10 ways to cope amid high food prices

Posted by News Express | 26 June 2021 | 1,067 times

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These are perhaps not the best of times for many Nigerians, even for those who earn well above the minimum wage of N30,000, which unfortunately has not even been implemented in most states.

A visit to markets across most parts of the country and one would be left wondering when food became gold – beyond the reach of many Nigerians.

Food prices have continued to surge in the last one year, with the latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics showing that the composite food index rose by 22.72 per cent in April 2021 from 15.03 per cent in April 2020.

The NBS said the rise in the food index was caused by increases in the prices of milk, cheese, egg, vegetable, meat, oils and fats, fish and potatoes, coffee, tea, cocoa, bread, cereals, soft drinks, yam and other tubers.

For example, NBS said the average price of 1kg of rice (imported/high quality sold loose) increased year-on-year by 14.57 per cent to N540.58 in April 2021, while the average price of 1kg of Ofada (local) rice increased year-on-year by 15.72 per cent to N472.19.

Also, the average price of 1kg of yam tuber increased year-on-year by 9.87 per cent to N252.80 in April; the average price of 1kg of brown beans rose by 36.73 per cent to N378.82, while 1kg of beef bone cost N1,145.32 in April, reflecting an increase of 9.38 per cent.

With the All Farmers Association of Nigeria saying recently that the hike in food prices would persist for a while, it is expedient for everyone to learn how to cope with the situation until things are restored.

The following are, therefore, some of the ways to beat rising food prices.

Eat at home

A finance expert, Lisa Smith, writes on Investopedia.com that during high food prices, one of the ways to cope is to dine at home.

“Dining out is an expensive proposition. Many of the meals that you pay for in a formal restaurant can be made at home for a fraction of the price. Even good coffee is cheaper to make if you do it yourself.

“Fast food is excluded from the category. While high-calorie, low-quality food can be had at a bargain price, the impact on your long-term health overrides the benefit of short-term savings,” she says.

Shop with a plan

Smith says, “If you stumble around the grocery store and fill your cart with everything that catches your eye, you’ll spend more than if you prepared a shopping list in advance.

“Plan your meals for the week ahead and make careful note of what ingredients you need to prepare those dishes. Once the list is made, purchase only the items on the list and avoid impulse buys.”

Experts at FrugallySustainable.com also advise coming up with a budget when shopping.

“Most people ignore this step and are naturally set up for failure. Determine how much you can spend on groceries each month, get that amount out in cash, stick it in an envelope, and once it’s gone…it’s gone. This method helps to prevent unwanted spending,” they say.

Keep your kitchen stocked

A Lagos-based economist, Mr Babatunde Abrahams, advises keeping one’s kitchen stocked to avoid buying staples frequently.

He says, “A well-stocked kitchen means that you won’t run out of staple items and need to buy them on the spur of the moment. Knowing what you have in the kitchen cabinet means that you can wait to make your purchases until items are on sale.

“In summary, stocking the kitchen or making bulk purchases means you will be able to reduce the number of trips that you make to the market every day or week. Stocking up reduces the odds of unnecessary purchases.”

Have a garden

Although this is not a quick solution, it is a way to stop spending much on food and save more money in the long run.

“Obviously, families living in the rural areas have more gardening options than those living in suburban or urban areas. Families with limited or small outdoor spaces should look for resources on urban gardening,” Smith says.

Meanwhile, if you have let’s say a large garden but can’t farm, experts say you can partner with a farmer and share the produce every time you harvest.

On the other hand, if you don’t own land to farm, you can help a farmer plant and then share the produce.

“Those who grow a large garden each year always seem to grow a surplus. Just in case you know someone who gardens faithfully, offer to help in the garden in exchange for produce. Many home gardeners are very happy to have the help and are likely going to be willing to share the produce,” Smith says.

Also, the Director of Nutrition, WebMD, Kathleen Zelman, stresses the importance of owning a garden.

She says, “For benefits that go beyond cost savings, plant your own produce. There’s nothing better than a summer-fresh tomato from the garden.

“Tomatoes even grow well in containers if you don’t have space for a garden, and some neighbourhoods offer community gardening spaces.

“Start small and see how easy it is to grow fresh herbs or a few simple vegetables. And if you invest a little time in freezing or canning your harvest, you can enjoy summer’s bounty all year long.”

Skip bottled water

Some experts advise that rather than keep spending huge money on bottled or table water, one may opt for tap water, so far your tank is regularly cleaned.

“If you don’t like the water that comes out of the tap, buy a water filter. The per-gallon cost is significantly less than the cost of bottled water and without all the plastic bottles to discard, it’s easier on the environment,” says Abrahams.

Compare prices and stores

Smith says, “Some consumers have trouble calculating the cost per unit in their heads, but it’s something that gets easier with practice, or you can use your phone’s calculator.

“Looking at the brands and comparing prices is an easy way to shave a few cents (or naira) off purchases. The store that features the lowest average prices in your area is often the best place for routine shopping, but the higher-priced competitor may run sales on specific items that undercut the cost at your most frequented venue.”

Save on protein foods

Zelman says when possible, one should substitute inexpensive vegetarian sources such as beans, eggs, tofu, and legumes for more expensive meat, fish, or poultry.

She says, “Eat vegetarian once a week or more to increase your consumption of healthy plant foods while saving money. Eggs are an excellent, inexpensive source of protein that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You could also try using a smaller portion of meat, fish, or poultry and extending the dish with whole grains, beans, eggs, or vegetables.

“When you do buy meat, choose smaller portions of lean cuts. For example, lean cuts of beef are those that include the terms ‘loin’ or ‘round.’ (You can tenderise lean cuts of meat mechanically or by marinating them.)

“You can also buy a whole chicken and cut it up instead of paying the butcher to do it for you or buy the cheaper ‘family pack’ and portion it into airtight freezer bags.”

Don’t waste food

Zelman says before you toss perishable food into your grocery cart, think about exactly how you’ll use it, noting that organisations such as the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that people generate millions of tonnes of food waste each year.

She says, “Using leftover vegetables, poultry, or meat in soups, stews, salads, and casseroles minimises cost and demonstrates your creativity in the kitchen.

“For example, have a roasted chicken for dinner one night and use the leftovers for dinner the next night. Try topping a bed of fresh greens with vegetables, fruits, and slices of leftover chicken. Add a loaf of whole-grain bread, and presto! You’ve got a nutritious meal in minutes. You can also eat leftovers for breakfast or take them with you to work for lunch.”

Think frozen, canned, or dried

Zelman suggests that next time you’re gathering ingredients for a recipe, try using frozen, canned, or dried foods. She says even though they may be less expensive than fresh, they are equally nutritious.

She says, “Produce is typically frozen, canned, or dried at the peak of ripeness when nutrients are plentiful. Fish and poultry are often flash-frozen to minimise freezer damage and retain freshness.

“With frozen foods, you can use only the amount you need, reseal the package, and return it to the freezer. If it’s properly stored, there’s no waste.

“Canned foods are often sitting in a bath of juice, syrup, or salty water and usually require rinsing. Dried fruits are concentrated in flavour and a great substitute for fresh fruit. Also consider using powdered or evaporated versions of milk in soups, casseroles, mashed potatoes, or desserts. Buy the form that gives you the best price for your needs.”

Minimise purchase of snacks, others

A Lagos-based nutritionist, Mrs Damilola Oyetunde, says now is not the time to spend huge on snacks. Rather, she advises households to spend the money they will normally spend on snacks on soups or other main food items.

She says, “Some weeks ago, I started tracking what I bought and what I spent on certain types of food. My biggest surprise was how much my family was spending on snack foods. Snacks and beverages are really expensive and oftentimes cost more than the main meals.

“Not only did snacks hurt our wallet, it also wasn’t good for the waist line. So we cut out 95 per cent of the snacks and just don’t keep them around anymore. Everyone is currently fine with the main meals I cook.”

“The only snacks I buy for the time being are biscuits for my children, and I only give them when they are really hungry. I don’t think it’s a crime for anyone to be frugal in these times,” she adds. (Saturday PUNCH)

Source: News Express

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