Friday, December 17, 2021

Food prices

This is Joseph.

There as a good article on rising food prices recently. In it, there was discussion of how a basket of goods had become expensive. Some commentators focused on the presence of Lindt chocolate: 
First, there’s a distinct “people on a budget don’t deserve nice chocolate” vibe to many of these comments, which I take umbrage with. Food shaming is pervasive on social media, whether it’s people yucking other people’s yums on a recipe post, commenting on what or how much they are eating, or acting like spending money on a pre-chopped salad kit is tantamount to burning down an orphanage.

And while I agree learning to cook is an important life skill and the best form of self-care you can engage in, there are lots of reasons people lean on convenience food — chief among them being convenience, which is right there in the name. Time is our most valuable finite resource, especially in a world that demands a lot of it.

You can see the chocolate below:

I see three bars of decent chocolate, of the type that people usually eat small pieces of mixed in with actual vegetables and lean chicken breast. I see a lot of bagels and some chips. This is a person who probably either lives alone or lacks the time to do a lot of cooking. I can totally see that. Meal preparation is labor intensive and it is easy to imagine reasons that one might not want to do a ton of it -- especially as time costs don't do a lot of scaling so it helps when somebody else can take a turn or do the dishes.

But finally, I want to argue that this is also the most counterproductive line of attack on this basket of good. Saving a small amount of money to buy the higher sugar/fat cheap chocolate seems like it makes this basket worse, not better. 

Finally, low food prices are a good thing. Full stop. High food prices mean hunger and, in a world of spiraling housing costs, budgets are not often able to handle new forms of inflation. We want people to buy  bar of Lindt chocolate (or any mid-range brand) and not feel like their budget is being stressed. It was once a sign of prosperity and political success for middle class working people to be able to afford decent food. 

That said, Mark covers the "how to shop effectively for food" beat much better than I and may well have some counterpoints. 

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