Food Storage in Critical Greece
In my last frugal tips post, I gave you some standard, non-Greece-specific tips. But we are living in a special place at a special time, and that calls for some special tips!
I keep a price notebook (I’ll be sure to write a post about that soon!), so I know that the price of practically every product we buy has gone up at least once, and in some cases six times in the past six months.
I call that the increase in the price of food. I can hear you thinking, “that’s dumb. Just call it ‘inflation.'” I thought of that… but “inflation” is a term that the government uses to mean the increase in the price of everything except the things you actually buy, like food and gasoline.
So, the increase in the price of food: it’s a problem. Because the price of food is always going up, buying more food now, even if it’s not on sale, will nearly always save you money over buying the exact same food later.
Who would have thought that the price of salt would go up by over 50% last year? Salt. The stuff that has been sitting in the salt mine or the sea for a few bazillion years. It is neither getting harder to find nor more desirable. There was no sales tax increase during that time, and the price of gas actually went down. There is no rhyme or reason to price increases.
Unless “all prices will go up, all the time” is rhyme and reason enough for you.
Buy more now because it’s cheaper than buying it later. That’s a tip you can take to the bank, unless the bank collapses.
Another big issue in Greece is the currency problem. We use Euros right now to buy products, but we hear a lot of confused messages through the media about the future. Will Greece leave the Eurozone? No one seems to know – least of all those of us living here, trying to make things work on the ground – but no matter what we believe or to whom we listen, it would be foolish to pretend that there is not at least some level of doubt at this point as far as Greece’s future in the Eurozone.
If Greece ultimately chooses or is forced to leave the Eurozone, what would that mean?
Likely, it would mean hundreds of different things, some bad, some good, some completely unpredictable. But this post is dealing with food storage, so I want to address what affect Greece leaving the Eurozone would likely have on food storage strategies.
Right now, there is a good mix of products in the supermarkets: many are Greek, many are imported. The farmers’ market in our city has practically all Greek food items, and many imported non-food items. Some discount supermarkets, like Lidl, stock mostly imported items (but also some Greek items).
Greek supermarkets, both locally owned like Masoutis and AB, and those that belong to huge multinational corporations like Carrefour, all import products by sending Euros to their suppliers. If they start sending drachmas, most likely European products will go up in price, potentially very high. Right now, French meat is cheaper in Greece than Greek meat is. But if the French are demanding €6 / kg, and the Greek supermarkets have to pay that in drachmas, they’ll have to charge a lot more drachmas to cover it. Greek meat producers will be selling their meat in drachmas, meaning Greek meat will be much cheaper than French meat. Greek consumers will choose Greek meat, and French meat will disappear from supermarket shelves.
That doesn’t matter to us, of course. Meat is meat. But if there are products that we buy that are imported, we may have to pay a great deal more in drachmas, relative to our income, than we pay now in Euros; or we may not even be able to find those products at all. So nonperishable imported goods make great storage/stockpile items.
There’s another advantage to stocking up on imported goods. We buy them because we like them and use them, but there will be others who won’t buy them for storage. Those people may be willing to exchange other things for our stored imported goods. Barter has already begun in several parts of Greece, and in some areas has always existed. Having something other people want means you have “currency.” The value of the product depends not on what you paid, but on how much the other person wants it. So if it’s not available anywhere in the country, some people might want it badly.
We don’t use a great deal of imported goods, but we use some. Canned pineapple, canned and jarred jalapeno peppers, cranberry sauce, tampons, cheddar cheese.
Then there are all the products that say “Made in Greece” on them, but aren’t really. Chocolate doesn’t grow in Greece; neither does coffee, but both claim to be made in Greece. Both chocolate and coffee are likely to become more expensive if Greece leaves the Euro, and both make great trade items.
Another issue (that gives me goosebumps to think about) is the possible withdrawal of multinational corporations from the Greek food marketplace. Carrefour and Lidl are the two multinational corporations in our city that I use. It’s not unlikely that, in the event of a default and currency change, these companies could choose to leave Greece. Lidl’s main competitor in many countries, the hard discounter Aldi, had a bunch of stores in Greece until only about a year ago. Aldi chose to depart Greece, leaving Lidl without a serious competitor. Several local companies have gone belly-up as well.
If Lidl and Carrefour decide that drachmas aren’t worth their time, the prices at Greek-based supermarkets, which of course are much smaller, could go up significantly without that competitive pressure. So not only would we lose access to products that only those companies sell, but we may find ourselves paying more for everything at the stores that do remain.
That’s a reason to stock up on pretty much everything that won’t go bad.
Even if all the stores stay open, and all the various products, domestic and imported, stay on the shelves, a return to the drachma means that at least for a while, there will be a period of uncertainty, when the value of the currency will be changing and prices will be fluctuating. During that time, having a sizeable stockpile of food at home that can keep our family going for a few months to a year will give us food security and allow us to hold on to whatever money, in whatever form, we can get.
While it’s easy to put out of our minds and say “nothing like that has happened so far, so it probably won’t happen,” preparing a stockpile doesn’t have any downsides. We’re talking about food that doesn’t go bad, that’s stored properly according to what you use and like, that can potentially fill in for shortages, be used for trading / barter, and can allow us to go periods of time without spending money on food. Since we’re buying this food when it goes on sale, we’re also saving money over buying it when we realize we need it. And we’re buying it before the unavoidable increases in the price of food. So we’re doing a good thing here, folks.
To sum up: if the price of food is going up constantly, stay out in front of it as much as you can. If it looks like your country might leave a strong currency for a low-worth currency, get in imported food, tradeable food, and … edible food. It will be one fewer thing on your mind.