“I don’t need Money News to tell me that America’s economy is in trouble. I don’t need the Wall Street Journal to tell me about unemployment figures and I don’t need the Center for Economic and Policy Research to tell me that my money doesn’t go as far as it once did or that the equity in my house is down 33% over the last five years. All I have to do is take a trip to the local Walmart. The first thing you notice is the dwindling stock on the shelves… which is a pretty good assessment of our economy’s health, as far as I’m concerned. And have you noticed the packaging? Everything is smaller. They try to sneak it in with fun little euphemisms like “portion size” and “more compact.” My favorite is “less fat” or “less calories per serving.” They shrink the package, then shrink the portion sizes. Voila! Instantly diet-friendly. The problem is, the only thing losing weight is my checkbook. I used to complain about $100 grocery trips. Now I’m whining about $150 to $200 grocery store trips that bring home less food than ever. Before you know it, a wheelbarrow full of money will barely be able to buy a loaf of bread. It’s like an inevitable progression from bad to worse. But do you know what the most telling portent about our economic vulnerability is? At least to me? The canning aisle.My garden has produced rather well this year. I’ve been putting up vegetables like crazy, and have started to run out of jars. A few days ago I had my husband run to Walmart to pick me up a “case or two” of pint wide-mouth jars for the wax beans. I told him they’d run about $6 to $7 a case. There were none. And not only were there none, they cost $9.29 a case. He checked at all the Walmarts, Lowes, Dollar General, and everywhere else he could think about and came up dry. Obviously these folks had only ordered a case or two and hadn’t bothered to restock, I thought.I couldn’t have been more wrong. Walmart gets a shipment of jars every day from their central warehouse. By noon, they’re gone. The girl stocking the shelves at one of the stores in my town told me they’ve had to break up fights between people over canning jars. Lowes is restocking constantly and still can’t keep their shelves with adequate stock.I was going to be a smarty pants. I headed for my computer and thought quite smugly that I’d just order them online. I went first to Amazon, because after all, traditionally, Amazon is cheaper than most everyone else on everything. And since I have Amazon Prime, I could probably get the jars here in two days, no sweat.
Oh they had pint-sized wide-mouth jars all right… for $17.62 a case! My bottom lip hit the floor with a thud and I about fell out. $17.62 a case? What in the world was going on?
It’s the economy, just like I said. More and more people are beginning to see the signs of the times and have decided that a garden and Mason jars are a pretty wise investment. Folks are beginning to read their pocketbooks like a gypsy fortune teller reads tea leaves, and they don’t like what they’re seeing. What about you?”