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Life in times of high prices: be wise, eat smart

business Updated: Apr 08, 2008 21:26 IST
Suman Layak
Suman Layak
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Inflation may have hit a three-year high of 7 per cent, giving policymakers and many consumers sleepless nights, but there are a plenty of grocery items that have become cheaper. If you want to pick cheaper alternatives, then there are options in every category.

Take pulses, for instance. Masoor daal prices are up more than 28 per cent since last year, but moong is down 16.8 per cent, or better go for urad, which is 20.5 per cent cheaper than before. Pulses prices had surged more than years ago and over the past year the average price for the entire category has actually dipped 2.3 per cent.

You cannot do much about the cereals as all seem to have gained but some coarse cereals like bajra, maize and ragi seem to be cheaper than a year ago. But can you avoid both rice and wheat?

There is sweeter side to the latest spike in inflation. Sugar prices have dropped 1.9 per cent compared from a year earlier, largely because of a bumper sugarcane crop. There has been a glut in sugar industry since 2006-07.

There are some good news among fruits and vegetables too. Winter veggies like cabbage and cauliflower are getting cheaper than last year. They may not taste great at this time, as winter stocks are being cleared. In fact cabbages are cheaper by 50 per cent. So are onions - down 24.6 per cent compared to last year. To a lesser extent, sweet potatoes and green peas are also cheaper.

Some fruits also look good. Price data show apples, pineapples and papaya are cheaper; so are cashew nuts.

On the nonvegetarian stable, there is general good news as eggs are cheaper by 8 per cent. You may also do wellto give up Pomfrets and go for the Rohu and Catla variety of fish as marine products have become costlier by 7.9 per cent. But river water fish is cheaper by more than six per cent. In fact India has emerged as the second largest producer of inland fish in 2007 and the production is growing at six per cent every year – better supply means lower prices.

Mutton is costlier but chicken is cheaper by 7.5 per cent, thanks to the bird flu scare in eastern India.

Cooking oil prices have spurted. The category is up by around 21 per cent. But, if you want to save go for soyabean oil or coconut oil that are up by around 5 per cent only. Global prices in these oils have now flared – so you could do well to stock up now. Among spices – avoid coriander – its up 41 per cent and try cumin instead – it’s down 12 per cent.

Now for the addictions: among packaged teas and coffees – blended tea leaves are down 12 per cent but coffee powder is up 39 per cent. So drink more tea if you want your caffeine shots. And beer is cheaper by 2 per cent – if that brings any cheer. Oh, the supari is also cheaper – betelnuts prices are down one per cent says the data.