Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
The rising costs on just about everything is forcing shoppers to look at ways to cut spending. I’ve long been a fan of using grocery store discount bin items. Shopping discount bins is one way to save money. Maybe. Maybe not anymore. If you are a person who regularly looks for discount bin items to save money I have a warning for you. Some stores are putting a discount looking sticker on items but the price is not actually lower. Its just made to appear discounted so you’ll buy it. The sticker price is the same normal shelf price.
Walmart and Kroger both do this trick for sure. The first time I noticed this trick was a year or so ago when I was looking through items on a discount display at Walmart. A can of tomato juice with a dent had the bright markdown sticker but it didn’t say how much the discount. I don’t usually buy tomato juice but if the discount was large enough I’d find a use for it. Out of curiosity I walked to the isle where the tomato juice was located. Uh, the exact same price. I thought I was wrong so I found one of those price checker machines. Yup, the same price. I checked a couple other items from the display. Only one was actual discounted and it showed the difference in cost right on the sticker.
At Kroger a couple months ago I noticed the discount sticker price for a pack of pork chops was higher per pound than the regular priced chops. Kroger puts discounted produce into a red mesh bag indicating its a 99 cent special price. I found bags containing 3 sweet potatoes with a couple small bad spots on them. Out of curiosity to see how much I would be saving I weighed the potatoes and it was exactly one pound. Sweet potatoes were on sale .99 a pound that week. So why would anyone want one pound of sweet potatoes with bad spots when they can pick out one pound of really good ones for the same price? But, how many people actually take the time to verify a bargain price? Yep, I’m being much more cautious about the discounted items now days. I wish I had had my camera with me that day.
Since we are on the subject of food prices and scarcity; here is something else to ponder. This is a special display rack in the center of an isle at Kroger. Do you believe this sale price is a bargain for freeze dried strawberries? Is it something you would buy because its on sale? Well let me ask you this.
Would these packages of strawberries still seem like a bargain if I told you that sale price figures out to be $47.84 per pound at $2.99 an ounce? If you figure it at the non-sale price of $3.49 per ounce it comes to $55.84 per pound. Apparently Kroger is trying to cut out the prepper food middle man. Um, I sure hope its not a sign of something more dire.
What do I personally think is causing the food shortages? Tariffs—labor shortage—and retiring truck drivers. Tariffs on steel means the cost of making cans for the food is much higher. The processing plants are searching for alternative containers and is probably the reason you are seeing more plastic bags containing veggies on shelves.
I used to think the single serve cans of veggies was because of more single people these days. I’m not so sure about that anymore. It could also be a result of the food shortages or maybe cutting back on use of steel. The USA has a very poor recycle program.
The farm labor force has been supplemented with migrant Mexican and South American people for decades. The new border policies and very limited number of guest worker visas is preventing migrant farm workers from getting to the farms where they are desperately needed. Now that most are being detained and deported back home there is a major shortage of farm labor for the back breaking task of harvesting food. Meaning lots of produce is not being picked and can’t be sent to processing plants or stores. The produce is rotting in fields and orchards. Here is a link to an article I found on the web. Food shortages. I found dozens of articles by searching “empty store shelves.”
Even when the produce gets sent to the processor plants there aren’t enough truck drivers to transport it to the stores. Truck drivers get paid by the mile, not by the hour. If a truck is stuck all day waiting to be loaded or setting for hours in a traffic jam on the interstate he/she isn’t earning any money. There is also a law saying the driver can only be behind the wheel for a limited number of hours at a time. Its a good law but it does have faults too. If the driver is doing nothing but sit waiting its still considered as part of the hours behind the wheel. I’ve heard many truck drivers are not getting loads to haul because there isn’t any product to be hauled so they are leaving for better paying jobs.
Ok, I’ve gone through what I believe are the reasons behind the empty shelves at the stores. Now its your turn but here is one more idea or perhaps it could be considered a conspiracy theory or something. What if the empty shelving is done deliberately in order to create an illusion of a food shortage? What better way to jack up costs than to make the public believe we should get what we can, while we still can, at any price? Think about it. You walk up to a shelf where dozens of cans of green beans normally sit. Its empty except for only three over priced cans next to a sign saying there is a shortage and it may be awhile before the product is available. Would you grab those three cans? Well maybe not you but surely many others would grab those cans and hide them from other shoppers. I’m the kind of person who would take the cans because I’m curious what would happen next. I’d be sure to go back to the same spot some time later just to see if a few more cans appear in their place.