The world around us seems to be changing on a daily basis and one of the biggest changes is in the grocery store. Prices just keep going up and up. I can do without a lot of things, but food isn't one of them. Call me crazy...I'm just that way.
Luckily, I love to cook because eating out is getting less and less frequent. So when it is time to make a trip to the grocery store, I look for bargains, clip coupons, shop around for large inexpensive cuts of meat that do well in a slow cooker and scout out in-store specials that I can stock up on and put in my freezer. We're also eating more vegetarian types of meals. And despite the fact that I love fresh fish and really miss eating it on a regular basis, it's become a treat instead of a staple because I can't justify $10.00 a pound for something as ordinary as salmon. I know I'm not alone in this and every time I look at the numbers as they add up on the cash register screen at check out, I wonder how large families do it.
Truth is, we are all making choices and learning to do without, but some of those choices aren't so easy, including the one I've been faced to make about my morning coffee. Several years ago, back in the day when the economy was hopping and we were all making money, I subscribed to a program with Starbucks where they shipped my choice of coffee directly to me. Every 6 weeks like clock work I could count on finding my Starbucks fix on my doorstep and I'd rip open the box with all the excitement of a kid at Christmas. I could hardly wait until morning when I could grind up those dark, rich, wonderful beans and start my day with a hot cup of deliciousness. Starbucks eventually eliminated the service, but I was OK because by then it was available at my local grocery store. Sure, they didn't have the fancy blends that I had grown accustom to, but they had French Roast and some other favorites so life was good.
Fast forward to two years ago when we started seeing a downturn in business. That's when the price of Starbucks began approaching $9.00 a bag in my grocery store, and I started looking for less expensive alternatives as way to save some money. After several less than satisfactory experiments I found Eight O'Clock's Italian Roast. It was half the price and I grew to like it almost as much as Starbucks, so life was good again. In the last two weeks, though, that same coffee has shot up to $7.00, a price increase of about $1.72 a bag, or about 33%! That's not a lot of money by itself, but combine that with increases in every other consumer item and you can hear wallets screaming from every corner of this country, including mine.
Today at the store, I watched a woman who picked up a small head of lettuce, saw the price, and put it back on the shelf, saying to whoever was listening "I just won't buy it at that price". In the world of real estate, they would refer to this as a buyer's market, I suppose. But in real estate, if buyers aren't buying, the price of a home usually comes down. Unfortunately, as consumers in every other part of life, it's not so simple. We can't negotiate the price of that head of lettuce by suggesting to the produce manager, "Throw in the bag of carrots and we have a deal". We may be buyers, but we have absolutely no bargaining power whatsoever at the grocery store or the gas pump or just about any place else and that's a very scary scenario for all of us. Sure, we can go to one gas station over another and save a couple of cents a gallon, or we can choose to buy our our groceries at one store instead of another because of what's on sale that week. But at the end of the day, all we're really doing is reacting to what is being placed on our backs. The choices we make, make no difference in the bigger scheme of things.
True confession: When I started to write this post, my intent was to use the story about the price of coffee as a funny antedote about life and how I was pretty darn upset because now the economy was affecting my morning cup of coffee. But the more I wrote, the more angry and truly dismayed I became at the serious situation we are in as a country. I've watched as good friends in this business have lost their homes because their income has been slashed as result of the down turn (what a nice way to put it) in the economy and the local real estate market. I've watched as our MLS Board has dwindled to half of what it was when I got into this business because there aren't enough transactions going on for people to make a living.
Among the choices we do have at our disposal is who we elect to run the country. But I no longer have any confidence in either party and if I'm not careful, this seemingly simple post about the cost of a cup of coffee will digress into a political diatribe....but I don't have the energy for that today. Trying to stay optimistic...trying to figure out how to make a living takes all the energy I can muster. Maybe if I go make a pot of that $7.00 coffee I'll feel better about it all.
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