your needs. Wilson Beef Farms (www.WilsonBeefFarms.com) is one example. Located in upstate New York, you can purchase a side of beef (about 300 pounds) for $3.72 per pound plus shipping, or any number of smaller "meat packages."
4. Change your eating habits. Just because beef is getting more expensive doesn't mean you must banish it from your diet. Instead, simply cut back. Think of ways beef can become more of a side dish, rather than the main event of your meal.
Email Mary Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.