When is it really cheaper to make your food at home?

On Thanksgiving Day, NPR’s Marketplace included a follow-up segment to a story from 2009 on Jennifer Reese, a San Francisco woman who set out to determine when it is really cheaper to make things at home versus buying in the store. She has now published a book about her experience called Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn’t Cook from Scratch — Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods.

Her general conclusion is that it is cheaper to do the “non-glamorous” things at home, but glamorous activities like raising chickens, goats, and turkeys cost too much in infrastructure to make it worthwhile. It is definitely cheaper to make your own bread and muffins but more expensive to make candied ginger. It is cheaper to buy lemonade than make it – not to mention all the effort it takes to squeeze the lemons. Reese also addresses convenience, food quality, and moral choices.

The book looks like a worthwhile read for those considering to beat higher food costs with homegrown and homespun creations.


U.S. Postal Service increases prices an average of 5% for shipping services

The U.S. Postal service is raising prices in an effort to bring in enough revenue to avoid bankruptcy. Prices are going up for a whole host of shipping services including a 3.1% increase for priority mail. The price of a first class postage stamp is still increasing a penny from 44 cents to 45 cents as earlier scheduled for January 22.

For more details see AP story: “Postal prices going up for express, priority mail.”


Inflation helps drive Iranians to dollars and gold, government warns citizens to stop

Iranians are scrambling to protect their life savings by buying dollars and gold. Iran’s inflation rate has risen from 8.8%, a 25-year low, to 19.1% last month. The rush out of the Iranian rial has become so bad, the government has asked its citizens to stop buying dollars and gold. The government has warned that foreign exchange rates will fall and gold prices will soon drop: “…those who buy them at high prices should not complain later on.”

For more details see “Government asks Iranians to stop buying dollars” (CNBC, November 19, 2011).


The Rice Panic of 2007

On November 4, 2011, NPR’s Planet Money did a “blast from the past” podcast reviewing the course of events that led to the rice panic of 2007 and its eventual end. From India’s decision to ban rice exports to hoarding across Asia to corrupt government manipulation in the Philippines of a then vulnerable rice market, we get to reminisce about how rice prices doubled ad then almost doubled again in just four months. The panic finally ended after economists convinced the U.S. to allow Japan to sell its stockpile of rice that it maintains as part of a trade agreement that forces Japan to buy rice from the U.S. it does not want. Ironically enough, the rice was never sold but the psychological impact of the announcement was enough to end the hoarding and bring the market back to a semblance of sanity.

A truly fascinating tale of a completely avoidable bubble in the price of rice.


Redbox raises prices 20% to cover higher costs for DVDs and debit card transactions.

Last week, Redbox, the company owned by Coinstar (CSTR) that rents movies through big red kiosks, raised the price of DVD rentals from $1.00 to $1.20, a 20% increase. The company needs to offset higher costs for DVDs and process debit card transactions. Redbox tested out higher prices for a year in select cities and concluded that it was OK to roll out the increases nationwide. Given this testing, the company should not suffer the same backlash and outcry that Netflix (NFLX) suffered when it dramatically increases its movie rental prices.

For more details see “Redbox rental prices to rise.”