Skyrocketing Food Prices Due to Current Events: What You Can Do About It

What to do about skyrocketing food prices
Did you know that Russia and Ukraine grow about 30 percent of the world's wheat? (They are the world's top and fifth exporters, respectively.) Did you also know that American wheat farmers are finding they can't sell their wheat? The middlemen are afraid to buy the grain at its current high price (up 30 percent) because they fear they'll be unable to make a profit - or worse, may go backward financially? What are the consequences of these facts?

Major news outlets are saying many countries, including Egypt, Congo, Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen will face a real starvation crisis, as they buy most of their wheat from the region. (Ukraine has also stopped exports of other important food crops, adding to the potentially catastrophic effect.) I think we can expect to see humanitarian organizations develop a great need for money and supplies to feed these people. I think our government may end up sending some U.S.-grown wheat and other foodstuffs overseas. I pray circumstances won't lead to such a lack of food that civil unrest ensues.

For the U.S., the war in Ukraine aggravates an already troubled market. As of late February 2022, only 25 percent of the wheat grown in Kansas (the U.S.'s top producer of the crop) are in good condition, due to dry weather. Fertilizer costs are soaring, since they are derived from oil. Russia and Belarus make 42 percent of the world's potash - a vital soil amendment farmers rely on. Nitrogen, also an important commercial farm input, is made from natural gas - a top export from Russia. Add to this the rising cost of fuel for tractors and other farm equipment and the difficulty in getting certain supplies (like tires, tractors parts, and so on), and you can see American farmers are facing great difficulties. (EDIT 3-24/22: President Biden recently said, "With regard to food shortages. Yes, we did talk about food shortages. And, and it's gonna be real." See the footage here.)

Now add on manufacturing and distribution woes like shortages in containers, increased costs in making plastic containers (because they are petroleum products), costs of trucking, etc., - not to mention overall high inflation - and you can see that Americans can expect to see even higher food prices in the near future. (As an aside, did you know the government changed the way it calculated inflation in 1980? The new way makes inflation seem lower. But if you use the same method to calculate inflation as was used in the 1970s, current inflation is much worse than it was during the Carter administration.)

And it's not just wheat products like bread, cereal, and baked goods that are increasing in price. It's also vegetables (due to skyrocketing costs in fertilizer and duel) and meat. (Why meat? Because in commercial farming, nearly all animals are fed grain.)

Maybe it's because I've been reading and watching a lot about rationing during World War II, but I can't help but draw parallels. England found itself in a real bind because it relied so heavily on foreign countries to grow its food; they had to scramble to become more self-sufficient when it became evident the Nazis were going to do everything possible to cut off their food imports. By the end of WWII, rations were quite measly, even with donations of food and seeds from the United States.

English rations at the beginning of World War II.

I'm not anti-imports, but I do think that as a nation we need to learn from history and re-examine our reliance on other countries for important basics.

What Can the Average Person Do?

If you don't yet homestead, or you don't grow or raise most of your food, you will be hit harder by this tornado of problems than those who do. BUT that doesn't mean there's nothing you can do to make rising food costs less onerous. First, I recommend you start or expand your deep pantry - that is, shelf-stable foods you keep on hand. I've written a whole article about how to do this; click here to read it.

You can also make connections with local ranchers now, before they are totally inundated with requests for meat. Buy a quarter or a half of beef (learn how here) or a pig. Become acquainted with and purchase from farmers who offer chicken or smaller-animal meats for sale. Happily for those who don't have large freezers, it's increasingly common for ranchers or farmers to allow consumers to buy just a few cuts at a time; some offer monthly subscription boxes, too. (Do try to keep it local, though. By doing so, your costs should be a bit lower, plus you'll support your local farmer and keep money in your local community.) It's also smart to learn to pressure can, so you can store more meat while using up less freezer space.

Local food is usually less expensive, allows you to preserve at a discount, and supports your community. Photo courtesy of Edgar Zuniga Jr.

While you're at it, get to know the farmers at your local farmer's market. Buy from them. When veggies or fruit are in season, buy in bulk and learn to can and freeze (and maybe dehydrate or freeze-dry) the food.

Start growing something. Even if you live in a city, you may be able to get space to grow food at a community garden. Or you can grow herbs on your windowsill, or tomatoes on your balcony. Every bit will help.

You can also stock up on flour, beans, oats, and other dried carbohydrates. Buy big bags at Costco, a restaurant supply store, or Walmart; seal them in Mylar bags, and store those in air-tight buckets. (There are tips for this type of food storage at The Pantry Mama.)

I also recommend you think about how you would eat if flour and grain products were expensive or difficult to come by. Maybe it's time to give that healthy low-carb diet a try ;)

What Can Homesteaders Do?

First, I encourage you to use this spring to start or expand your vegetable garden. Call it a Victory Garden, if you like. This will put a good dent in your grocery bill, and can make you less reliant on grains. (Because you'll be eating more veggies in place of those grains.) It will also give you the ability to share with others who may need a helping hand with food.

WWII Victory Gardens need a comeback.

I've heard a few homesteaders say they are giving up raising animals because they expect the cost of feed to skyrocket. I counter that the skyrocketing of feed makes now an excellent time to raise your own meat. After all, commercial ranchers will be passing on the high cost of feed to packagers and packagers will pass it on to consumers...and the cost of butchering, packaging, and transportation - not to mention profit - will all be added on to the cost of store-bought meat. Therefore, homestead-raised meat will be less expensive than store-bought - especially if you raise those animals thoughtfully.

For example, a neighbor recently offered us some goat kids, and while I love goats and have always wanted some, we cannot yet raise them on pasture. (Our fencing is fine for sheep, but not nearly strong enough for goats, who like to climb things. We are not in a position right now to add goat-proof fencing, even if we could find the supplies to do so.) That means any goats we'd keep wouldn't have much in the way of grass and weeds to browse, so we'd have to feed them mostly store-bought food; knowing grain prices are going up, I think this is not the right choice for us right now.

Use animal tractors, when possible. Photo courtesy of Jessica Reeder.

I'm also eye-balling more ways to feed our rabbits and chickens fresh food, rather than store-bought pellets. I don't feel I can tractor either of these animals, given predation on our homestead, but I can grow more vegetables for livestock. I can also be sure to give our rabbits and chickens more weeds from our land. (Be wary of adding grain fodder to your homestead, since the price of grain seed will likely skyrocket, just as the finished grain is.)

I haven't had much luck getting our quail to eat anything but commercially made pellets, so if it comes down to it, I may have to eliminate quail from our homestead. On the other hand, if we do replace the Soay sheep we lost to a predator, I won't have to worry about store-bought feed for them. They are excellent grazers and browsers, only needing a wee bit of supplemental hay in the winter.

As I mentioned in my last post, we are planning on building a barn. One part of that barn will be for pigs, so I'm considering Idaho Pasture pigs, who are good foragers but don't till or dig up the land. And of course, we'd plan on giving any pigs all the table scraps we can scrounge up. Maybe it's even a good time to revive an old WWII practice: Pig clubs. Ask neighbors, relatives, or friends to save and contribute all their kitchen waste to feeding your pigs; in return, give them a portion of the meat at butchering.

Choose livestock that can eat entirely or mostly natural food, rather than commercial feed. Photo courtesy of Alexandr Frolov.

I think you can see what I'm getting at. Really, for most homesteaders, the line of thinking won't change much because homesteaders are already looking to be more self-sufficient and regenerative. But shortage and inflation may spur you to more actively and quickly pursue those goals.


"...I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

Philippians 4: 11-13

* Cover image courtesy of Dietmar Rabich and Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Just stumbled on your website! How wonderful! Signed up for regular email and look forward to finding more gems like this and the one for rooting celery.