Stretching Your Dollar

July 19, 2022

Soaring world food prices
According to the world Food Price Index published in April by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the world food commodity prices made a significant leap in March to reach their highest levels ever, as war in the Black Sea region spread shocks through markets for staple grains and vegetable oils. The latest level of the index for 2022 was 33.6 percent higher than in March 2021.

Due to this predicament and given the fact that Fiji is a price taker as our domestic policies do not alter world prices, interest rates, or incomes, we are facing the brunt of these increased international food prices.

Hence, it is critically important for consumers now more than ever to practice innovative ways to stretch their dollar and spend consciously. Unfortunately, there will be areas where we cannot control budget impacts like on commodities such as fuel. However, there are other effective measures consumers can employ to cope with the increased prices.

Tips for Stretching Your Food Dollar

One of the first major overhaul consumers must do is detailed planning of expenditure and ensuring that they strictly control their impulses. As consumers, you can do this by:
• Conducting an inventory of what you have on hand in your pantry, cupboard and freezer and planning kitchen menu for the week ahead. Based on this, you can prepare the grocery shopping list. By strictly sticking to this list, consumers can ensure they do not overspend and only buy what they need;
• Shopping with a full stomach. When you are hungry, everything looks good hence, promotes impulse buying;
• Shopping alone if possible. Children can add things to your cart which you will not find until you are in the check-out line, putting you over budget;
• Scheduling your shopping trips to coincide with in-store specials. Refer to advertisements on social and mainstream media; and
• Paying with cash, debit card, or check. When you use your credit cards, you do not only pay off the balance each month but end up paying interest on that shopping trip, which ends up costing you more in the long run.

Tips for Adopting Good Shopping Strategies

Apart from the tips listed above, consumers should also develop personal shopping rules and strategies to avoid over-indulging while shipping. Consumers should:
• Shop infrequently. The less time you spend in the store, the fewer temptations you will discover, minimizing purchases and saving travelling costs over more frequent trips;
• Adopt the mantra “get in and get out”. Stores play nice music to encourage you to relax, spend more time shopping, and buy more;
• Avoid “end cap” or checkout line impulse buys. “End caps” are displays set up at the ends of the aisles, or at the checkout that feature premium brands. Walking down the aisle may net you a less expensive option;
• Watch for “best by” and “use by” dates. As these dates approach, you will almost certainly see the item discounted; and
• Know the Price Points. Knowledge is power when it comes to saving money on your groceries. Do you know how much you typically spend on rice of flour? If you do not, then you will not be able to know if you are getting a good deal.

Making most of what you already have

Employing smart consumer tips is not always enough to ensure that you get your money’s worth. Even after the shopping phase consumers need to be mindful of how they cook, use and store product as these factors are related to food wastage and spoilage. For instance, according to the US Natural Resources Defense Council, a four-person family could lose at least $1,500 per year on wasted food. Keeping this in mind, consumers can practice the following tips:

  1. Store food wisely
    Use the ‘first-in first-out’ rule; move older products to the front of your cupboard or fridge and
    new ones to the back. Doing this will ensure that you are able to use products before its expiry
    or spoilage.
  2. Love your leftovers
    If you do not eat everything you make, freeze it for later or use the leftovers as an ingredient
    in another meal. However, as preparing meals is a daily activity, you should be able to estimate
    the quantity of food required by your family per meal. This will assist in ensuring that you do
    not cook more than what is required.
  3. Grow your own

The constant lockdowns and restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic reminded us the importance of eating healthy and staying active. As a result, many took up backyard gardening. However, as things begun to normalize, we seem to have forgotten about the importance of backyard gardening again.
Backyard gardening is one of the most ideal ways to cope with the rising food prices. By doing backyard gardening you will:
• Save hundreds of dollars each year which would otherwise be spent on buying vegetables, processed food and takeaways;
• Stay healthy as it involves vigorous physical activity;
• Earn a few extra bucks by selling the excess that you may have; and
• Get fresh and nutritious fruits and vegetables daily which are free of chemicals.

Consumers are encouraged to exercise their right to redress and to report any unscrupulous
traders or service providers to the nearest Consumer Council Office or contact the Council on
toll-free number 155 or lodge a complaint using the Consumer Council of Fiji mobile app.