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Better save those peanut butter cups...

  • Jelly may ditch peanut butter because of price increase
  • Smaller harvest has forced cost to rise
Better save those peanut butter cups...

One of your kid's lunchtime staples might be costing you a little more these days. That’s because jelly’s best friend, peanut butter, is getting more expensive. Rising prices for its main ingredient (peanuts, of course) could be turning the sticky stuff into liquid-y gold.

It’s been a rough year for peanut farmers. A dry planting season and an especially hot summer in the southern U.S., home to some of the largest peanut producing states, led to a much smaller harvest this year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects a 13% drop in peanut production this year. The total crop is expected to be around 3.6 billion pounds, down from more than 4.1 billion pounds last year.

Thanks to supply and demand, when production falls, prices head the opposite direction. The USDA says the wholesale price for a ton of runner peanuts, often used in peanut butter, is about 150% higher than last year. The cost of the raw ingredient trickles down the food chain and impacts what you shell out for a jar of peanut butter at the grocery store.

Whether they prefer creamy or crunchy, peanut butter lovers may have already experienced some sticker shock with their favorite brands. If you haven’t seen any changes, you probably will soon.

ConAgra has already raised the prices for its Peter Pan brand by more than 20%. Starting Monday, Planters peanut butter will cost 40% more, and Jif will follow suit on Tuesday with a 30% price increase.

Americans love peanut butter, and it’s not just kids and college students. The National Peanut Board, a farmer-funded research group, says 90% of U.S. households have peanut butter in their pantries, and Americans could make 10 billion peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the amount they eat in a year. Peanut butter has often been praised as an affordable source for protein, and the Peanut Board says it still will be, with a two-tablespoon serving costing just a few cents more.

So, what’s a peanut butter addict to do? You have a few options.

You could hit stores now to stock up if your favorite brand has been spared from price hikes thus far. That way, you’d lock in low prices and could hope for better luck next year. You could also try my favorite stores -- the warehouse clubs -- for a cheaper way to buy in bulk.

If you don’t want your cabinets to look like an episode of “Hoarders,” you could try switching to another, cheaper, variety of peanut butter. I love generic brands as an alternative to big brand-names. Even if prices rise soon, store-brand peanut butter could still have a lower baseline price than the major brands.

Finally, if you’re someone who just can’t stomach a switch, stick it out. If you decide that your favorite peanut butter brand is still worth it for a buck or two more, pay it. Work it into your grocery budget. Take comfort in the fact that a pricier PB&J is still better for your wallet than a trip to a five-star restaurant.  

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