March 01, 2016 | By: Alan McQuarrie

The New Normal in the Universe.

Scientists recently discovered by observation what Einstein had predicted in theory; that our world is awash in gravitational waves. Gravitational waves - - in theory these are ripples through space time and are generated by the motion of anything massive through space.  Fortunately, this theory has now explained to my wife what was hitherto a mystery.  Are my rumpled clothes on the floor? - gravitational waves.  Is the seat raised in the bathroom? -  gravitational waves.  Is our bedding in disarray after she gets up early?  You guessed it.  Now we know.  But as much as I would like to blame a phenomenon of physics for my messy ways, my wife cannot be fooled.

There is another kind of wave set to wreak havoc on consumers.  The inflationary wave is having a profound impact on the prices of food.  Food prices rose an average of 3.7% in Canada last year.  For the average family, that meant an increase of $325 in grocery costs last year with a projected increase of $350 this year.  Some parts of your grocery bill are set to rise faster than others.  Expect the cost of produce and meat to rise 4.5% in 2016.  All of this makes it very difficult to maintain the average family budget.  Welcome to the new normal.  The increases in food costs are here to stay.  

The family grocery budget in most households has not increased to match the rise in food costs.  Yet adequate nutrition is fundamental for good health.  Here are strategies to maintain an adequate diet and still stick to your budget.  

  1. Make a list and stick to it before you shop.  A list can help you avoid impulse purchases for expensive or non necessary food items. 
  2. Do your research to find food bargains.  Use a phone app like “ Flipp” or “ Redflagdeals” to find the best prices on the items on your list. Avoid making multiple trips to different stores; select a store that will price match.
  3. Incorporate lower priced alternatives into your recipes like pulses (beans, peas and lentils) to get adequate protein instead of expensive cuts of red meat.  Choose frozen vegetables over fresh, imported, out of season vegetables. 
  4. Never shop when you are hungry.  That will certainly lead to exceeding your budget.
  5. Make the most of leftovers.  A tremendous amount of food we buy often ends in the garbage pail.  Plan ahead and make several meals out of a food item that is too large to eat at once.     

If food prices continue to rise, we could see a tidal wave of price increases; causing a dramatic effect on your budget.  It’s time now to take the steps to prepare for the new normal of increased costs, like trying to pay down your debt.  With little to no debt, you can quickly make the adjustments to your budget. 

The new normal will require us to get used to rapidly changing costs for everything from clothing to shelter to food, to energy.  While gravitational waves are likely not a cause for concern, the same cannot be said for inflationary waves.  Don’t be caught off guard.  If you need assistance paying down your debt, it may be time to see your credit counsellor.  


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