The cost of things

In an effort to write more for the sake of writing, I am trying to sit down more often and just share what’s on my mind. I used to do this more often in the past. Sometimes, the structured, recurring posts are fun and often easier and quicker to put together (e.g. the Weekly Run Down, which I enjoy writing, but which might not be THAT exciting to read?!), but I realized I really love the posts where you guys just share your thoughts and everyday things. 

So here goes what’s been on my mind lately.

I am continually shocked, appalled, baffled,  – what should I call it? –  by the cost of living, esp. staple foods and things of daily use in the US. It snuck into a lot of conversations that I had with friends and family lately.

I’ve read somewhere that inflation has slowed down, but I don’t see it. In fact, I keep adjusting my grocery spreadsheet every week for yet another price increase. I am not sure if this is a California problem, but it’s our current reality. 

I will give you a few recent examples. 

  • We paid $33 for a (regular) burrito and a combination plate (3 tacos + rice and beans). This was not a fancy, sit-down restaurant, but an order-at-the-counter Mexican taqueria. Food was served on plastic plates. It didn’t even include a beverage.
  • We paid between $13-15 per item at the local Chinese restaurant. Again, not a sit-down restaurant, but a takeout place.
  • I paid $25 for a freakin’ personal (deep dish) pizza. (Still can’t get over that.)
  • We spent $14.70 on two iced oat milk lattes (12 oz/each) at the local coffee shop. Yes, that is $7.35/coffee). 

Now, I understand these are all “dining out” expenses and the obvious solution is: limit your dining out. 

But I also have examples, many examples, from the grocery store: 

  • My soy milk has gone up from $2.99/half gal to $4.49 in a matter of a few weeks and I compared a few different stores (some sell for $5.99!). It’s the cheapest price I can find right now).
  • Organic apples have gone up from $2.99 to $5.99/bag (2 lbs).
  • A pound of sugar (store-brand) is up to $3.99. 
  • Don’t get me started again on $7 loaves of toast (as you know, I bake my own bread for a fraction of the cost, but sometimes Jon likes his sourdough toast.)

Other price increases have not been that dramatic, but 30 cents here and 50 cents there do add up. And granted, I might not always buy the cheapest version of an item (I read labels and am often picky about the ingredient list, and as in the case of the soy milk, I have compared multiple different options and have found one with the best combination of taste and ingredients). It’s a balancing act, for sure, but the inflation at the grocery store still hits me over the head every week and still feels pretty steep.

Are prices insane like this where you live? 

I shared on Friday that I was drawing the line at  $7.99 (or even $6.99 on sale) for a jar of (Bon Maman) jam, and how excited I was when I found a homemade jar of plum butter in my pantry.  Some of you lovely people chimed in and suggested that I should make my own jam (again) with seasonal fruit (yes!) and that even frozen fruit is always a great option (yes, yes!)

It seemed like the universe was listening because a couple of days later, I had an email from a local grocery store in my inbox advertising a ONE-DAY ONLY $0.99/lb deal on cherries. 

I’ve been unsubscribing from store emails lately, not so much because I am too tempted to just randomly purchase stuff that I don’t need, but because they add to the clutter in my mailbox and I often never even open them, but I sure am glad I opened this one!

So I went out and purchased almost 3 lbs of cherries for $2.82, and also picked up a free item – a bag of tortilla chips that I otherwise wouldn’t have bought – at the same time. You always gotta pay attention to the sales, personalized deals, and – occasional – free items. I (almost) ALWAYS pick up the free items. 

I pitted the cherries in the afternoon, let them soak in the sugar overnight, and then made my own jam the next day. It was simple and quick and yielded 4 jars of fresh, homemade cherry jam. Adding the canning sugar and a little bit of lemon juice to the costs, each jar came out to about $1.20. You definitely can’t beat that price.

And I am feeling a little extra smug because I am using the Bon Maman jars that I’ve saved over time for the canning. 

There’s no real point to this post other than that it made me feel really giddy to produce something so simple and delicious and save money in the process. I feel like I am a pretty thrifty shopper overall. I also am aware that we do spend quite a bit of money on food and I have accepted that this is one of our priorities.

Still, I will always look for ways to save and cut unnecessary costs. 

  1. On the plus side, a dozen jumbo eggs were $6.60 earlier this year and they’re now back down to $2.49.

    Your restaurant prices look very similar to what we’ve seen recently. I remember splurging for pizza for big family New Year’s party a few years ago and spending $80. The pizza night that we did on vacation for the fam last week was over $200. We don’t get that many pizzas nights with the whole family, so we take it in stride. I guess we take the wins and the freebies where we can get them, and wait for the world to get back to normal for the rest.

  2. Groceries have all gone up in price where we live too (Nova Scotia, Canada)! And, like you mention, things just shot up overnight. Literally. One week milk was 5.99 a gallon, and the next it was $7.19. Not only are prices going up, volumes are going down. We go through a lot of frozen raspberries (oatmeal add-in of choice for my daughter) and they used to be $2.99 for 400g. Now, I’m lucky to get $4.99 and the bags are 300g. I had a stockpile in the freezer, so it felt a bit surreal to be putting a new 300g bag (that I paid $4.99 for) next to a 400g bag I paid $2.99 for a month earlier.

    1. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed that on top of increase in prices, there’s also an element of decrease in the size of the packages. Our favorite olive jars have decreased in size, while their price increased. But even if the price hadn’t increased, the overall cost would have! Devils in details?

      1. You’re right. I noticed the decrease in package size, too. You really gotta pay attention these days.

  3. Haha, I love the “little extra smug” feeling. It’s the little wins that are the sweetest! (Jam pun)

  4. I almost fainted when I saw that butter was $6.89 for a two-cup block. I immediately texted my mom to see if this was a BC thing or if this was across the country, and it is indeed across the country. I mean really! There are other things that I’ve noticed, but that was the biggest one. A year ago it was $2.99.

    1. I KNOW. Butter is one of those items, too…. soooo expensive.

  5. Butter is so expensive now! I have been half-joking about how I’m going to lose weight simply because I can’t afford to bake anymore. Everything at our local store has gone up in price. We used to be able to get GF crackers for 2/$5 regularly on sale and now the sale price is $2.79 a box. We can still get farm-fresh eggs at a decent price here, but it’s only a matter of time until the local farmers start raising their prices, isn’t it?

    There IS something so satisfying about making canned goods. I just feel like I’m some sort of pioneer who has really figured things out! Nice job making your own jam – I bet it’s delicious.

    1. Yes, butter! I have noticed the price increase too! Insanity!

  6. I love that you made your own jam! I would feel smug about using that jar too ;)

    I have noticed takeout/dine-in has increased astronomically here too. We don’t eat out a ton so we shrug it off, but we always comment on it. I am not organized enough to compare pricing on specific items but I know our Aldi and other store bills have gone up A LOT too.

    1. I am glad I am not the only one who has noticed the increased prices. You don’t need to be able to quantify it, you know it’s enough of a change if you notice ;)

  7. your feed stopped from Feedly again!
    glad I checked through blog.
    I am hearing many friends from the US complaining about the price of food. it’s insane. I hope the slowing down shows up in the bills soon.
    I find being thrifty fun too. Always try to strike a deal when I can.

    1. I know (about Feedly). :( Thanks for letting me know though… I am still trying to figure this out.
      How are food prices in Jakarta? Do you feel they’re reasonable?

  8. New Jersey. Same, same, same! I went to the store the other day, feels like I only got vegetables and it was like “that’ll be $200 please!”

  9. I was going to make the same comment about Feedly, alas. Sigh. I got another dump this AM.
    And yes, omg, food prices. I have switched brands, now routinely go to four (FOUR) stores to get the best prices (some of which are at Whole Foods, which seems odd to me), and am so glad I no longer eat meat. I don’t eat out unless I’m with a friend and/or literally not in town. Even on road trips, I take my own food. I like to think I’m frugal, but man, I feel you. Sigh.

    1. I go to 4-5 stores too to get the best prices. Sigh. Luckily they’re not too far apart, so I can be strategic, but man, it requires a lot more effort to shop these days.

  10. Grocery prices are insane, and so are takeout prices. Paying $30 for a single meal is just par for the course now. I just think about how hard it must be for single mothers and those who have to pinch every penny. It must be so difficult to shop!

    1. I know, right? I am making a lot of choices re: groceries because I just don’t “want” to spend the money… but what do people do who have to pinch every penny to begin with? Because don’t get me wrong, our food bill is still high… even if I make my own jam. Ha.

  11. I’m in Australia and my groceries have gone from $150 a week to $270 a week. This is over the last 10 months

    1. Wow, that is a pretty steep increase. I feel you.

  12. Yep, I can just echo what everyone is saying! Everything is SO expensive. I used to typically spend ~ $150 for a basic grocery trip. Now, I never spend under $200, and it’s usually closer to $300! So like, double. It’s insane. And also agree on restaurants- it used to be that a $15-20 item was at a “pricier” place/sort of special type thing. Now I feel like we regularly pay that, or more!, for like, a basic cheeseburger or something at not-very-special places.

    1. I am glad I am not the only one, but not happy of course that you’ve also felt the inflation. It’s insanity. I don’t know how some people do it… we spend so much on food these days.

  13. I am not as aware of the precise price increase for each item in but I sure realize. it is gone up. For me currently it is double difficult to shop because we live so remote now that the only supermarket I can reach without car is the most expensive one. There are no discounters that close. So I really have to make an effort and go out of my way and make time to go there. And then usually they don’t have everything I need. We started using an app that allows us to identify in which store we get what and it makes me feel I get some sort of grip on things. But overall shopping here is very not price driven and more convenient. We order a lot because as I said I don’t have the car during the week and the husband is working late so he can’t stop for intense grocery shopping.

    That said, I feel if you have the time and space to can and make food yourself and fill the pantry it is a great thing. But sometimes it feels weird to me to buy ingredients that I then need to process and make resources (time, energy cost etc) available. I am not sure that overall it really comes out cheaper. Your. cherry jam however seems to be just that. So great.

    What will you can next? Didn’t I see you made pickles too?

    1. I am sorry to hear you don’t have many options to shop in your vicinity and I understand that it’s difficult to shop with prices in mind if you don’t have a car and can’t go to the discounters and/or multiple places.
      And I also understand that making stuff from scratch can be time consuming and needs to be weighed against the store prices. It does not always make sense.

  14. I got another dump of posts from you on Friday night. Stupid feedly!!

    Phil does all of our grocery shopping so I am not in touch with the price increases. Aldi definitely helps as things haven’t increased as much there it seems. But I know you don’t have Aldi close by. Inflation is getting better but the increases are smaller – so things are definitely still getting more expensive. There isn’t much deflation especially in things like groceries. But cars and allegedly airfare prices are down but I have not seen that in the fares I’ve purchased!!

    Good for you for making your own jam. I felt so smug back when I used to can salsa verde and spaghetti sauce! It feels so good to make and can your own food! It’s not possible in my current stage of life but I hope to return to doing that someday!!

    1. Ugh, yup. Another Feedly dump. I’m still waiting to hear back from my hosting provider… and hope that wasn’t just another random RSS pull without the underlying issue fixed.

      I understand that there are certain seasons in life where doing a lot of cooking from scratch of canning is not a priority. You also always have to weight time and effort against buying something at the store. But it can be a fun hobby, too :)

  15. It is truly crazy how expensive things are! I noticed it as well when eating out. Sit down restaurants have always been pricey to me, but it really stands out at counter service for me now. The two of us used to grab lunch for like $20, but now those same places are over $30 and tipping is pushed a lot harder. So irritating. I do appreciate that egg prices are down from earlier this year, but that’s about the only decrease I’ve seen.

    1. I am sorry that you’ve been also experiencing the price increases everywhere – although it makes me feel better that I am not alone. It is very irritating though .

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