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Prairie Fare: Don’t break the bank this holiday season

The cost of food has increased by nearly 11% during the past year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.

“I am only going to put up a few decorations for the holidays,” I mentioned to my husband. “We will keep it simple.”

I don’t think he believed me.

“OK, I’ll bring up the tubs,” he said.

As I began looking through about eight large tubs, the items made me think about our kids’ younger years and their early crafts. Soon the handprint reindeer was on our tree, along with lightbulb snowmen with goofy grins. I added numerous ornaments with their smiling school pictures.

During my trip down memory lane, my husband was busy doing snow removal and errands. When he returned home, the holidays had exploded.

I had put up at least 100 snowmen, five wreaths, holiday pillows and blankets. I had decorated one large tree and four small ones.

“Wow! We are really going ‘simple’ this year,” he said with a smirk.

“I will leave all the snowmen up until spring,” I replied. “Then we won’t have to put them away for a while.”

I truly do not need any more holiday decor.

You might be hearing in the media that people are buying a lot of goods right now. Costs for nearly everything from food to cars have increased. Interest rates have risen for those who want to make a major purchase, such as a new vehicle or a home.

The cost of food has increased by nearly 11% during the past year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. Food is a major cost, whether you eat at restaurants or prepare food at home.

Many restaurants have needed to raise their prices because the cost of their ingredients and their labor costs have increased.

If you bake special treats for the holidays, you may have experienced “shrinkflation” without realizing it. To cut costs, some food companies are reducing the amount of product in their packages while keeping the prices the same.

For example, you might not notice that a cereal box or snack item has less product in it, but the prices may be the same or greater. Consumers are more likely to notice an increase in price than a slight decrease in the weight of the food.

Food manufacturers must correctly state the net weight of the contents on the front of the package. Check and compare the cost per unit.

Several years ago I noticed the occurrence of “shrinkflation.” When I baked a cake in a 13-by-9-inch pan, the cake was much shorter than I expected. I thought something was wrong with our oven.

In the past decade or so, cake mixes shrank in weight from about 18.25 ounces down to 15.25 ounces.

You may have noticed that the typical 5-pound bag of sugar from a few years ago has shrunk to 4 pounds. Some types of pasta, ice cream and some canned food containers also contain less product.

What’s a person to do to be a savvy consumer while making a memorable holiday in the kitchen and beyond? These are some tips.

  • Be sure to set a budget about how much you plan to spend on gifts, food and travel. While credit cards are tempting and convenient, remember that the interest rates on credit cards provide long-term financial issues.
  • Instead of footing the bill for a party for everyone, host a potluck. Keep it easy by setting a theme such as “appetizers and desserts.” Be the person who brings the fun vegetable tray with dip arranged as a snowman or wreath.
  • Have kids set a wish list and remind them they will not receive every item on their list.
  • Consider drawing names instead of giving everyone a gift. Set a budget limit for the gift price.
  • Provide gifts of your time, such as kid-sitting or cleaning windows.
  • Try do-it-yourself food gifts. See ag/quick-mixes for beverages, quick breads, soups and cookies you can make as gift mixes in a jar or other container.

Here’s a tasty dip that may entice your friends to eat more vegetables at your next holiday gathering.

Spinach and Kale Greek Yogurt Dip

16 ounces fat-free plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dill (fresh or dried)
1 cup kale, finely chopped
1 cup spinach, finally chopped
1/3 cup bell pepper, minced
1/3 cup carrot, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste (if desired)

Veggies (green pepper, red pepper, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, celery, etc.)

Mix ingredients in a bowl. Add chopped vegetables and stir well. Chill for two hours. Serve with a variety of fresh vegetables.

Makes 14 servings. Each 1/4-cup serving has 35 calories, 1 gram (g) fat, 3 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber and 40 milligrams sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson).


NDSU Agriculture Communication – Dec. 8, 2022

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, 701-231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu

Editor: Elizabeth Cronin, 701-231-5391, elizabeth.cronin@ndsu.edu


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