Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Understanding current prices on seasonal food items

So, for a lot of folks, this is just way too homework-y to bother with. But others may appreciate my methods a bit more. That's fine, either way. I'm never insulted if you don't want to bother with many of the things that I do.

I watch seasonal prices and store ads very closely. When I think that sale prices are higher than I was expecting, on any particular food, I do some research. (We really are very fortunate to have the internet and search engines.)

This week, it's green cabbage that I'm looking into. I received the store flyers on Tuesday, for sales running Wednesday through next Tuesday (March 18). I was expecting cabbage to go on sale for about 39 to 42 cents per pound at a couple of stores, for St. Patrick's Day this year. Instead, it's running on ad for 48 to 59 cents per pound. What's up with the higher prices, I wondered.

So, I did a little bit of online searching. One of my favorite sites is thepacker.com. Basically, it's market news on produce for the US. They give detailed info on what a particular market is doing this year. Evidently, according to thepacker.com, the Florida cabbage supplies are tighter this year. This is good for the grower, as he'll get a higher price for his cabbage. Bad for the consumer, who will pay more per pound. Cold temperatures are too blame, in Florida, for a slow planting season, and lowered supplies. When supplies are tight, the prices are higher. According to thepacker.com, expect prices to be higher than normal on your St. Patrick's Day cabbage. The other two major winter growing regions in the US are Texas and California. Texas is also seeing a reduced cabbage crop, due to weather, by about 30%. I didn't read anything on California's contribution to the cabbage market, but given how much coverage has been given to the California water crisis, I would expect produce coming out of California to be higher than previous years, as well.

What does this mean to me? Well, the prices that I'm seeing on green cabbage, at my local stores (especially the 48 and 49 cents per pound), may indeed be about as low as I'm going to see for early spring (the month of March and into April, for my area). So, I will still buy 4 or 5 heads of cabbage, for our family, as 49 cents per pound is still a great price for fresh produce (just not as great as the 39 cents/lb I paid last year). And cabbage will again be featured heavily in my menus for early spring. (It's a great vegetable, high in vitamin C and vitamin K, as well as many phytonutrients, which may help protect against cancer and lower bad cholesterol.)

Understanding the current prices on foods helps me plan my purchases. In some instances, I get enough of a lead on a tight market to stock up a bit, in advance of a price hike. A couple of years ago the US had a bad peanut crop. There was enough advance warning on what this would do to prices that our family was able to stock up considerably on peanut butter, enough to get through almost a year at the old price.

Other times, just knowing that I'm getting about as good a price as can be expected simply makes me feel a bit better about having to spend more.


(For those of you hoping to find another installment on my leftover meal challenge, that'll be posted tomorrow. I know, you're all on the edge of your seats- the suspense!)

 


25 comments:

  1. Lili
    I was also anticipating loss leader, sale prices this week and last on cabbage for the upcoming St Pat's. Often, prices for regular, green cabbage would be 10 cents-25 cents/lb. This year, only one store fell into that range (the store I recently received a gift card for) @ 19/lb, limit 10 lbs. I already had a 4 lb head of cabbage at home, so I got a 5 lb green cabbage and a smaller (3-4 lb) savoy, which I recently researched and learned has some unique health properties that reg cabbage doesn't. We'll be having quite a bit of cabbage these early months. Coleslaw, in soup, cabbage rolls, cabbage casserole, stir fries, steamed as a side veg, etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Carol,
      Now there's a great use for part of that gift card! That's interesting that your store put a limit on how much cabbage you could buy. You don't usually see that on sale produce, at least not in my area (other items, yes). When I see a limit like that, I know that I'm getting a very good deal.
      I've never checked the nutritional benefits of savoy cabbage. I'll look into it.

      Delete
    2. Lili
      this store may put a limit on holiday turkeys, but I have never seen them put a limit on produce, nor have I ever seen that before at any other store (except where it's a coupon from the store say bag of oranges $3 with $25 purchase and store card).to be clear the 19/lb cabbage offer is only on regular green cabbage. I paid 99/lb for the savoy, knowing the discount store charges 89 (which I didn't want to pay, but technically, the food I bought yesterday was free to me)

      Delete
    3. I should add: here's a great link about the health benefits of different types of cabbage:

      http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=19

      Delete
  2. I find it's interesting to read about why prices are higher--I just don't want to do the research myself--so, thanks! Like CTMOM, we only have one store this year with inexpensive cabbage (19 cents a pound)--it's higher in all other stores, including Aldi. Cabbage is a food that my husband loves, my daughter and I tolerate, and my son hates, so we will only buy 1 or 2 heads. Looking forward to corned beef--it's a nice meal variation and we get lots of leftover meals from it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kris,
      that's a great price on cabbage. Enjoy the corned beef!
      I'm just a little bit geeky when it comes to reading market reports.

      Delete
  3. Only two of us eat cabbage, but our prices were a little lower than yours. Probably just a loss leader to get people in...lol. Do you ever make sauerkraut? I can't remember. Anyway, it is a great (and nutritious) way to preserve cabbage. I've also read of people drying them, but I have yet to try that. I did can some, but the USDA now recommend you not...having said that we've had no ill effects....lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Shara,
      I've never made sauerkraut. The produce stand I frequent spring through early fall, sells kraut cabbage (huge heads), about 10 cents less per pound than their green cabbage. I may give kraut-making a try this next season. We do enjoy it on sausages.

      Delete
  4. Wow! I'm so impressed that you actually took the time to go research it. Cabbage is definitely on my list, so thanks for the info!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cat,
      It's just the geek in me. Maybe you'll find a better price on cabbage than I did this St Patty's.

      Delete
  5. It's always interesting to see how prices differ by region. I just bought 2 heads of cabbage for 14 cents a pound. Another store has it for 19 cents a pound ... probably to offset the higher costs of corned beef, LOL! BTW, Wall Street Journal had a story a few days ago saying that high demand from Asia is bumping up US milk prices

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi DW,
      those are amazing prices on cabbage. Here in the Pacific Northwest, our produce prices tend to be higher than other areas of the US, but still, not a single grocery store in my area is doing a super low "get 'em in the door" price.

      I've read the same thing about increasing consumption of dairy products in countries where dairy has not been the norm, as part of what is driving our milk, cheese and butter prices higher. Also, on the west coast, the drought in California has affected dairy as well. Double whammy. But, interesting, I found milk on sale again this week for $1.99/gal. I'm picking up 4 more gallons today.

      Delete
  6. Now, I'm curious. I'm going to see what the price of cabbage is here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi live and learn,
      I'd be curious to know what cabbage is on sale for this week, in your area, too. It's such a versatile veggie, so I've always bought quite a bit the week it goes on sale.

      Delete
  7. Great post!! I use a price book for this exact reason!! Here in NE Georgia, the price per pound is around .39 to .49 due to St. Patrick's day sales!! I found your blog several months back, I love all of the information that you put out!! Thank you!! Lona

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lona,
      Thank you!
      So, in Georgia, is this an increase over loss leader pricing on cabbage from previous years? I would assume that you'd be directly impacted by Florida supply issues on produce.
      Good job on keeping a price book. In one form or another, they are such a helpful tool, both to know what rock-bottom prices have been as well as finding sales patterns, so to know how much to buy at a time.
      Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
    2. Cabbage has been as low as .19 per pound in the past.
      Also, I do not pay over 1.00 per pound for fruits or veggies. I have recently bought from Bountiful Baskets that delivers local here. The "baskets" are 15.00 with a 6.00 processing fee. Myself and two other ladies split the processing fee. So for 17.20, we come out like bandits! Lol! Please check and see if it is in your area...definitely worth checking out! Lona

      Delete
    3. Lona, thanks!
      I'll look into Bountiful Baskets.
      I don't think I rarely spend more than $1 per pound on fruits/veggies. The exception would have to be the once or twice per year papaya, or container of strawberries (I bought strawberries earlier this week for $1.62 per pound), for a special breakfast. We have a really fantastic produce stand in the area. It opens the last Thursday in March, and closes just after the 1st of November. Their prices put supermarkets to shame.
      Thanks for the tip on Bountiful Baskets!

      Delete
    4. how will you prepare your store of cabbage?
      I'll be eating coleslaw for a week from the one head I purchased.

      Delete
    5. HI frugal spinster,
      So far, with the cabbage, we've had cole slaw, fried rice, and cabbage patch soup. I'm adding some cabbage to a green salad tonight. Tomorrow, we'll have sauteed cabbage, onions and garlic. I'd like to make stuffed cabbage leaves, using a rice and lentil stuffing, and served with marinara sauce, later this week. Hope that gives you some ideas! :-)

      Delete
  8. If you can get Bountiful Baskets you will have all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables to use at a very reasonable price. We love it Herr because of our short growing season. Our farmers market is only open from June to September or October and it's expensive. I really envy those of you who have multiple choices in your stores and other places to buy your food. We live in a rural state with wide open spaces and while we love the lifestyle we are able to have we don't have all the choices in purchasing you have. We have to drive 50 miles one way to get to a Wal-Mart, 150 miles one way to get to a Sam's Club or Costco. I'm not complaining because we don't want to live anywhere else. The lowest price I found for cabbage was 33¢ pound in a store 30 miles one way. In our one and only grocery store it was 49¢ a pound.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Susan,
      'living in a rural area can have it's shopping difficulties, can't it?! I guess every place has both its positive aspects, as well as drawbacks. But Bountiful Baskets sounds like a fantastic deal for you! Fresh produce at a good price, sound like a win to me!

      Delete
  9. For St. Pat's Day at our house we are making some very inexpensive soda bread!

    I like your train of thought on the produce prices. I feel better about paying a higher price when I know there's been a crop failure, and I can hold out for a lower price when there's been a market glut.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi anexacting,
      Yum! Soda bread sounds good! A lady I worked with on Saturday brought oatmeal soda bread. We all enjoyed it!

      Delete

I'm so glad that you stopped by today. Please comment, and let me know what you're thinking.