January 18, 2011 / 5:38 AM / 7 years ago

Are you financially ready for a food crisis?

Vendors sell vegetables at a wholesale vegetable market in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh January 17, 2011. REUTERS/Ajay Verma

By now, you have probably seen the headlines about runaway food inflation and the challenges that the authorities are facing in bringing prices down. This is not just an issue in India.

In fact, UN experts are predicting a food crisis in the coming months with prices at decade long highs and supply of basic food crops having become constrained due to bad weather and poor harvests. Are you financially ready for a food crisis?

First of all, lets clarify that we are not trying to raise an alarm and make a bigger deal out of something that has already received much media coverage. All we are trying to do is to force you take 10 minutes to think about how it will affect you financially if food costs do indeed go sky high the way some prophets of doom are predicting.

What will you be able to afford, and how much of a compromise will you have to make? Its worth taking a pause to think about this before the crisis unfold, if at all it does, because now is the time to start changing your habits.

1. Create a food budget: Do you know how much you spend every week or month on food? How much do you spend on eating out or takeaways, or do you mostly cook your own food? No one has an infinite budget, so the amount you can spend on food is limited. Eating out costs more than eating in. Exotic vegetables cost more than seasonals. By creating a budget you will now what you are spending your food money on, accordingly make adjustments where needed.

2. Be smart about eating out: Eating in every day can get boring, and everyone deserves a break. You can be smart about eating out by choosing family friendly restaurants that offer happy hour pricing or two for the price of one deals. Additionally, many restaurants or takeaway also offer discount coupons. There is no shame in using them.

3. Change your diet: We aren’t suggesting that you should starve. But, if food affordability gets stretched, this constraint might just be the catalyst that finally helps you act on your new year’s resolution to start dieting. Dieting doesn’t have to mean you eat fewer meals, just eat smartly.

The world over people have shown that they can respond to food constraints. For instance, during World War 2 rationing of food was introduced in many countries, and eating habits changed. In an extreme situation, you too can change your diet.

4. Save more: All of us have been taught to save for a rainy day. Well, if the worst case arises and food prices rise further, then we’d be glad we saved because we will need all the extra money to buy food. Set aside some money every month towards a contingency fund and put it in an instrument where you will earn an after tax rate higher than consumer inflation.

Being better prepared usually means that one can withstand shocks a little better than those who are caught by surprise. If a food price shock does happen, don’t say you weren’t given enough time to prepare for it.

Copyright 2011 iTrust Financial Advisors Private Limited. All rights reserved.

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