The United States of America has long been known as "The Breadbasket of the World". Grains, soybeans and other food products have been exported from the U.S. to other parts of the world since the days when it was merely 13 colonies. Americans have always had plenty of food, with enough left over to send elsewhere.

But now there is disturbing that isn't garnering much attention by most media outlets. The U.S. has been forced to import wheat due to shortages. Retailers are limiting the amount of rice, cooking oil, flour and pasta its customers can purchase, in an effort to ration the goods. Americans haven't experienced food rationing since World War II. There are also reports of Americans hoarding food.

Savvy Frugality recommended stocking an emergency pantry last year, when it appeared the U.S. economy was about to enter a downward spiral. Food prices have increased more than 80 percent over the past three years, and they are expected to get higher as fuel prices climb. Crop shortages have also let to higher prices, as well as speculative buying by investors.

What does this all mean to you? At best, food prices will continue to increase, and you may not be able to afford, or want to pay the price, of the items you would normally purchase. At worst, the food items you want may not be available at all. Savvy Frugality has been stocking up on canned goods when the prices have been low, and has a fully stocked pantry. I plan to make a bulk purchase of rice and and dried beans during my next food purchase, just in case. If you already have an emergency food pantry, great! If you have decided now is the time to start, you'll want to check out the best storage methods and expected shelf life of dried goods. Storing in an airtight container in a dry, cool place is the key.

Of course, if everybody starts making bulk purchases and hoarding food, skyrocketing prices and shortages will perpetuate and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's best to buy items when they are on sale, in reasonable quantities, and store extra each time you do your food shopping.

It is no coincidence that "affordable food" and "saving money on groceries" are now the most popular search terms at While I don't believe the U.S. is returning to the days of bread lines and soup kitchens for the masses, food is going to continue to become more expensive, and some families may not be able to budget for that. Savvy Frugality will continue to post updates on how to get the most food for the dollar.

How about you? Have you increased your food budget or made cost-cutting measures to put food on the table? Please leave a comment and share your ideas with others!

The knock at my door earlier this week interrupted my lunch hour and caused my dogs to start barking. I opened the door to see who it could be this time of the day. It was a guy holding a clip board, wearing an exterminator uniform. "Oh great," I thought. "Just what I need...a salesman."

Turns out, it was exactly what I needed. Each year, fleas take over our backyard, sending my two dogs and my cat, Charlie, into scratching fits. The exterminator explained that he was hitting as many homes on my street as possible. Construction at a nearby housing addition was sending mice, rats, and all manner of vermin into the neighborhood, including ants and spiders (not to mention the fleas would be a problem soon). I had recently seen a rat near my garbage cans.

Normally, I turn door-to-door salesmen away, even though I work in sales myself. I figured if I need someone's service, I'll seek them out myself. But, the salesman went on to explain that since the company was doing so many other homes in the neighborhood, we could essentially get a "group discount". (Note: be careful. Scam artists actually use similar lines to explain how they are giving you a ridiculously "too good to be true" deal. Check out the company you are doing business with). The regular price was $165 every two months, for repeat treatments. His company was knocking the price down to $65 every two months. During the summer months, I easily spend $32 a month on my animal's flea treatments and lawn chemicals, but now I could afford to have the professionals do it. I called my wife, leaving the salesman waiting at the front door, and asked her what she thought. After all, it's her father's house. We just live in it.

"Do it," she said. She had already priced comparable services and they were more than $200 every two months. Our savings: at least $135 every two months. I took the salesman up on his offer.

Today, as promised, the exterminator truck rolled up to our house and did the complete treatment...the lawn, around the outside of the home, and inside the home, too. If we need them to come back for any reason before the next treatment, it's free.

We all hear the horror stories about door-to-door salesman who are pitching everything from driveway paving to roofing services. In this case, I double-checked to make sure the exterminator was a local business, and that I could locate the company if I had any problems. They gave me a service order with their address and phone number, and I did not pay them until the next day when they showed up to service my lawn and home. I did see them doing other homes in the neighborhood before mine as well. The company is a franchise, and also a member of the Better Business Bureau.

Some door-to-door sales are definitely scams, but other times, they can work out in your favor. Just make sure you are dealing with a reputable company, one that is local, get references whenever you can, and don't pay for anything until you either receive the merchandise or receive the service you are paying for. If everything checks out, that next knock on your door could bring big savings.

My wife and I have just returned from our vacation to a location in our own backyard: Tulsa, OK. As I mentioned in my previous post, we had considered other locations such as Las Vegas, Reno, St. Louis and others, but in the end decided to make our money go further by staying closer to home.

It was a wise decision. We had a great time! We took old Route 66 from Oklahoma City to Tulsa, and took time to take in some of the sites along the historic roadway during our trip. We saw the Red Round Barn and Pop's in Aradia. Pop's features about 400 different kinds of soda pop from all over the world. As I write this, I'm enjoying a Manzana Apple flavored soda from Mexico. We also ate at the Rock Cafe, which we had seen featured on the Food Network show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives". The Rock Cafe features such dishes as buffalo and alligator burgers, and a mean fried pork cutlet. The cafe was built in the 1930s and is constructed of stone that was removed from the area during the construction of Route 66.

Once we got to Tulsa, we checked into the Cherokee Resort and Casino. This is a relatively new facility. In fact, an expansion is currently under construction, and we were awakened on Saturday morning the sound of steel girders being dumped on the ground. The room itself was very nice, and after our AAA discount it came to $111 a night for two nights. My wife and I did play some slot machines, and we won some money and lost some money. In the end, we broke even. On Friday night we took advantage of a $24 all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. I'm sure the place lost money on us for the cost of the snow crab legs alone.

Saturday afternoon we visited the Oklahoma Aquarium, which has a fantastic shark display. You can walk into a Plexiglas tunnel underwater and watch the sharks swim all around you. They also had on display the largest catfish I have ever seen in my life! After that, it was a stroll along Tulsa's Riverwalk mall area, which seemed pretty deserted for a Saturday afternoon, but I attribute that to the chilly, windy weather.

We visited another diner in Tulsa...this time it was the 50's themed "5 and Diner". My wife enjoyed a bacon cheeseburger while I had an awesome Ruben sandwich piled high with corned beef.

Overall, the 3-day weekend getaway for two people, including hotel, gas, food and drinks, and two days of slot machine playing in the casino totaled about $600...much less than we ever would have spent by traveling to Las Vegas. The airfare and hotel alone would have cost that much, if not more. No, we didn't see the glimmering lights of the Las Vegas strip, but we still had a great time, saw a part of our state we had never seen before, and traveled along part of the historic Route 66. I wouldn't have traded the experience for a pile of chips in Vegas.

My wife and I enjoy traveling. We like the experience of going someplace we have never been before and discovering new things. So when we approached our wedding anniversary this year, we thought long and hard about where we wanted to go.

Initially, we considered going to Las Vegas. We could stay in a hotel off the Strip, gamble at one of the casinos the "locals" go to, as opposed to the "tourist" casinos, and save a few bucks on accommodations along the way. But when we started pricing flights, we decided we didn't want to spend the majority of cash we had saved for the trip on airline tickets.

We thought about a few other places to spend our anniversary...a location which has a casino (my wife likes playing the penny and nickel slot machines) and considered Reno, St. Louis, and a few others. Finally, we decided upon our romantic vacation getaway destination.

Tulsa, Oklahoma.

That's right...Tulsa. It's a mere two hour drive from where we live, has a large casino and resort, and most of all...we've never really been there. We have lived in Oklahoma for a few years now, and we have not spent any significant amount of time exploring our own backyard.

When people think of going on vacation, they often don't think about the things that are within a couple of hours of driving distance of where they live. How about you? Have you really explored the attractions in your state as if you were a tourist? Every state has a tourist destination, but the locals often overlook them because, well...they're for tourists. But people travel to your backyard for a reason. There is something there worth visiting. That's easy to overlook when you live in the area.

For example, the Tulsa area is home to one of the largest aquariums in the Midwest, if not the country. It also has the Philbrook Museum of Art (that's the one in the photo at the beginning of this article. Yes, that's in Tulsa, Oklahoma), the Cains Ballroom (the home of Western Swing) a large zoo (voted America's favorite), an air and space museum, a rocking nightclub scene in the Blue Dome district and upscale shopping in Utica Square. There are also opportunities to take in opera performances and the city boasts not one, but two symphony orchestras. Yes, I'm still talking about Tulsa. Yes, the one in Oklahoma.

The point is I didn't know about any of these attractions until this week, and they are all just two hours from home. You don't have to travel halfway across the country, at great expense, to take in some great sights and spend a romantic weekend with your significant other. Check out the convention and visitors bureau web sites of some of the cities near you.

Who knows? You might be missing something great in your own backyard.

Today's guest post is from Heather Johnson, a contributor at Credit Card Lowdown.

The cost of airfare continues to soar with the surging price of oil these days. The days of hopping on a flight to anywhere guilt-free seem to be gone. Amazingly with just a little extra effort you can still find deals out there that will take away some of the stress that accompanies flying these days. You can still find deals out there and here are some tips for the frugal flier:

1. Give up your seat. When an airline is overbooked they'll look for people to volunteer their seat. If you give up your seat you'll earn free flights from the given airline. Sometimes, the airline will even give you cash. Monday morning and Friday afternoon flights are most typically the most overbooked. So if you can afford delaying your travel plans you stand to save money and maybe put some cash back in your pocket.

2. Veer off the beaten path. There is no doubt the fastest way to get somewhere is to go from point A to point B in a straight line. If point B is Washington D.C., an expensive destination, go to point C first, even if it is Baltimore. There are always cheaper flights to less desirable locations near the real hot spots.

3. Surf the web. At the last minute, many airlines will have slashed their fares, especially near a weekend. If an airline has seats to fill they'll do so by offering incredibly lower prices than advertised. Keep an eye out for these sudden deals that spring up.

4. Competition breeds lower fares. If one airline company offers a discounted flight to one destination then it's a safe bet the others will do the same. Just like any other line of business, competitors monitor what each other are offering to the public and will usually attempt to follow suit to stay in the game. This is your chance to swoop in and get a great deal.

  1. Burn the midnight oil. Most airlines will reload their computer systems at midnight. If passengers have reserved a seat but have not paid their seats will open up to the general public. If you can stand to wait up that late you might be able to land a great deal on seats. Just remember the airlines need to and want to fill up as many seats as possible and this may be a perfect way to jump in on a great deal.

Heather P. Johnson is a freelance writer, as well as a contributor for Credit Card Lowdown, a site for finding credit card reviews. Heather invites your comments and freelancing job opportunities at her email address:

I learned many lessons about frugality from my grandmother, who was as frugal as they come. She would wash and reuse plastic baggies and aluminum foil, save and reuse gift wrap, reuse empty plastic butter containers as Tupperware and make several different meals from leftovers. She traced her frugal ways back to the Great Depression, when her family of farmers struggled to make ends meet.

It's safe to say that frugality in the U.S. probably traces its roots back to the Great Depression. Before that, there was certainly no reason for Americans to be frugal. Credit was easy to obtain, investors purchased stocks on margin like there was no tomorrow and the richest 1 percent owned 40 percent of the country's wealth. Times were good...very good. There is a reason the decade was called "The Roaring '20s".

There were some warning signs before the bottom fell out of the economy. The stock market hit some serious bumps, but it always recovered. People were spending money they didn't have. Everyone forgot that the economy doesn't continue to expand with no end in sight. It had been nearly 100 years since "The Panic of 1837", when banks failed and unemployment in the U.S. soared to record highs. Americans had forgotten their history.

During The Great Depression, the money supply declined, unemployment hit double digits and interest rates fell. Those who had no money had to make do the best way they possibly could. My grandmother told me stories of farmers who baked bread using saw dust, fed weeds to their cattle because they could not afford feed and recycled cloth flour sacks into towels and sheets.

When something was used, it was not immediately thrown into the trash. Everything had a second use and was recycled until it literally could not be used anymore. Nearly every household had a "rag bin". Scraps of cloth would be saved to patch clothing and make quilts or hand towels. Coffee grounds were used at least twice, and then used as compost in a garden, where people grew their own fruits and vegetables because they could not afford to buy them from the market. Home appliances were never thrown away. They were repaired. The same goes for shoes. People would never toss out old shoes because the heels were worn. They would take them to shoe repair shops for new heels and soles, or people would place cardboard inside their shoes when the soles were worn through with holes. Buying something new was nearly unheard of. People either made their own, made what they had last longer or did without. Old clothes were never discarded. They were repaired, reused, exchanged for others and when they were finally unusable, they were cut up for the "rag bin." Bartering became the new currency in the U.S.

Today, many Americans are going through rough economic times, but it is nowhere near as bad as those Great Depression days, when people lived in tar paper shacks called "Hoovervilles" and got their bread from the soup kitchens. But, we can learn some valuable lessons from the Great Depression Generation. Do we really need to buy something new as often as we do? Do we need to live on credit as much as we do? Is it really wise to live beyond our means? Perhaps the Great Generation mantra of "use it more, wear it out, recycle it and don't throw it out" should be adopted more today. Not only would it help more people save money, but it would make them think twice about their spending habits.

I always gave my grandmother a hard time when she reused aluminum foil, but she would just reply "there is nothing wrong with it. It can be reused. People waste too much." Looking back on those times and her frugal habits, I think maybe grandma was on to something.

This week's Festival of Frugality is hosted by Consumerism Commentary. Savvy Frugality's post, Haggle for Lower Prices is among this week's picks.

Other posts I liked this week:

Silicon Valley Blogger presents Rent Instead Of Buy, And I Mean Anything! posted at The Digerati Life There are some very creative rentals listed here, and they could be cheaper than buying!

Dawn from Frugal For Life offers Free Audio Resources. Since I'm a history buff and an former radio guy, I enjoy listening to Old Time Radio online. My favorite show is The Shadow. My dad still fondly recalls the days before his family got a TV, and they would all sit around the radio each evening to listen to their favorite shows. Sometimes I come across FDR's old "Fireside Chats", and those are very interesting to listen to.

Andy presents this comparison on Tight Fisted Miser: Aldi v. Supermarket v. Wal-Mart. As I expected, Aldi was the cheapest option.

Jeremy Zongker from Destroy Debt offers 90 Low Cost or No Cost Activities to Entertain Your Kids All Summer Long. Summer is coming soon, and you know you'll need something to keep the rug rats entertained. I send mine off to Boy Scout camp.

paidtwice from I’ve Paid For This Twice Already… wonders, Do You Save More With Your Automated Savings Plan? In my case, yes. The money goes into savings automatically and I don't even have to think about it.

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