On being ... an opportunity to think twice

By Ingrid Sapona 

I’ve never considered myself a glass half full type. But, having found a way to put a positive spin on the current bout of inflation, maybe I am an optimist. (In case you missed it, that last sentence was an example of my new outlook: I’m trying to feel confident these high prices won’t last – in other words, that it’s just a bout of inflation.) 

Friends’ reactions to price increases over the past three or four months have been interesting. At first, other than the price at the pump, it seemed my friends didn’t really even notice the price of things going up. Part of the reason may have been that in January and February, what was of more concern was that some things were hard to get. The grocery stores around here seemed unable to get certain items. For example, for awhile it was hard to find cereal. So, when the shelves were finally refilled, paying $5.29 for a box I could have sworn I paid $3.98 for last time I bought it was surprising, but not jarring. Naturally I bought it – I was happy they had it! 

The first time I really took note of the price of groceries going up was when I wanted some mushrooms. I buy them quite regularly and $2.99/lb has been the going price for a long time. Suddenly I couldn’t find whole mushrooms – cremini or white – for under $3.99/lb! Pork tenderloin is another near-staple for me. Around here it goes on sale often – on a rotating basis from store-to-store – so I never used to pay more than $3.49/lb for it. In March or so I noticed the sale flier price was now $4.99/lb. 

When I realized the prices for mushrooms and pork tenderloin were not returning to “normal”, I began paying attention to other items I typically just tossed into my cart. Hmmm… a bag of Smart Food (cheddar-flavoured popcorn, for those not familiar with the brand) … last summer it was $2.79 but now it’s $3.89. Do I really want it? Well, yes, it is our favourite snack on an afternoon sail. What about that can of hard cider that used to cost $2.95. Now it’s $4.10. Do I really want it? Is it that special? And those cookies that used to cost $1.99 a box that are now $2.79. It was always debatable about whether they’re worth the calories, but at this price, it’s much easier to take a pass on them. And what about that spicy edamame and kale dip I had at a friend’s house. Delish! But $4.99 for 8 oz.! Really? Well, maybe as a special treat, I rationalized to myself as I put it in my cart. 

I know, considering each item sounds a bit over the top, not to mention time consuming. But so what if it takes a bit longer to shop? Paying more attention to what I buy – and what I’m willing to pay for something – is a good thing, I think. No, it doesn’t necessarily translate into healthier food choices – or even noticeable savings. But for sure there’s nothing wrong with being more mindful about what I buy. So now, though I shake my head every time I look at my grocery bill, rather than get mad, I acknowledge how tremendously lucky I am that food is readily available to me and that I have the means to pay for it. I realize that’s not the reality for untold millions throughout the world. 

As I mentioned, the one cost increase many friends have noticed – and are feeling – is the price at the pump. Regular gas in the Toronto area is about CDN $1.98/litre, which translates to about US $5.85/gallon. So, it’s no wonder that a friend, who I’ve never known to so much as comment on the price of things, complained this week after it cost him $120 to fill up his Audi. It was only in January that a fill up cost him a mere $85. I think I’d complain too... That said, any time a friend who doesn’t have to make a daily commute complains to me about the cost of a fill up, I remind them that they can save money – and the planet – by simply driving less. I’m not sure they appreciate my encouraging them to see the price as reason to assess how badly they want to drive someplace, but that’s a calculation I go through when I’m thinking about heading out somewhere in the car. 

What about you? How are you coping with prices going up and up and up? Have you changed what you buy? Have you switched to cheaper alternatives? Are you trying to get buy with less? Or maybe you’re like me and continually reassessing what constitutes a splurge? 

© 2022 Ingrid Sapona


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