Did I Just Spend $8 on Butter?


I’ll get right to the point: I spent eight bucks on butter.

With all the news stories about the rising cost of food, I thought I’d check my most recent grocery receipt and see how I fared. My eye went straight to a $7.99 charge. For Horizon Organic Unsalted Butter. Butter! Four sticks! This is insane! It had to be a mistake.

I told my mom about it and she was appropriately aghast. She called me on her cell phone later that day. She was standing in the dairy aisle at Publix. It’s true. $7.99 for butter. If I had chosen a different organic brand, I could have gotten four sticks for $5.49. And, of course, I could have saved more money by buying non-organic or the store brand. It’s only butter. These days I hardly ever use it. I enjoy a grilled cheese every once in a while, and while I’m at it I usually cook one up for my daughter as well. But I’m not baking Toll House cookies or whipping up recipes from the Barefoot Contessa. Not that I don’t worship the Contessa now and forever, but I’m looking ahead to summer and the reality that I will be donning a bathing suit.

So shame on me for not being a more careful consumer and checking the price before I tossed the butter in the cart – I take responsibility for my foolish actions.

But, still, something’s seriously whack here.

The rest of my receipt is full of charges that don’t seem as outrageous, but that are higher than I’ve ever paid before. A box of Life cereal is almost five bucks. A small bag of dog food is $11. I remember when the same size bag was $8.50.

This is bad for everyone, because everyone eats. Some city-dwellers don’t own cars and don’t have to faint at the gas pump like I do, but the cost of food impacts everyone. What about families who are already on the verge of losing their homes due to the mortgage meltdown? What about single mothers living paycheck to paycheck? What about families where the breadwinner – there’s an apt term – has been laid off?

Yes, there are a million tricks to saving money on groceries. Clip coupons. Work the sales. Buy in bulk. Convince yourself store brands are just as good. Discover Aldi, if you’re lucky enough to have one in your neighborhood. Play the Grocery Game. Comb through vintage cookbooks looking for casserole and other budget-friendly recipes. I could go on, but I don’t need to because we all know what’s out there. And for those who don’t, there’s always Google. There are ways to trim that receipt.

But here’s the bigger issue: the cost of food is going up for a reason. Many reasons, I believe. And it’s more important to address the reasons behind the cost of rising food, such as edible resources being directed toward alternative fuels, skyrocketing oil prices, and trade problems, than to enlighten consumers with another recipe for homemade pizza dough. I don’t want to see another news segment on a chipper Texas mom who makes her own detergent. Not that I don’t admire her ingenuity. I do.

Many of us can adapt to these higher prices, but I don’t want to accept them. I want food prices to come back down to Earth. It’s a political issue that belongs right up there with healthcare, energy, and the environment, because it’s all connected.

My mom and husband said I should return the butter, but I’m not going to. I’m going to freeze it, so at least it doesn’t go bad on me. And when berries are in season here in Georgia, I’m going to make a delicious crumble worthy of the caviar of butters. And next time I need butter I’m going to look into buying locally from an organic beef farm. Yes, I live the life of ridiculous privilege that spawned the hilarious Web site, Stuff White People Like.

I didn’t notice rising food prices until I took a hard look at my receipt, but those days are over. Not only will I check the price before tossing anything into my cart, but I’m going to put an end to food waste that goes on in our home. No more letting peppers rot in the fridge because I’m not in the mood for them. Our new creed: we paid for it, we’re eating it.

But I’m more interested in the big picture. What’s the next price gouge in store for us in this economy that’s not really a recession because we haven’t seen two consecutive quarters of negative growth? Higher energy costs to heat and cool our homes, check. Higher gas costs at the pump, check. I’m guessing the next thing I’ll be hearing about is the soaring price of toilet paper. No need to ponder why, because here are some fantastic ideas for making your own…

Article by Patti Ghezzi for DivineCaroline. First published April 2008.

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