Causes of Rising Food Prices: Shortages

Today we look at one cause of rising food prices that took a long time to create, and will take even longer to fix, if we even can. That’s food shortages. Food shortages have three causes, actually. The first is climate change. The second is a rising global population. The third is the number of people in emerging societies who want to eat like those in developed countries like the U.S.

Climate Change and Food Shortages

Weather has always had an effect on food production. A freak cold snap could destroy an orange crop one year, but produce gorgeous cherries. A heat wave could ruin a crop just before harvest. However, these and other climate issues are becoming more frequent. Australia was once a global bread basket, but several years of drought followed by flooding drastically reduced grain output for several years. In addition, growing regions are shifting. In 100 years, Napa will no longer be able to produce wine, but areas further north will be.  But we’re not set up for the shift of the almond growing region or the peach growing region. It takes more planning than most people or states or nations are capable of. So, instead, we will see foods disappear or their prices shoot up as they become more rare.

At the same time that our climate is making it more difficult to produce food, we’re making more people. Those people need food. However, the increased demand also increases the price, so many of them simply can’t afford it. In the U.S., we get upset if we spend more than 10% of our income. Imagine spending 50% of your income for one meal a day for your family?

The last factor is the economic improvement of those growing populations. When emerging countries become economically stable, they often look to the established nations as guide for their lifestyle. Populations that once enjoyed simple diets with no or small portions of meat, now want to eat as much meat as Americans. People who used to eat local breakfast foods now want to eat toast and tea every day, even if their country hasn’t traditionally produced bread. Although we can all agree that it’s great to try foods from different cultures, we can’t all eat like Americans. Frankly, Americans shouldn’t be eating like Americans!

Solution to Food Shortages: Change Your Eating Habits

Americans didn’t always have meat for every meal. We also ate less food in general, and that was healthier for everyone. So, if food prices are high because of shortages, the solution is to change the way you eat. Skip meat in a few meals a week. It can be any meal, but lunch and dinner are more likely to be meat-focused than breakfast. In addition, reduce your portion sizes. American portions have become ridiculous. You don’t need eight ounces of steak for dinner. Four ounces is a proper portion size. Eat more veggies and fruits, too. They’re more filling with fewer calories and costs.

Make a menu plan based on what you have and what you need to use up, then shop to fill in. Don’t shop and then decide what to cook or you’re likely to waste food. We’re all guilty of it occasionally, but wasting food is as bad for your wallet as it is for the planet. Think about that next time you buy a container of sour cream so you can use one tablespoon in a recipe, and then never use it again. (I’ve done it, I admit it.)

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention coupons. I do coupon, but I tend to use them for more for paper and drug items. The food coupons I use are generally for condiments, dried beans, rice, and canned goods that are components of home-cooked meals. They’re great for reducing costs, but only as part of a larger strategy to change the way you eat to a more natural, local diet. Sure, you can get a rock-bottom deal on frozen dinners, but they’re not usually healthy and a long-term unhealthy diet will increase your healthcare costs. That’s a whole other issue!

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