Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Food prices and supply

One of the main news stories today has been about the poor wheat harvest in Britain and how it will affect food prices in the shops. I know quite a number of Americans read this blog and extreme weather has hit the grain crop there as well. In the US, the problem has been the opposite to here in the UK. When I was in New York in March, the key news story was the heatwave which was damaging food crops. Back home, the persistent wet weather has been the problem. The result is the same: reduced yield. Russia, another major grain producing area, has suffered a damaging heatwave as well. Food prices will, as a result, go up and some shortages will result.

So what do we do in response? I don't want to have a long rant about the wasteful nature of modern western society and our propensity to eat too much food, and especially too much of the wrong types of food. Yet, if we could cut out food waste from our lives, people would, generally, save far more than would be spent on increased food prices. This seems an obvious solution but it is too often overlooked. I suspect most people have not sat down and worked out how much food is wasted in their own homes. Furthermore, many people shop in a way that is very wasteful. They arrive at the supermarket without a shopping list. Had they worked out in advance what they need, and then stick to the list, carefully ignoring the impulse buys, they would find the weekly shop costs much less and the amount they waste is reduced.

Meals need to be planned. Buy what you need (or better still grow at least some of it). Waste nothing. Regard leftovers not as bin fillers but as ingredients for the next meal. Planning and wasting nothing are two of the key principles for self-sufficiency. Living within our means is not just about money. It's about sustainable living and using our resources sparingly and to full effect. We need a sea change in society's attitude to the way we use our wealth and resources. Unwelcome price rises could be the jolt that makes people look at what we do with food, energy, waste and resources in a new light.

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