The End of Cheap Food

Before World War II, most families spent a third or more of their income on food, as the poor majority in developing countries still do. But after the war a series of radical changes, from mechanisation to the green revolution, raised agricultural productivity hugely and caused a long, steep fall in the price of food, to a tenth of many people’s income.


It will probably return to a quarter of a family’s income within a decade, or higher, from four factors:


We have come to expect that food is cheap and easy to get ahold of, and odds are good that this situation won’t last much longer, as the article linked to above explains. Living without access to oil is an inconvenience; living without food is a death sentence.

One of the best ways to adapt to this change is to start learning how to grow your own food. Put in some garden beds. Read about permaculture and edible landscaping. At the same time, learn how to prepare and enjoy local, seasonal foods if you don’t already do so. Fresh, tropical fruits, chocolate and the like will probably become luxuries for the wealthy or a special present/treat. Same with imported wines & beers. You can make wonderful wines out of native grapes or other fruits, yet the dominance of classical vinifera grapes has relegated these ‘rustic’ gems to the sidelines.

We’re seeing the first stages of food inflation already, whether it’s talk of skyrocketing tortilla prices in Mexico, or rising dairy & meat costs here, or Australian wines getting more expensive thanks to their drought. I doubt this is a short-term problem, for food demand is inelastic, and we’re doing a better job of degrading farmland rather than enhancing it. An increasing population competing for flat or falling food supplies means higher prices. This isn’t something that we can hoard our way through, folks.

If you need more inspiration check out any of the linked sites here in the ‘Food’ section. Path to Freedom is an especially good site for those of us living in the city or the suburbs, for it shows what you can do if you put your mind to it. The time to learn new skills is now, before we may need to rely on them.


HT: The Oil Drum


3 Responses to The End of Cheap Food

  1. Jim says:

    Don’t discount the value of hoarding. The old farmers I knew in my youth were hoarders. They grew big gardens and canned whatever they didn’t eat on the spot or share with neighbors. If canned goods or dry goods went on sale at the grocery store, they bought cases of the stuff. The new reality is a permanent condition, but part of it will be wild fluctuations in prices and availability of goods. Putting up stock during the fat times will be an important practice.

    I’ve been trying to accumulate a stash of food to smooth out any bumps. I like the Mormon approach of stockpiling enough to last a year.

  2. Bart says:

    There’s nothing wrong with having a large stock of food on hand… this was considered common sense 100 years ago and probably will be again if/when supermarkets start having supply issues. You’re right that it’ll be an important practice again, which is one of the reasons I’ve been trying my hand at salsa making and other similar techniques recently.

    The last few times I’ve been to the grocery store I’ve looked at the 25 pound bags of rice and have considered picking one up instead of the small 1 pound bags we normally do. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper to buy in bulk, and if stored properly it’ll last a very long time indeed.

    I’m thinking about buying a grain mill and then buying unmilled wheat in bulk… freshly-ground flour tastes better from what I’ve read, and the grains will last a long time again if you don’t grind them up.

  3. […] and the net result will be you and I paying more for pretty much everything sooner or later. Food inflation is a worry I’ve mentioned before, but if this trend continues we’ll see the same problems for other goods and services. Our […]

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