If you’re a four-glasses-of-milk-a-day guy or an eggs-for-breakfast-every-morning gal, whoever’s doing the grocery shopping in your family has their work cut out for them. Food prices were up almost 5% last year, and it looks as if we’re on track to far outstrip that record inflation in 2008. Where are we seeing the steepest hikes in prices? Right now it’s eggs, dairy, and poultry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts even steeper increases in the price of fats and oils, cereals and bakery products. (What’s a red-blooded American to eat, I ask you?)

As a bankruptcy attorney in Indiana who spends every working day discussing people’s budgets and their debts, not to mention being an all-around curious fellow, I’m always looking behind the facts to the causes. I’ve been reading a lot on the topic of food prices, and found that lots of commentators have lots to say about the food cost inflation we’re experiencing. One of the more obvious factors is that much of our food travels long distances, and, when the price of fuel began rising, it became more expensive to get the food from its source to the shelves.

In trying to address the fuel issue, our government turned to increased use of alternative fuels such as ethanol, which is made out of corn. I had never really given this much thought, but, if you start reading labels on just about all the processed foods we buy, most have high fructose corn syrup in them. Since we’re using some of the corn for ethanol, there’s that much less for putting into food! What’s more, chickens are fed with corn, and, with corn for feed being scarcer, it costs more to raise chickens. To compound the problems, several of the poorer countries of the world are banning exports of rice and some other products, and that makes prices on food imports rise here.

Food supply issues are much more complex than just the “biggies” which I’ve mentioned. (Remember, I’m no economist – I just do some of the grocery shopping in our family and talk to lots of people) What I do understand, as both a consumer and an advisor to hundreds of consumers every month, is that families in Indiana are being impacted by high food prices. It’s been much, much harder to maintain both balanced meals and balanced budgets, that’s for sure.

If you’re reading this bankruptcy blog because you or someone close to you has debt problems, you may be thinking that being careful at the grocery store isn’t going to help matters enough to make a difference. Think again. The whole process of filing bankruptcy and then rebuilding your financial life revolves around money management. As part of preparing the paperwork for filing bankruptcy with the Indiana bankruptcy court system, I help clients make detailed lists of all the money they have coming in, and all the money going out, so that we can together look at what it’s going to take to get them back on track once the process is complete..

Remember, as I’ve said many times before in this blog – bankruptcy is not the end; it’s the beginning! The whole idea is to give people a chance to make a fresh start. That means getting them to the point, with the help of the bankruptcy safety net, of being able to keep the lights on, the family in clothes and shoes, making payments on their debts, and – putting food on the table without going into more debt! So you see, preparing for bankruptcy and then rebuilding after bankruptcy both go hand in hand with managing the grocery shopping.