The price of our food

It’s hard to conceive now but when I was growing up it was easy for my mom to spend over a hundred dollars a week on groceries.

We’re talking the 1960s and ’70s. I could remember going to the store with her as a teenager, (because someone had to carry the bags), and watching as all the prices being put in the cash register, by hand, not scanned, and then all those coupons had to be accounted for, then Mom writing a check; that seemed to take forever. Feeding 11 kids and a grizzly bear for for a dad took a lot of time and effort. Planning meals, cutting coupons, and the basic day-to-day routine of getting something on the table morning, noon and night was a challenge.

Mom was smart. She would often go to the bargain bread store knowing that nothing ever got stale in our house and buying discounted day-old loaves that she knew wouldn’t keep anyway with all those PB&Js or in my case toasted cheese (my disdain for peanut butter started at about this time — that’s another story). As I’ve mentioned in the past, we had a milkman, an egg lady we went to, planted gardens, and picked fresh fruits and vegetables at pick-your-own farms when in season. Mom did a killer job of canning but even then most of those items didn’t last long. Although she always managed to hide something special for Dad that till this day no one knows where.

The important thing in all this is the cost of food and the fact that we should take it seriously. Paying attention to every penny is worth it and saving money on the staples, well that’s even better. I guess diet and other eating habits and necessities drive the very cost of grocery purchases. We often will look for the lowest milk, bread, eggs, cheese and meats and pick through those coolers and freezers until we find the right product at the right price, and then turn around and buy Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream at $9 a pint. OK, maybe that’s just me. But that’s why there’s Ben & Jerry’s in a pinch — a $3.50 savings … yes savings! But am I really saving when there’s Velvet Ice cream at $2.95 … or the buy-one-get-one-free generic store brand at $2.40.

Your store in many cases has this whole section of $1 food items. But why don’t we buy any or few of these items? Is it the fact that the price makes it seem quality-deficient, or you just don’t have the nerve to have it in your pantry if it’s not a name-brand?

All of these decisions play a tremendous role in how much we spend weekly on our food. And it bothers me when people complain about prices or lack of selection. When shopping, work hard at selection. Sacrifice some quality by eating that discounted food sooner — change your meal plans based on what you find — not what you want.

Lifestyle plays an equal part in all this, too: Cutting out those big-ticket, big-name brands and still maintaining the quality your family likes. Your family will appreciate it more knowing you did your best to provide those meals and really, really saving some money, too.

Here’s seeing you, in Ohio Country!

By Dan Wilson

Contributing columnist

The writer is the owner of Wilson 1 Communications. He is an award-winning veteran broadcaster for over 30 years and the co-host and producer of “In Ohio Country Today,” a nationally recognized television show, and offers radio commentary and ag reports including locally for 92.1, the Frog WFGF Lima.