If you’ve been paying attention you have probably noticed that panic mongering is everywhere and “we’re all gonna die” level hysteria screams at the Internet user from every other website.
“American’s are running out of money to buy food,” read the headline of one forum post. Hmmm… that sounded serious and so I did a little digging. Turns out that, yes, indeed, the news came out in the early part of the year that Americans were cutting back on food expenditures and the amount of money being spent on food has continued to drop through this spring.
So is that evidence that Americans are “running out of money to buy food”? Is this TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it)? Has the SHTF (fecal matter collided with the rotating ventilation device)? Is famine right around the corner? ARE WE ALL DOOMED?!
Let’s have a bit of perspective.
It helps to know that the average family was wasting over $1000.00 of food a year. Just recently. I mean like less than one year ago — during the good times. Wasting. As in buying, not eating, and throwing in the trash. I kid you not .
So just being more careful, eliminating waste, would make a major dent in the average food expenditure.
But then there are all those lay offs and job losses. And guess what people who are laid off work have more of than they had before they got laid off? Time. Time to cook instead of swinging by the Fast Food Emporium. Time to slice and shred instead of putting an order in at the deli. Time to cook dried beans instead of opening a can. Time to cut up a chicken instead of buying prepackaged parts. Time to peel and slice potatoes instead of buying frozen French fries. Time to move grocery purchases away from higher-priced prepackaged and processed stuff and toward less costly, but more time-intensive, basic ingredients.
And we have to throw this little interesting tidbit from the vegetable seed industry into the mix:
By some estimates, garden seed, especially vegetable seed sales, were up by anywhere from 40 percent to well over 100 percent compared with recent years. In fact, some industry watchdog organizations suggest that seed companies in North America and much of Europe experienced their best year ever in 2008. We’re talking record seed sales … AND they project another record for 2009
And this :
The National Gardening Association predicts that 43 million U.S. households plan to grow their own fruits, vegetables, berries, and herbs in 2009 — that’s up 19 percent from 36 million households in 2008. In addition, 11 percent of households already active in food gardening plan to increase both the amount and variety of vegetables they will grow in 2009; 10 percent said they will spend more time food gardening this year.
Now people who are growing some of their own food will spend less in the grocery store. A 20-foot by 30-foot vegetable garden can yield more than 300 pounds of produce valued at more than $600. From an average cash outlay of $70, by the way. A rate of return to die for.
It helps to know that harvesting season has been under way in large parts of the country for months already, starting with the fast maturing autumn crops, spring cabbage, spinach, turnips, oriental vegetables, then the over-wintered onions, shallots and garlic followed by the early spring lettuce, peas, and radishes. It’s logical to think that some of the decline in grocery expenditure can be accounted for by people turning to their own gardens.
However, Americans are not just growing vegetables; they are raising consumable animals in record numbers as well. NPR recently reported about the explosion of interest in raising chickens, even in urban backyards, and they ended the report by noting that orders for chicks were so high that there was a four to six week wait for them.
Maybe they’ll get me next time, but I’ll pass on this hysterical ride. I don’t think my fellow Americans are running out of money for food, as much as they are turning toward self-sufficiency. They may be making less use of the massive corporate systems that produce, transport, and market food in the grocery stores. But they are making more use of shovels, watering cans, and gardening gloves — and chicken coops. Sounds like good news to me.