couponing in the holy land

Frugal food shopping for the Anglo Israeli

Archive for the tag “prices”

The chicken that laid the golden egg

I hope everyone is having a relaxing and joyous holiday.   I apologize to those who came looking for me the past few months- I was quite overloaded at work and unable to get time to research and post here.  I hope that everyone transitioned from summer cooking to holiday cooking with ease.  If you were able to start early and pack your freezer for the full month, you were ahead of most of us, me included.  We had a few cash flow issues and decided to shop in bits and pieces rather than all at once, and boy, was that a mistake!  As I am sure you have seen, a combination of factors led to a severe shortage of eggs, chicken, cottage cheese, and vegetables.  We survived by having hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries for one holiday meal to my children’s delight.  I raced back to the supermarket Thursday morning and grabbed the chicken before it was put on the shelves and carefully counted out how many tomatoes and cucumbers we will need for the holiday, trying to see what other vegetables could be substituted- even canned! The other shoppers and I were pretty somber as we trudged through the aisles picking up necessities as we went.

What happened this year that caused such shortages?  For each product, there were different reasons:

Eggs:

Misrad HaChaklaut has been warning us of an egg shortage since highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) hit the poultry industry this spring in addition to closing the doors to imported eggs from Turkey.  Other countries have been exporting to Israel, most notably Spain (ES), but the increased time it takes from laying to landing in the supermarket has caused shelf life problems as well.  At the beginning of this week a shipment of six million eggs was diverted to a pasteurization facility because they arrived 10 days late.  That would leave only six days from the date of arrival at the egg grading facility to the end of the sell-by date.  The government approved the import of 7 million eggs without meches for September as a replacement for the lost eggs.

Chicken:

Between the Jewish holidays and the Muslim/Druze holiday of Eid al Adha (“The festival of the sacrifice” or chag hakorban), there weren’t any workers left in the slaughterhouses to process chicken.  Beef, which has a much longer shelf life than chicken, wasn’t affected.

Cottage cheese:

The constant flow of holidays-Shabbat-holidays also affected production of cottage cheese, which needs 24 hours straight to produce and has a shelf life of only 12 days.  The price didn’t go up as far as I could see, but there was barely any to be had on the shelves.

Vegetables:

That heat wave we had the past two months didn’t zap only us- it also zapped the vegetables attempting to grow in 50C greenhouses.   Not only that, but a new virus has claimed the lives of vegetables in the South, exacerbating the shortage.  In comparison to chicken and cottage cheese, vegetable prices have skyrocketed because…well…it isn’t exactly clear why they should be so much more expensive than the other products that have a limited supply.  The wholesale price did rise somewhat but the supermarkets are taking a huge profit margin and that is what is causing the high prices.  Tomatoes that have a wholesale price of 3.75 shekels/kg are sold to the consumer at 8.70 shekels/kg- even 10 shekels/kg.  The wholesale price of cherry tomatoes was decided by the Grower’s Council to be 12.50-13.00 shekels/kg but they are being sold to the consumer at 20-25 shekels/kg. (You can check out wholesale/retail prices on the Ministry of Agriculture web site)

How to stop the price gouging?  Many say that increasing import of vegetables will force competition and therefore lower prices.  Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel has:

“…instructed Ministry of Agriculture personnel to enable extensive imports of fruits and vegetables at this time and with greater ease from Jordan and other countries. The aim is to overcome the shortage and bring prices down to their original level, while at the same time ensuring that these measures will not cause damage to farmers or to Israeli produce.”

While this sounds lovely, the truth is that no matter how low the wholesale price is, nothing is preventing the supermarket chains from doubling- even tripling the wholesale price.  In fact, this was seen when the import tax was removed from apples- the prices actually went up! See my post about it here.  The same with canned tuna- the import tax is gradually going down, but retail prices have stayed the same.  So unless the government steps in and limits the markup on newly-tax-free items, the only people who are benefiting from these tax breaks are the supermarket chain owners- not the consumers.  Hopefully the consumers’ unions will realize the futility of lowering taxes and push for more meaningful solutions.

To end this post on a positive note, below is a poor copy of a chart from yesterday’s Mekor Rishon showing the change in prices since 2011.  Red is fruits/vegetables, green is housing prices, tan is food without fruits/vegetables, yellow is house maintenance, and pink is furniture and house supplies.  Except for a blip in 2013, everything has gone down since 2011, and a few items even went into minus.  Maybe the message here is that we need to take a step back and look at the big picture.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday!

Food News Roundup

Too small for a full blog post but too large to ignore.  Here are the latest tidbits from various news sources:

1.   As we all know, winter is almost over and we have not had the greatest rainfall this season.  What does that mean?  Farmers will have to purchase water instead of relying on the rainfall leading to increased prices for fruits, vegetables, locally-produced meat, and milk.   Source: NRG

2.   Ayelet Shaked’s bill to increase the punishment for trespassing private agricultural land passed the second and third reading.  Judges will now be able to sentence trespassers up to six months in jail.  For those of you who are not aware, the beef industry has been slowly strangled by Bedouins who trespass and damage farmers’ property in the hopes that they will leave and the Bedouins will then take over the land.  Hashomer Hahadash was formed to defend the farmers’ land and has an overwhelming amount of requests for help.  I highly recommend becoming acquainted with this organization.  You can learn about them from these videos:

If you were wondering what happened to Zionism in Israel, it is here with Hashomer Hahadash.  Source: Facebook

3.   The fighting between Co-op shop and Tnuva continues.  Co-op purchased minimarkets in the “periphery” and claims that Tnuva won’t supply dairy products to them.  Tnuva claims that Co-op won’t pay their bill.  The court ruled that Tnuva has to supply the periphery with dairy products and Co-op has to pay their bill. Next on the agenda- peace in the Middle East.  Source: Ynet

4.   Rumors abound that Tnuva will be sold to the Chinese company Bright Food.  The farmers protest.  Will this lower the price of food?  Not likely.  Source: Ynet

5.   In case you think I am picking on Tnuva, this latest story is about Shufersal.  In December, the Customs Authority increased the amount of items that can be brought in with tax, including apples.  Shufersal has decided to completely eliminate locally-grown apples in their stores since then.  You might think that therefore the prices have gone down, but they have actually gone up significantly:

מחירי תפוחים בשופרסל. 2013: תוצרת הארץ וייבוא נטול מכס. 2014: רק ייבוא נטול מכס
מחיר ממוצע לק”ג/בשקלים ינואר פברואר תחילת מרס
מחירי מוזהב ב-2013 7.99 7.17 7.29
מחירי מוזהב ב-2014 9.90 9.9 9.92
שיעור התייקרות 23% 38% 36%
מחירי גרנד סמית ב-2013 7.99 7.31 7.70
מחירי גרנד סמית ב-2014 9.17 9.90 9.72
שיעור התייקרות 14% 35% 26%
מחירי סטארקינג ב-2013 8.12 7.92 7.31
מחירי סטארקינג ב-2014 9.17 8.86 9.37
שיעור ההתייקרות 12% 11% 18%
מחירי פינק קריפס 2013 8.44 8.99 10.95
מחירי פינק קריפס 2014 13.15 13.19 11.26
שיעור ההתייקרות 56% 46% 3%

In January, prices of apples jumped up between 12% and 56% while Shufersal (like all other supermarkets) are not paying customs duties!  So much for opening the borders to lower prices (do you remember who said that? Hint: it was in a previous blog post).  Source: Ynet

6.   This last item might come as no surprise to everyone- people are not buying as much as they used to in the supermarkets!  Even with “dramatic sales”, the food is not flying off the shelves.

מכירות כספיות מכירות כמותיות
כלל השוק 2.5%- 4.5%-
שופרסל ומגה 5.6%- 7.9%-
רשתות אחרות (כרמי לוי, יינות ביתן, ויקטורי) 1.7%- 4.7%-
מינימרקטים פרטיים 3.1% 4%

Shufersal and Mega have lost the most, while the private minimarket has actually gained.  The charedi supermarket chains have also increased their percentage of the market, possibly because of the lower prices.    Source: Ynet

While I don’t really feel sorry for the supermarket chains, especially after seeing their “dramatic sales” of apples in the previous article, I really don’t feel bad for them because very soon their sales will be sky high within the next few weeks for Pesach.

That’s all for today.  Enjoy!

Comparison of internet prices

 

Source: mako

Tnuva lowers prices

Right before the holidays, Tnuva announced that it would be permanently lowering prices on many of its dairy products by as much as 15%.

Arik Shor, the CEO of Tnuva stated, “Tnuva listens to the voice of the consumer- we decided to significantly lower the prices of tens of items.  We call on the supermarkets to adopt our recommendations and donate their part to lower prices.”

Some examples of the new lower prices:

A 200 gram package of sliced Emek cheese will now cost 14.58 shekels, reduced from 17.15 shekels.

A 250 gram package of gvina levana will now cost 6.33 shekels, reduced from 7.45 shekels.

Tnuva lowered the price of raw milk by 3.8 agorot per liter.  The price of raw milk  (milk that is sold by the farmers to the dairies) is set by the Ministry of Agriculture.

For a complete list of the new prices, go to Tnuva’s web site (Hebrew).

 

The cheapest vegetables in the supermarket

One of the blogs I follow, Bishul B’Zol (Cooking Cheaply), has a very good post on how to choose fruits and vegetables.  Here is a loose translation.

In my previous post I discussed purchasing seasonal fruits and vegetables, which are lower in price than out-of-season fruits and vegetables.  But have you noticed that some vegetables are cheaper all the time, even than the “seasonal” vegetables?  What I want to emphasize is KNOWLEDGE- look around in the supermarket, learn the prices of what you purchase and you will discover what is really worthwhile.

These are the vegetables that I have found have the lowest and most stable prices:

  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Onion
With this list, you can create a whole host of exciting foods- salads, stir fries, soups, etc.
Is this list restricting?  Yes, I think so.  I don’t think I could survive on these 7 vegetables alone.  Therefore I present a list of slightly higher-priced and slightly less-stable prices, but which are still a good deal:
  • Green Squash
  • Lettuce
  • Beets
  • Sweet Potato
  • Butternut Squash
  • Basic Herbs (parsley, nana, coriander, dill…)
  • Peppers (try not to get attached to one color)
  • Apples (not the specialized types such as Pink Lady- the basic types)
  • Oranges
I do not say that this these are the only vegetables you can buy if you are looking to save money.  Not by far.  However, I must remind you that our greatest expenses in the supermarket are not in the fruit and vegetable department, but in other sections such as snacks, meat, and frozen foods.  Ah, the frozen food section, where one package of Tivol costs the same as a weeks worth of fruits and vegetables…
I would like you to take two things with you from this post:
  1. You can eat from the first list and survive.
  2. You can use this information to make an educated decision when planning recipes.  Do you need to make a pashtida (quiche)?  An squash pashtida will cost less to make than a broccoli pashtida.  Cabbage salad will be less expensive than corn salad.
By the way, have you noticed that vegetables prices are cheaper than they have been several months ago?  To me, sweet potatoes, squashes, and peppers have all gone down in price.  Why?  Is it summer?  Are less people buying because they don’t have kitchens in their tents?  There was an article in Globes about prices recently, and what was sad to note was that although there were some small price decreases, most of the food they checked increased in price.  Cottage cheese, for example, did lower in price, but all the other dairy products actually increased!  It seems we still have a lot to learn about how to boycott effectively.
I hope you enjoyed a native Israeli’s view of supermarket shopping.

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