Know How Much Food Costs
I read Lifehacker occasionally, usually to educate myself on aspects of life I don’t know too much about. As I currently work in a grocery store, I peruse their posts on food budgeting as well. They recently linked to one man’s journal on trying live on $35 dollars a week. It’s definitely a work in progress (spending over $3.50 on a loaf of bread is anathema), but it reminds me I really should share the knowledge I’ve garnered over the months. So here’s one entry of many to educate on everything food.
Prices. Many people usually gawk at the prices for peppers and cherries, but they probably wouldn’t if they thought of all the work and effort that goes into growing, gathering, packaging, and transporting food. There’s a transparency missing to how much things should actually cost, stemming from the basic difference between use value and exchange value. As David Harvey notes:
All the commodities we buy in a capitalist society have a use value and an exchange value. The difference between the two forms of value is significant. To the degree they are often at odds with each other they constitute a contradiction, which can, on occasion, give rise to a crisis. (Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, page 15.)
Use values usually stay the same, but exchange values can wildly fluctuate. For this reason, people don’t know how much things cost. Or if they do, they typically only know the general prices of a few basic staples (milk, eggs, bread, etc). I’ve seen store brand milk go up 40 cents over the past couple months; I wonder how many people have noticed.
My basic point is this: keep track of food costs. Educate yourself so you know what’s a good deal, and what isn’t. This requires keeping track of sales, whether by memory or through your own price ledger. There is no such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism, but at least learn from your surroundings and save yourself some money.