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South Dakota Moms Respond to Food Prices With Creative Solutions

Kimball high school teacher Tracey Walsh grocery shops with son, Chasen.
Courtesy Photo
Kimball high school teacher Tracey Walsh grocery shops with son, Chasen.

Grocery store prices are up more than 10 percent over this time a year ago - according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. The climbing food prices have motivated some South Dakota moms to be more creative when it comes to feeding their families.

“Prices have gone up on your essentials, like eggs and milk, dairy products, the meat prices have gone up noticeably. Even I’ve noticed things like potato chips or snacks. The prices have just inched up over the last six months or so,” said Lorna Saboe-Wounded Head.

Lorna Saboe-Wounded Head is a mom and a budget professional. She teaches personal finance to families across the state and connects them with budgeting tools and other resources in her role as the SDSU Extension Family Resource Management Field Specialist.

When it comes to helping families manage their grocery budget Saboe-Wounded Head encourages them to begin with a plan.

“Plan their meals out because then they are able to use the food that they already have at home and there’s a lot less waste and there is going to be less they have to buy at the store. And when I talk about meal planning, I always say, “keep it simple,” said Saboe-Wounded Head.

She shares other budget-friendly tips like planning ahead for busy nights when eating out is tempting by keeping no-prep options like frozen pizza on hand. Saboe-Wounded Head also said you can minimize waste by making two meals from one batch of browned beef – spaghetti one night and tacos the next.

Finding ways to get more than one meal out of the ingredients she has at home is also a tip Kimball high school teacher Tracey Walsh shares.

“Even on a teacher’s salary, money just doesn’t go as far as it used to because everything costs more, so now I have to think, “okay, so what can we do without maybe this time or can I get a couple meals out of this one thing,” Walsh said.

And because Walsh often works late, she avoids eating out by putting her crockpot and air fryer to work.

“My kids really like cut up steak and we put it in the air fryer so kind of like chislic. We actually found that in an air fryer, if you cut up a roast it becomes pretty tender and so if we are running short on steak, roast works too,” Walsh said.

Annie Haag’s evenings are also busy. To avoid eating out and minimize food waste, this mom of three makes meals ahead of time and freezes them. And whenever she can, Haag avoids wasting groceries by planning multiple meals that use the same ingredients.

“If I bought a bag of lettuce then I’ll plan on tacos one night and chicken strip roll up wraps the second night. Or if I’m making spaghetti, I’ll make extra sauce so the next day we can have what my kids call, “Italian dunkers. So, I try to spread a meal into a couple different things,” Haag said.

Another way Haag stretches her grocery budget is buying fewer treats so she can spend the savings on fruits and vegetables.

“The fruit and vegetables thing is tricky, because you always want that in your house, and when those have gone up, I still try to keep some of that stuff as best as I can,” Haag said.

Prices of fruits and vegetables have jumped in the last few weeks. And this is problem for Ryan Jensen. Jensen owns a grocery store in Wessington Springs.

“Just recently our produce has skyrocketed. I’m not kidding you, for the cost of a head of lettuce, our cost is around the $4 range. And we’re supposed to mark that up to about $8.75, and a head of cauliflower, we’re supposed to charge $12. Broccoli we’re supposed to sell that for $9. Well, unfortunately, it’s either I don’t mark it up to what we are supposed to mark it up because I want to sell it rather than have it sit here. So, I mark it at my cost to get rid of it and have it available to the consumer. But even at my cost, that’s still more than what we’re used to seeing,” Jensen said.

Jensen feels for his customers. He and his wife have five children, so they understand the impact increased food prices have on a family’s budget. And because Jensen does not markup produce and other food items, his earnings are down. But like his customers, his expenses are not. Springs Market has 9 employees.

Lura Roti grew up on a ranch in western South Dakota but today she calls Sioux Falls home. She has worked as a freelance journalist for more than two decades. Lura loves working with the SDPB team to share the stories of South Dakota’s citizens and communities. And she loves sharing her knowledge with the next generation. Lura teaches a writing course for the University of Sioux Falls.