.How Inflation is Impacting Restaurants

Meat and dairy products have increased by 13% in less than a year

Embracing your inner Costco? You bet you are. One look at the shelves in most grocery stores will have you running to the largest food stores you can find. A friend of mine recently returned from Costco having scored an enormous rack of ribs for $16. “Enough for a week!” she cried triumphantly.

Well, I don’t shop at Costco, so I’ve had to rethink my menus on a day-by-day basis.

My overall pro-tip: leave the grocery list at home. Throw away your preconceived notions; i.e., what you thought you wanted for dinner. Let the prices be your guide, and see what’s on sale. That’s what you’re having for dinner. You’re not imagining things. The cost of meat, poultry, fish and eggs is 13% higher since February 2021, says the USDA. Anyone who’s watched the price of free-range organic eggs zoom upwards knows this only too well. You want to eat eggs from happy chickens? You’ll pay a dollar per egg.

And it’s not just inflation that’s affecting consumers. Some brands are turning to “shrinkflation”—you’ve noticed it happening, where the price stays the same on your favorite box of sea salt crackers, only there’s half the amount of crackers in the box. Or a variation I’m seeing more of this year: the box is shrinking, hence less product inside, but the price stays the same. Manufacturers have done their research, and they’re betting consumers would rather have smaller quantity than bigger prices. And how about those toilet paper rolls! Same size on the outside, but lo and behold the cardboard roll inside has expanded.

Some anecdotal responses from near and dear included these kvetches: “Jameson’s Irish Whisky is $5-10 more than last year.” From an old schoolmate in Massachusetts: “Dinners in restaurants at the Cape were about $8 more than last summer.” From Corralitos, a professional chef reveals that sugar costs are way up: “50 lbs. of cane sugar pre-Covid was $23, today $40. Organic sugar has doubled. Dried figs, $350 for 30 lbs., pre-Covid $220.” Andre Beauregard at Shopper’s agrees that “everything has gone up, but some things more than others and for a combination of reasons, including supply chain, availability and inflation. All the conventional milk prices have risen to almost organic prices, and along with that came higher ice cream prices and dairy prices. Oats, oils, condiments, breads, pretty much everything.” Nothing is forever, but while these insane price hikes and inflation strategies hit us in the face, try to stay flexible. And remember, there’s always scrambled eggs. Terrific with a robust red wine.

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Taste of Terroir Salon

Head up to the pastoral vineyards of Lester Estate Wines for an enjoyable and enlightening tasting tour of the Corralitos growing region. Over 12 wineries of Corralitos and environs will be pouring at the afternoon tasting salon from 2:30-5pm, featuring Alfaro Family Vineyard, Aptos Vineyard, Bargetto Winery, Beauregard Vineyards, Farm Cottage Wines, Ferrari Ranch, La Vida Bella Vineyard, Left Bend, Lester Estate Wines, Regan Vineyards Winery, Sandar & Hem and Sante Arcangeli Family Wines. Tasting will be accompanied by appetizers prepared by the always remarkable chef Brad Briske and HOME Restaurant. Salon tickets are $65. 

Fish the Markets

Look for the H&H folks, with their table of ice well-stocked with fresh-caught seafood items. I’m fond of their various salmon, halibut and whole rockfish. At your local farmers markets. Westside, Saturday 9am-1pm; Felton, Tuesday, 1-6pm; Aptos, Saturday 8am-noon. hhfreshfish.com.

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