Tweak your diet to control your food budget— the RBI guide on what to eat

Representative image from pixabay
  • While food inflation data shows it is under 4%, the prices of a few essential foods like pulses and vegetables have spiked.
  • RBI survey says that households expect inflation to rise by 40 basis points over a 3-month ahead horizon.
  • RBI also said that “salary outgoes remained muted”, in its monetary policy committee report.
When bread is too expensive, one should eat cake. This statement could have caused a revolution in France, but for Indians who are scrambling to keep their food budgets stable, might save a buck or two by tweaking their diet.

The overall food inflation data shows has been hovering around or under 4% between February and August this year. This is in spite of erratic rains affecting the prices of perishable foods like meat and fish. These price hikes are balanced out by other food prices which have either remained steady or declined.

“Softer increases in the prices of eggs, and deflation in the prices of fruits and sugar cushioned the rise in overall food inflation,” said an RBI Monetary Policy Committee report released today.

Indian households expect price rises

Few Indian homes are buying into ‘All is well’ ringtone that is being sounded everywhere from Howdy Modi rally in the US to Finance Minister’s press conferences. In fact, most of them are budgeting for price hikes ahead.

“The Reserve Bank’s September 2019 round of inflation expectations survey indicates that households expect inflation to rise by 40 basis points over a 3-month ahead horizon and 20 basis points over a one-year ahead horizon, possibly responding adaptively to the rise in food prices in recent months,” said RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das during a press conference announcing a 25-basis point cut in interest rates on October 4.

Replace meat with eggs

Most people have already cut down purchases of non-essentials like automobiles, as RBI itself admitted that “salary outgoes remained muted”, in its monetary policy committee report.

While purchases of essentials cannot be cut, replacing a few could keep budgets intact.

Those who love meat have to shell out more as their prices went up by 8.5% in August, according to CEIC. This key protein source can be replaced with yet another healthy option---which is eggs. Their prices went up by a bare 0.3% in the same period, making them affordable.

Bad news for vegetarians

Vegetarians however will have no option but to shell out more as prices of pulses spiked by 6.9%. What makes it worse is that prices of vegetables also went up by the same extent, making it tougher to get by.

But if vegetarians can replace their much needed vitamin and mineral source by reducing vegetable intake and increasing fruit intake, they might get a hold on their budgets. The prices of fruit on the other have come down by 0.7% bringing in good news for healthy munchers.

Those with a sweet tooth however have a lot to celebrate as sugar and confectionary prices came down by 2.4%. Those who love fried foods, packed meals and non-alcoholic beverages too can gain as their prices grew in the 2-3% range.

But binging on sweets and snacks because of their prices are low might not be a good idea. As the prices of non-institutional medicines spiked by a whopping 9% for the same period.
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