Our unsavoury grocery trip

Food inflation on the whole has a subtle influence on personal finances because it is so easy not to notice


I remember my mother used to say, “Eat a good meal first and then go to the grocery store.” I learnt the sagacity of this the hard way last weekend when my husband escorted me to Hyperstar in mid-afternoon, right after having only a bowl of soup.
Normally a passive partaker in our hypermarket spree, his main role is limited to pushing the grocery cart. But that day being hungry was the worst thing that happened to our grocery excursion. Every aisle just seemed to be jumping out at us, trying to wiggle out every penny in our pocket. He put everything into the trolley that looked partly tasty; different brands of potato crisps, chocolate bars, two jars of cheese spreads, a large bag of hash browns, a pack of muffins, a big loaf of garlic bread, and lots of fruits and vegetables.
We wanted to eat everything we laid our eyes on.
Before checkout, my husband and I started our guessing game, putting a number to the monetary smash-up we had brought upon ourselves. The high bid was Rs 15,000. As fate would have it, the actual total turned out to be around Rs 23,000 – a huge amount, more than we used to spend on groceries for a week. Now, there is no doubt that my husband’s greediness was a major contributor to the total, but after scrutinizing the bill we found out that we were also victims of higher food prices – what economists like to call ‘inflation’.
Despite the official inflation not exceeding single-digit figures in recent years, the price of gram flour (basin) increased from Rs 40 per kg in 2008 to Rs 200 per kg today. The price of sugar suffered the same fate increasing from Rs 22 to Rs 75 during the same period. Life for common man is becoming increasingly difficult owing to the overall price hike across the country. Prices of fruits and vegetables have also increased drastically.
Food inflation on the whole has a subtle influence on personal finances because it is so easy not to notice. But I strongly feel that these days one must not ignore the impact of food-price inflation, because of which many of us will aggressively look for local produce, indulge in bulk buying and settle for discount brands. Shopping at hypermarkets will be encouraging because they often offer extremely competitive pricing, which is especially helpful for people with a tight household budget. Another money saving technique is avoiding impulse buying, especially when shopping for groceries in the supermarket; we should have a list of things we wish to buy, and once done, head straight to the checkout.
Reasons for food inflation are many and varied. Prices for rice, sugar, milk, fruits, and vegetables all have risen notably in the last seven years, putting pressure on overall consumer prices. Another aspect of the price hike is that of essential services such as health, education and transport for which people are paying way beyond their capacity.
I must admit that since our trip to the store, I have yet to indulge in one of my costly jars of cheese spread.
There’s a lesson here for all of us: “Eat a good meal first and then go to the grocery store” – especially in times like these.

The writer is a part time business executive and a full time homemaker.