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Friday, December 24, 2010

Food Price Inflation Hidden in Packaging



Food Price Inflation. How long can food companies continue to hide inflation using their food packaging schemes?
It seems to us, at least where we live, that not only are food prices in general continuing to creep higher, but the packaging is cleverly getting smaller.
It’s almost like the reverse of how you don’t seem to notice your child growing bigger and taller, because it happens so slowly. Then one day, you suddenly notice how junior has grown.
Well, conversely, junior is shrinking when it comes to food packaging. Every once in a while, when grocery shopping, you pick up that package of xyz and you say to yourself, this box seems smaller than before!

The other day while shopping, I had noticed a brand of peanut butter that I had not seen displayed in a long time. Since I remember that I liked the taste of that brand years ago, I decided to splurge and buy it to see if it still held up to my recollection. I remarked to my wife how the price seemed not bad… until I picked it up and realized that the jar was smaller than it should be for that typical size-range that we were used to. I instantly could “tell” that the diameter of the jar was smaller than before.

Foods used to be packaged in sizes that were “even” ounces, or whole-number sizes that made sense like 16 oz. or 12 oz. etc…
Now, not only are there all sorts of odd sized packaging, but now you commonly see decimals! What is the sense of 14.3 ounces? The answer is, it makes sense to the bean counters at the food corporation to increase their profit margin, or to keep up with their own increased costs of production! Most likely that product used to be in a 16 ounce package. Packages are getting smaller and smaller.

Now lets do the math. Lets say that product xyz is priced $3.00, same as it was 4 months ago. However instead of being packaged in a 16 ounce container, now it is only 14.3 ounces. Some people may not even notice the small change in weight because of the clever way that the container and label are redesigned to “appear” that it hasn’t changed. Clever corporate marketing.
Well, that difference in weight (1.7 ounces) equals a 10 percent food price increase! Even with only a 1 ounce reduction of a 16 ounce package equals a 6 percent food price increase! This is a major way in which food companies have been hiding food price inflation.

Now, not only are the packages getting smaller, but they are raising food prices. That $3.00 xyz product not only went up 10 percent because of a downsized package, but they raised the price to $3.29, an 8 percent increase! Between the packaging change and the price increase, the food price has gone up 18 percent!
Another way of saying this is that the purchasing power of your dollar has decreased by 18 percent.

Now that we see what is happening with food prices, what is the best thing we can do?
Answer: Be aware of the corporate schemes and buy more food now, rather than later, because this will not stop.

The current economic mess and massive debt load of the USA and many other countries of the world is resulting in a purposeful faster devaluation of the currency. Without getting into the details of that, suffice it to say that inflation is here, and is going to get much worse in the future.
Stock up on food now. It makes financial sense. It makes preparedness sense.

Corporate scheming, trimming, squeezing, downsizing, profit optimizing, is nothing new. With regards to food packaging however, and although some may argue that food price inflation is tame, in my opinion the pace has increased of late, or at least I’m noticing an increase – like realizing that junior is growing up…
One danger I worry about with regards to foods and corporate optimization, are the substitutions that are put in food products in place of “real” food substances. We know it’s happening, and despite what the FDA says, it can’t be good. But that is for another post.
Most of us are used to seeing the “tags” on the grocery store shelves with the food, the ones that sometimes show price per unit. I say “most of us” and “sometimes” because it is not always the case. Evidently laws vary from state to state and certainly from country to country. All you can do is the best you can, try to determine the price per unit to compare and find a best deal.
Having said that, I have seen tags that indicate price per ounce (I like that) while others indicate price per serving (I do not like that), and still others do not indicate a price per unit at all (I definitely don’t like that). Foods priced on servings vary wildly and require a calculator to figure it all out at the grocery store – how annoying.
Soon enough, peanut butter will be sold in one-serving squeeze tubes instead of 18 ounce jugs, but will still cost you $3.00. That goes for the other food stuffs too (just using PB because it’s what set me off this weekend).

See who controls the food supply: List of Top 50 Supermarket Grocery Chains

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"And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows..."

Elisha I'm not, but I’ve previously written and posted a couple of articles on primitive weapons. The first article concentrated on pretty basic stuff like throwing sticks and such, the second on a more advanced ones, like the sling. This third one is about bows, which are likely at the top of the heap in non-gunpowder weapons.

There are several good arguments for including some sort of bow in your planning. The first of which is that the bow is likely the most lethal of the non-firearm weapons. Using modern arrows tipped with razor-edged broad-heads traveling at a couple of hundred feet per second, you can count on penetration and killing damage if you hit the target properly.

The second reason to choose a bow is range. Generally, you can place an accurate shot out to 40 or 50 yards without an unreasonable amount of practice, and an expert bowman might take a shot on a large target like an elk out to 70 yards, but as accurate arrow placement is critical in dropping big game, shorter is usually better. Still, the bow outranges everything else except firearms.

Another reason to consider bows is the question of maintenance and ammunition re-supply. Generally, arrows can be recovered and reused without the need for additional equipment and supplies, unlike firearms. They are simple to maintain, and what parts you need are cheap and easily replaced by most people. This may not be strictly true in the case of some compound bows that require ‘tuning’. Still, the likelihood of you being able to maintain and repair your bow are far higher in my opinion than your chances of being able to maintain firearms and a supply of ammunition over the long term.

Of course, even the most careful archer will lose or break arrows and strings or even the bow itself. The advantage the archer has is that with again a not unreasonable amount of practice and skill, he can manufacture ammunition, parts, or the whole weapon! Other advantages of bows include the near silence of operation and the low carrying weight of the weapon and ammunition.

That said, taking a bow to a gun fight is usually bad news for the bowman. Despite their occasional use by special forces and guerillas, the likely defensive use for bows is limited to the occasional silent ambush. The more proper role for the bow in survival is as a supplement to firearms. As mentioned previously, ammunition will eventually run out if things are bad enough for long enough, and having a bow and some skill in its use will push the day when you fire your last bullet further into the future.

There are three broad classes of bows to choose from. The first of these is the compound bow (see picture above). Using a system of eccentric pulleys, the compound bow allows for a ‘let-off’ of a certain proportion of the bow’s draw weight, making it easier to wield a more powerful bow with less effort. They tend to shoot arrows in a flat, fast trajectory, and are a popular choice.

The second type of bow is the ‘simple’ bow, either re-curved or longbow style (A re-curve is pictured here). Simpler in construction, they require more skill to use, but generally are lighter than a compound bow and easier to maintain. Essentially having only two components (the stave and the bowstring), they are deceptively simple in structure. This type of bow is also the ‘easiest’ to manufacture from available materials.

If I was choosing between these two types my choice would be the traditional bow over the compound, but I’ve shot and enjoyed both.

A third type of bow you might want to consider is the crossbow. The crossbow has two main advantages. The first is that the draw weight is far higher than with the other two bows, giving the bolts (not arrows!) a lot more kinetic energy upon release. The second is that it most often has a rifle style stock and trigger, and is sighted much like a rifle, so the transition from rifle to crossbow may be easier for some people. It also retains most of the simplicity of the traditional bow, and both crossbow and the ammunition for it can also be built from scratch.

The downside is that due to its high draw weight, the crossbow is more difficult to reset, which leads to a slower rate of fire. It also tends to weigh more than traditional bows, and that combined with the difficulty of cocking it may make the crossbow a less than ideal choice for people of smaller stature. Additionally, it can be somewwhat more complicated mechanically, although this depends on the maker.

Finally a word about the ammunition for bows, whether arrows or crossbow bolts. There are many different types available. There is of course the traditional razor edged broad-head, which will do fearful damage to any living thing hit solidly. Additionally, there are ‘blunts’ for hunting birds or other small game, as well as arrows designed for fishing, complete with attached fishing line. These tips are usually interchangeable, and make the bow a very useful and versatile weapon.

So there you have it. Bows don’t replace firearms, but they are an incredibly efficient and economical addition to any survival ‘battery’. So give some thought, and see if you can’t get in touch with your inner Robin Hood…

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