Got home from our road trip late Saturday afternoon to find two inches of rain in our rain gauge, multiple ripe yellow squash and zucchini, and some angry yellow jackets living in one of our woodpiles. The dog was delighted to see us, as was our daughter, who had been house sitting.
The trip itself went well. Here on the East Coast, I continue to see plenty of 18-wheelers on the highways but fewer RVs and tower campers on the highway. It is a sad sign indeed when money is so tight you cannot afford to go camping.
We saw gas from $3.69 to $4.19, but diesel remains in the $5 to $5.29 in most places. We made some stops and some observations on the way home, which I share below.
The Bee Business
We stopped by a large beekeeper supply company and picked up some woodenware and dozens of plastic honey bottles and a few more quart jars. I now have enough bottles to hold 192 pounds of honey. I expect this will carry me through the rest of this year and through the first harvest or two in 2023. Our next harvest will be in three weeks, and I am planning to inspect the hives early this coming week to see how they are progressing on the latest batch of honey.
I was able to speak with the family that owns the bee supply store. They said business was strong, but added it usually is when the economy is bad. That surprised me. I hadn’t realized beekeeping was reverse-cyclical. I would be interested if it is because people want to make some money or provide some of their own food. Perhaps people can’t afford to take their boat to the lake, so they stay home and tend their bees. In any case, I found it to be an interesting data point.
Sam’s Club Trip
I like to visit Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Costco stores when we are on the road and compare their inventory to ours. While we could not stop in a Walmart, we visited a Sam’s Club I had never been to. It was in a mid-sized city in the middle of a Southern state. Why did we pick this club? Because it was close to the Interstate and we were passing by not long after it opened.
The store was crowded, but that’s probably because it was in a city and it’s a weekend. It was also pretty full of non-food items. They had extra pallets in the drinks and paper products areas and sticking out into some aisles. These were loaded with non-food items, from kitchen goods to paper products. They had Kleenex brad facial tissues for sale. They offered sixteen of 150-count boxes for less than the 12-count of similar Members Mark boxes. I snapped one of these up. I know most people stock toilet paper, but I like to keep facial tissue as well.
There were a few things on our shopping list they did not have in stock. Two surprised me because they are things I have always seen at Sam’s: Black olives and extra virgin olive oil. I’m used to seeing multiple plastic bottles and cans of extra virgin olive oil, but all they had was “light olive oil.” Sounds suspicious to me. We opted not to get it. They had three different kinds of green olives, including what looked to be a gallon jar, but no ripe, black olives. Usually they have sliced or whole black olive in a can, sometimes both. I have to wonder if this is related to the shortage of cooking oil because of the Ukraine war.
They also had only one kind of rice and it was in 50-pound bags. I’m old enough to remember when Sam’s stocked five or six SKUs of rice.
Prices were high. We spent about $320 and didn’t have much to show for it. A year ago, the same products would have cost around $200.
We ended up buying $142 worth of meat, all of which went into our cooler with a bag of ice for the long drive home. The Rib Eye steaks that had dropped from their peak of $15.98 to $12.98 were now $10.98 per pound. I bought two packages. We also got lamb chops, which are often out of stock, and beef sausage. I also stocked up on bacon, as we were down to only two pounds in our freezer. The thick-cut bacon was $5.75 per pound. Still about twice what it was prior to the pandemic, but $1 less per pound than it was at the peak.
I estimate that this is 18 to 20 dinners and enough bacon for at 50 to 60 breakfasts. And since I am not paying $4 or $5 for a dozen eggs, I don’t mind having some expensive bacon with my breakfast. I have cut back on how much bacon I eat at each meal, however.
Dairy products were also up in price. We paid $14.58 for four pounds of Members Mark butter. That’s $3.65 per pound. In March 2021, the same butter was $7.78. That’s an 87 percent increase in 16 months.
The cheese we buy jumped from 6.98 to 8.18, a 17 percent increase. That was one of the lower prices increases. About the only thing that didn’t go up in price was their sliced salami. I’m not sure, but I think the package is smaller than it used to be.
Flour was almost $14 for a 25-pound bag. That’s almost double the $7.49 I paid in January 2021.
I bought two only items that went into our prepper pantry. Most of our money is going to the food we plan to eat now.
The Mood of the Public
People were not unfriendly. (Are they ever in the South?) They were happy to complain about the state of affairs. The cost of food was on everyone’s mind, and there was palatable gratefulness that the price of gas was dropping.
We avoided large cities, and we saw no violence, but I can’t help but feel people are holding their breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe it will be in Taiwan. Perhaps it will be in Iran. In any case, I think there is a general sense things will get worse before they get better.
I am inclined to agree.
Video of the Day – Hard Times
Here’s a video up-and-coming blues musician Christone Ingram, known as Kingfish, recorded at the beginning of the pandemic. The lyrics to his version of the classic “Hard Times” are even more applicable today.