PracticalDad Discipline:  (Re)Grounding the Kids

Teddy, have you forgotten who you are?

                      – Parent to elderly acquaintance when he was a child

Many years ago, I had a conversation with an older gentleman who related that that was the common phrase uttered by his mother when he misbehaved or did something dumb.  The implication of the phrase was that he had been raised to not only know better but to actually behave better as well.  His parents assured that he knew the difference between right and wrong and could never blame misbehavior or errors in judgment on not having known.  In a sense, they wanted to assure that he knew who he was and that he was firmly grounded in the family values.  Perhaps it’s something that we miss and need to remember when we ground our own children for disciplinary reasons.  Grounding isn’t just a punitive measure because we’re either too terrified to let them out or we just want to throw away the key in complete frustration.

To say that a person is grounded is typically a compliment, such as she’s a good person who’s really grounded.  If you look up ground in the Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, there are a multitude of definitions and one of them pertains to furnishing "with a foundation of knowledge."  Apply that to the person who’s really grounded and you mean that she has a solid understanding of herself and the world around her. 

When kids screw up, and it can be spectacular, one of the common parental responses is to ground the child from favorite activities or pastimes so that they learn from the transgression.  But that can also mean banishment to the bedroom or some other place away and apart from the family.  In the short term, it means that the child will stay alive a little while longer and that you will too because that risk of stroke is lessened when they’re absent.  Unfortunately, it’s only to likely be a short term fix if there’s no continual involvement and followup to re-engage and help him remember who he is and what the family values are.  In the heat of the moment, we forget that the root of the word discipline pertains to learning and teaching and that means that we have to be the adults and put away the anger and fear; we must make purposeful efforts to spend time with them in whatever way possible to help reconnect them to the family values and lessons.  I have to rake, come hold the bag for me.  I’m going to take the car in for an oil change, come along and we’ll go next door for a soda.  Come and watch this with me, I think that it’s something that you’ll appreciate.  I’m going to walk the dog so get your jacket on and grab a plastic bag.  In other words, it does no good to ground them if we make no further efforts to ground them as well.

The next time that you have to ground your child, take a little time to cool off.  Spend the evening away from him, take a walk, drink a beer or go beat your head to a bloody pulp against the wall.  After things are back in perspective, then go back and start the hard work of actually grounding your child.

PracticalDad:  Physical Changes, Political Changes

The stated belief is that fatherhood changes a man.  There’s recent research that links fatherhood to lower testosterone and there’s now a new study that finds that fathers actually have a lower risk of death from heart disease and stroke.  Where fatherhood has changed me is in my economic and political views; I’m not the political man that I was before the birth of my children.  The inactions of our political class and actions of our financial elites have inculcated a corrupt system that threatens the ability of my children – our children – to have any meaningful life apart from that of serf or debt slave.  If you want a clue of how a guy went from conservative Republican to a man who cheered on Bernie Sanders’ filibuster, try to view the changes in our nation through the prism of how it actually applies to the children.

Forget looking at this for the children.  Let’s actually focus on a select group which has identifiable names and faces and in this case, it will be my eldest child’s high school class.  If you want to broaden it, then consider all of the kids that you can actually name and recognize from the activities, the bus stop and Chuck E Cheese if that works for you.  Eldest is an upperclassman at the local high school and there are about 450 students in her grade.  To make this even more interesting, grab a copy of your kid’s high school yearbook and consider these statistics as you page through it. 

Recently, ProPublica ran an article that compiled the changes in poverty statistics over the past several years and the changes are informative.  What makes them scary is to actually apply them in a real life setting amongst flesh-and-blood human beings that you can identify and who walk through your door. 

Poverty Applied

In one year – 2009 to 2010 – the percentage of those living in poverty with a family-of-four income less than $22314 rose from 14.3 to 15.1.  The poverty line for only one person is roughly half that, at $11,139.  That means that 68 of Eldest’s classmates will wind up with incomes below the poverty limit when they’re truly functioning economic adults and earning a fulltime – or not – income.  They’re less likely to have cohesive families and they will actually face the situation of not eating because their maximum weekly income of $200 won’t cover food, gas and housing. 

Of this 15.1%, almost half – 6.7% – aren’t even earning half of the poverty line.  So of these 68 classmates – and I can’t be certain that even Eldest won’t be among them – 30 of them will be literally destitute. 

The income data is also disturbing.  Since the start of the recession – which has technically been over, in case no one informed you – the median household income has dropped by 6.4% to $49,445 and hasn’t been this low since 1996.  A full decade and a half of income growth have been wiped away.   Since neither I nor anybody else can truly identify any organic income drivers, apart from a mass exodus sponsored by Virgin/Alcoa to mine precious metals on the outer planets of the solar system, Eldest’s classmates are looking at a retrenchment of median family income back to levels of decades ago.  Forget wide-screen plasma television and say hello to Betamax.  A certain percentage will leave to find employment, perhaps from the planet for Phoebe and Europa, where the occasional hardy pioneer will likely die in an explosive decompression of a faulty airlock.  His widow and kids will receive a tidy life-insurance settlement and a year’s free supply of aluminum foil.

Even with "only" about 1 in 6 six Americans in poverty, the grinding down of the economic machine is creating casualties as more than 45 million Americans in over 19 million households now receive some manner of food stamp assistance.  That’s approximately 17% of the households (19 million households divided by 112 million total US households) and if Eldest and each classmate forms their own future household, the present number means that 77 kids would receive food stamps.  Bear in mind that the food stamp trend has been upward and the currect predicament is that there are no economic drivers to help pull things out going forward.  As incomes drop and the cost of food increases – the cost of a sample marketbasket in my area has risen by more than 5.5% – since November 2010, the number of families forced into the food stamp program will steadily climb. 

Wealth Applied

Where things get startling, at least for me, is the application of wealth statistics to Eldest’s class.

Recent data breaks out the distribution of wealth amongst the American society and the top 1% of our households – in terms of income – control almost 35% of wealth (high liquidity assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate and business equity less debt) and the next 19% control an additional 50% of the nation’s wealth.  The bottom 40% of the households control less than 1% of the nation’s wealth. 

Looking at Eldest’s class in a microcosm, more than a third of all of the wealth that they produce would be controlled directly by five of the 450 class members and fully 85% of the wealth would be controlled by 90 of them.  The bottom 180 class members would have less than 1% of the cumulative wealth.  Because power comes with wealth, the great majority of Eldest’s class will have to hope that these five classmates are decent people given all of the power that they’ll possess.  Since those who reach high financial and corporate positions are increasingly questioned as to their psychological makeup – Hmmm, I wonder if Biff is a sociopath? – I doubt that that’s going to generally be the case. 

Eldest’s class – our children – is going to be subjected to a lesson in making social Taffy.  The stresses of the ongoing economic decline are going to pull more and more downwards on the economic strata and that’s bad enough.  But the rules and behaviors that have permitted an increasing few to garner more wealth and power, if left unchecked, are going to pull those few further upwards and the middle is going to be stretched thin to the point at which it breaks completely. 

Try something the next time that you see the children line up at the playground, walk onto the stage for an elementary or high school concert or walk through the doors at the dance at which you’ve dropped them.  Make a mental count of each sixth child and consign that child to a life of poverty and an inability to even afford sufficient food for their own family.  If there are enough, count every other child and consign that child to a life in which they have little wealth and for whom the classic dream of retirement is just that and they can expect to die in the traces.

Then see if your perspective changes when you realize that one of these is your own child.

Ron Paul, Punker

One of the more unexpected sights at this summer’s Van’s Warped Tour punk concert was a stand touting Ron Paul as President in 2012.  It stood next to a Libertarian Party stand that attracted teens like moths to a flame with it’s tie-dyed marijuana logo flag and some of the teens then slid over to receive free copies of the Constitution from the Paul supporters.  According to the adults at the stand, the Libertarian stand provided concert-goers with surveys that helped them identify themselves in the political realm and the large majority of the youth were strongly Libertarian.  And providing copies of the Constitution?  While my initial take was amused disbelief, I’ve come to think of it not only as very smart but also as something that’s desperately needed.

One of my great criticisms of today’s youth – and parents by extension – is that they’ve willingly tuned out to the world around them.  I sometimes also bear some of the same criticism as it’s simply tiring of having to always shoo teens away  from the various electronic media, but it’s a chronic and recurrent necessity as Youtube and Facebook are infinitely easier to understand than the vagaries and intricacies of abortion debates and budget deadlocks.  This was brought home last week by an encounter with Middle, who was stalling on studying his US History assignment on the Constitution.  It was hammer and tongs for a short period and then he simply blurted out what’s the point anyway?  The government’s corrupt and none of them give a damn about anything but themselves…whether this was a true statement of his belief or just another dodge (it certainly didn’t work) is uncertain, but the fact that he could make such such a statement and then back it up was eye-opening.  After listening to his comments, I could only state that if we really don’t make an effort to learn what the document both is and was meant to be, then the political situation would only continue to fester.  Surprisingly, he nodded and then moved to take care of his lesson.

The kids are absolutely ill-informed about the world and their place in it, and some of that is on us as parents.  But they’re not completely unaware and from what I hear from my two eldest, are irritated at the state of things.  The austerity meme is percolating through their walls of indifference and they’re actively questioning why the school budget for the Arts is decimated while there’s money for installing surveillance cameras in every classroom.  For them, it’s both a question of priorities and whether such a degree of watching is either safe or necessary.  They’re also listening to their friends who are now in college and beginning to grasp the difficulties they face as we’ve managed to give away the employment farm and are on the cusp of an economic downsizing on a generational level.  Should they pay greater attention to the Constitution?  Absolutely, as now two members of the political class – the North Carolina governor and the former head of Obama’s Office of Management and Budget – are questioning whether we should just either not hold elections or turn the business of state to appointed councils to avoid that nasty political bickering; if Ron Paul’s libertarian beliefs and punk rock are what motivates our present punkers and future leaders to read the Constitution, then I plan to take my kids to the Warped Tour concerts for as long as they’ll want to go.


A Tribe of Teens

Teens are fascinating to watch.  They’re so thoroughly involved in finding their identity and fitting in with a particular group that the various masses of teens change form reminiscent of an amoeba, as various members roll in or choose to – or are expelled – leave, thus altering the amoeba’s shape again.  It would be a fascinating minuet to watch but that teens generally don’t participate in something so intricate; that particular skill comes later.

The best way to describe teens in the group setting is almost as a tribe.  They cluster together and the more time that they’re spent unmonitored, the more opportunity that they have to blend their hormonal sauces into what can be a highly combustible stew.  It’s bad enough when no adult is around to just keep tabs on things, but the pure absence of parental supervision can distill a 100-proof moonshine of sheer lunacy.  The kids are gathered around with the metal or techno-pop roaring in the background, the bass reverberating against the walls and as conversation passes with time and merges with the beat of the rhythm, a recognizable pattern begins to emerge from the noise, a patois that seamlessly merges the steadily cadenced rhythm with the muttered conversations that finally emerges as a simple chant reverberating off of the walls…

Hey-ya-wanna               Hey-ya-wanna              Hey-ya-wanna             Hey-ya-wanna            Hey-ya-wanna           Hey-ya-wanna          Hey-ya-wanna         Hey-ya-wanna        Hey-ya-wanna       Hey-ya-wanna      Hey-ya-wanna      Hey-ya-wanna     Hey-ya-wanna    Hey-ya-wanna   Hey-ya-wanna   Hey-ya-wanna  Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wanna Hey-ya-wannaHey-ya-wannaHeyyawannaheyyawannaheyyawannaheyyawanna…

Hey, ya wanna jump off of the roof?

Hey, ya wanna climb the town water tower and hang upside down?

Hey, ya wanna smack each other with a stick?

Hey, ya wanna paint Steve’s toenails?

Hey, ya wanna get Ozzy’s face tattooed on your butt?

Hey, ya wanna ride to the 7-11 on the roof of my car?

The permutations are often novel, especially in this day of Youtube, but mind-numbingly similar in their sheer and utter lack of self-regard and common sense.  Anyone with teens will recognize the egging on and it quietly terrifies me as I can see any number of ways that something can end badly.  It’s this concern that causes us to provide a place for them to gather, a place that they can be exceedingly, frustratingly and wonderfully stupid, a place that we can at least have a sense of what’s happening.  If ‘wonderfully’ seems to be an odd wordchoice, it’s one that I use because the rhythmic chant stirs up old, fond memories of when I also belonged to a tribe.  One that I’ve outgrown but still holds a special place in my heart and soul. 

So my wife and I will provide the facilities as they’re wanted, and we’ll do our best to keep tabs on the comings-and-goings.  And I’ll continue to mutter the occasional silent prayer that our kids not kill themselves in those moments when we can’t keep tabs.


PracticalDad:  Fatherhood and Testosterone (Take Two)

Author’s Note:  This is why I generally try to write while the kids aren’t around.  I get distracted and hit the ‘Submit’ button instead of ‘Save’.  Let’s try this again…

According to recent research from the National Academy of Sciences, there’s a statistically significant link – the probability is less than .001 that it’s a complete fluke- between the time that a guy spends caring for his child(ren) and his testosterone level.  It’s hit all of the media outlets from Yahoo to television and by next week, will probably be a movie of the week on Lifetime.  The hypothesis is that significant involvement with childcare, defined as greater than 3 hours daily, causes significant decline in the testosterone level as the male shifts from a need to propagate his line to one of actually raising it.  The apparent company line is that children in their sweet tenderness naturally soften the savage male heart, bringing the father ever so nearere to the bosom of his hearth and home.  Reading some of the media reports makes me see everything in a soft, gauzy glow akin to a Christmas hearth from a Hallmark card.

Let me speak from experience for a moment.  When you’re responsible for cleaning up – and after – kids, feeding and caring for them, you have absolutely no time and little desire and energy to father any more.  As wonderful as children are, the daily life of raising a small child can be a grind.  Toss in a dose of sleep deprivation and there you have it.

Is there a linkage between time spent in childcare and lower testosterone levels?  According to this, yep, and I don’t dispute it in the least.  But some of the company line of why smacks of a preconceived notion or an agenda.  Testosterone levels can be linked to causes as disparate as chemo and radiation treatment for cancer and the tightness of one’s underwear (women think that briefs are sexier, but they can cause a guy to shoot blanks).  Testosterone is produced by the male’s testes but if you follow the production process backwards from the testes, the testes production is stimulated by chemicals produced by the pituitary gland.  The Pituitary gland receives it’s marching orders from the hypothalamus, which is a lower level segment of the brain that controls hormone and other autonomic functions.  The hypothalamus itself receives it’s own set of orders from the cerebral cortex, which is one of the most advanced segments of the brain.  Typically, feelings of success, arousal and confidence will spur the cortex to kick the hypothalamus into gear, literally saying hey, go get me some more of that stuff!  Yowza!

My own sense is that any cause is more related to the issues in the cortex than anything else.  Raising kids is a challenge on multiple levels and a guy can feel wholly overwhelmed in the early periods.  Why is she crying?  What does she need – diaper, food or is this colic?  How do I handle it when I can’t get him to go down for his nap?  Damn, who do I cover first when one is crying from an ear infection and the other has just vomited on the sofa?  How can I feel good about myself when I’ve only had four hours of sleep and haven’t showered in two days?  It’s sometimes a situation of reacting to one situation or another with a recurrent fear that something’s been done wrong and that you’re a damned lousy parent. 

So much for feelings of success and confidence.

There is something that I’d like to see with this study since it does have real value.  The sample consisted of young Filipino men in their early and mid twenties; what is the effect on testosterone several years in the future, after the kids are through the stage of requiring such hands-on, intense attention? 

We’re only one generation of fathers in a lineage of untold generations of fathers and somehow, with some perseverance and considerable attention, we’ll do just fine.  But we are different in that we’re the first generation of men in a long while to really begin to hit the trenches of childcare and childrearing and we’re discovering what women have known for the longest time, that children require a level of attention that impacts almost all other areas of our lives. 



PracticalDad:  Must Discipline Be a Contest of Wills?

It had been a brutal session with one of the kids, who frankly refused to do what was asked on multiple occasions.  With a father who used to be a drill instructor, I learned how to get into someone’s personal space and face and this is finally what I did when I’d tired of the nonsensical back-and-forth with this recalcitrant ‘tweener.  The face looked up at me as I glared down, inches from the nose and with that, the child retreated to perform the oft-requested task.

My wife shook her head at me and sighed as she said, does it have to be a contest of wills?

It’s a question that has stayed with me since that evening some time ago.  Does there have to be a contest of wills between the parent – and when there’s a father around, it often falls to the father – and the child?  Discipline is one of the less pleasant sides of parenting and in today’s world, many parents seemingly want to be a friend or pal and nothing puts a dent into being a pal than having to assure that rules are followed and chores performed.  It can be much easier and less likely when the kids are smaller – they’re more eager to please, their social world hasn’t expanded to a point at which they’re too heavily influenced by other kids, and they can be more easily redirected when they get stubborn.  But shouldn’t it become easier when they become older, seemingly old enough to be reasoned with?

Unfortunately, no. 

Kids do grow and as they’re exposed to more people and situations, they start to change.  While I can try to pick my battles, there are simply some things that I can’t let slide and this is where it gets hairy.  The kids are undergoing huge changes as they explore their sense of independence, their unwillingness to appear "under the thumb" before their peers and the general sense that Dad is now a blithering idiot.  It’s compounded with male teens as some are surging with the testosterone that makes them believe that they’re ready to assume the role of Alpha male in the household and that is something that can’t be permitted lest the inmates take over the asylum.  It’s difficult, and this is coming from a guy who’s made it a point to assure that the kids understand from an early age that Mom and Dad have the final say.

So I’ll just have to continue to try to manuever through the situations as they arise and hopefully, keep the clashes to a minimum.  But they’re still going to happen.

Brain Development and Television

Enough with the Spongebob and turn the damned thing off.  It makes you stupid.

                                                                     – Periodic comment from PracticalDad to Youngest

And just to prove that I was actually right, a University of Virginia psychology professor published a study in Pediatrics that found that four year old children who watched Spongebob did worse – in a statistically relevant way – than their peers who watched either PBS’ Caillou or just drew with markers and crayons.  In this particular study, 60 four year-old children were divided into three equal sized groups and each was to participate in that particular activity for a short period of time; at the end of the activity, each child engaged in the same particular series of tasks to test such things as the ability to delay gratification and handle games that require a series of rules.  The Spongebob kids did only half as well as those who watched either Caillou or drew.

In all fairness to Spongebob – who is actually funny in limited amounts – the issue isn’t that particular cartoon but instead, the nature and style of the program.  Caillou is a mellow cartoon that leads the viewer through a simple, plot-driven story and it doesn’t make it a habit of radically shifting gears in volume and drawing.  Years ago, one of the recurrent criticisms of Sesame Street was that the constant intersplicing of skits, cartoons and songs would hinder the development of preschool viewers and that is echoed in this particular study.  Programs such as Spongebob and others – Fairly Oddparents,  anyone? – now make Sesame Street appear to be the model in flow and style.  As one other researcher noted, "not all TV is the same. It’s not about no television, it’s really about appropriate amounts and appropriate types of television".  Watching a program such as Caillou, and I’ve watched it, does require that the child be able to focus on a particular story for a period of time without persistent and chronic interruption and the same goes for the task of drawing and coloring.  There is a level of stimulation to the brain that’s more consistent with their age than with the hyperactive Spongebob type of program.  With very small children, such simple focusing tasks do  have a cumulative effect on the ability to perform as well as to more easily shift gears from one scenario to another, keeping with their age and capacity.

I think that there’s another issue apart from the overstimulation however.  Children will often mimic what they see and that’s most certainly the case if they like something.  Spongebob glorifies stupidity and kids who’ve just watched another episode of his inanity will, at some level, want to play out what they’ve seen; immediately immersing kid viewers in a series of exercises requiring the opposite of what Spongebob promotes is setting them up for failure.  This kind of behavior is no different than that of teens who watch Dodgeball for the umpteenth time and immediately spend ten minutes tossing objects at one another, yelling if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!

As the one researcher noted, the issue isn’t the program itself, although it is indeed phenomenally dumb.  The issue is that we’re allowing the kids to spend all of this time in front of a screen without chasing them off and making them learn to do something else.  There’s value for a child to lay in his bed or look out the window and daydream, just as there’s value in drawing, playing with blocks and chasing down neighborhood kids to go play.  I understand the draw both of television to the child and of ease for the parent, but it’s a battle that’s going to have to be waged continuously until they’re out of the house.

For your own curiosity, one of the tasks asked of the kids was the Tower of Hanoi exercise, aptly named since I personally found it torturous to figure out.


Some Comments on Food Prices

For the better part of the last three years, there’s been an ongoing debate about whether the economic climate and monetary policy is going to lead to either deflation or inflation.  With all of the talk and uncertainty, I decided a year ago to pull together my own retail grocery price index in order to ascertain what was actually occurring in my own little corner of the world, apart from all of the conjecture and commentary.  This led to the birth of the PracticalDad Price Index in November 2010 and unfortunately, this baby’s growing.

There are some thoughts that should be passed along.

  1. Because I actually managed a local cost-of-living survey when I graduated from college, I do have previous experience in such creatures and this was not a foray into uncharted territory.  It took considerable time and consideration beforehand but once established, the process is a straightforward one.
  2. There is no doubt that this is not a national effort and it is purely what’s occurring at the retail grocery level for a particular county in the Middle Atlantic region of the United States.  However, while there may be differences from the Mid-Atlantic to the West Coast to the Boston-Washington corridor, the question isn’t what the actual prices are from one place to another so much as what’s happening to the level of the prices.  Having lived throughout the mid-South, Suburban Maryland/DC and Mid-Atlantic regions, I know full well that grapes are more expensive in New Jersey than they are where I live.  But I’m hard pressed to say that what’s happening with prices in my county is contained solely to my county; two of the three grocers surveyed have operations far beyond the county borders and all three of them obtain their products from wholesalers and manufacturers that are supporting stores across an expansive geographic area.  Might prices be up a half-percent less elsewhere?  Perhaps, the reality is that they are up significantly beyond what’s admitted to by the official statisticians in the US government and that’s what this effort shows.
  3. Aside from having previous experience with a survey, I’m also the guy who did the shopping for years (and while my wife does more because she likes it, I still do the lion’s share).  When I determined what items should compose the 47 item market basket, I drew heavily upon my experience shopping for a very young family of five.  What does a family, having recently undergone a 55% paycut, have to do make the dollar stretch farther?  What are the basic items that we need to purchase in order to stock our pantry and feed ourselves?  That’s why the market basket is stocked with basics such as hamburger, white bread, oatmeal, apples and carrots.  The other premise was based upon my experience of sticking whenever possible to store brands in order to save pennies.  There are a few products that my wife disliked enough that I returned to name brands, but my thinking was that the cumulative total of buying store brand everything saved enough to make it worthwhile.
  4. This is what makes a 5.71% rise in the cost of the basket frankly scary.  The items comprising the basket are basics without any real room for substitution.  If you give up arugula, you can shift to iceberg lettuce and if Campbell’s becomes too costly, you can go to the store brand.  But how do you replace 80% hamburger or store brand white bread?  When budgets no longer allow for restaurants, people can opt to cook.  But what do you use when cooking oil becomes too costly?
  5. As a child in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I recall news reports of housewives picketing their grocers because the cost of food was rising beyond their budgets.  But having watched the actions of the grocers for the past eleven months, I actually have to admire some of their decisions and don’t consider them to be the "bad guy".  Understand that the grocery business is one with exceptionally thin profit margins so that there isn’t any real ability for them to eat the losses.  There have been multiple instances in which more than one grocer has had items for sale with considerable savings prior to raising the price; you can argue that it’s done in order to hide the real price increase over the two or three week period – wait, was that the price before I bought it on sale three weeks ago?  Nah… – but it’s also giving folks the opportunity to stock up on an item in advance.  Likewise, I’m now seeing where the grocer is actually dropping their store brand for that particular size and replacing it with a much lower cost off-brand product.  Good business for them?  Sure, but it’s also an acknowledgement that they understand that folks are stretching and they’re acting to assist the consumers.
  6. While two points don’t make a trend, the fact that the market basket rose half as much in two months in the previous nine months is worrisome and could indicate that retail food inflation is picking up a head of steam more quickly than the government or Federal Reserve would want to acknowledge.  That’s precisely why I’m honestly anxious about the pricing that’s going to be done in early October.

Time will tell. 

PracticalDad Price Index:  Retail Grocery Basket Up Another .81%; 2% Over Two Months

September’s pricing of the 47 item PracticalDad grocery basket showed that the cost of the basket rose .81% from August’s level with the September index now at 105.71; cumulatively, the cost of the market basket is now 5.71% higher than that at the November 2010 inception.

Inflation at the retail grocery level appears to be starting to surge as the cost of the market basket rose almost 2% from July to September; it had risen 3.71% in the preceding nine month period of November 2010 to July 2011.


PracticalDad Price Index – September 2011
Month Price ($) Index 3 Month Moving Average
Nov 2010 178.39 100  
Dec 2010 180.30 101.07  
Jan 2011 179.51 100.63 100.56
Feb 2011 179.51 100.63 100.78
Mar 2011 180.51 101.08 100.78
Apr 2011 181.91 101.97 101.56
May 2011 182.10 102.08 101.71
Jun 2011 184.07 103.18 102.38
Jul 2011 185.00 103.71 102.99
Aug 2011 187.05 104.85 104.06
Sep 2011 188.57 105.71 104.76



















So what’s notable about the September pricing?

  • Grocers are making significant changes to keep prices under control.  In one instance this month, a grocer kept the same price and size for coffee (@ 11 oz) but went from a can to a vacuum-packed brick.  In another, a grocer actually dropped the price of their 42 ounce container of one-minute oatmeal by 30% but did so by completely eliminating their own store-brand and replacing it with a much lower cost off-brand oatmeal.  Had it not been for this particular effect, the Index would have been higher.
  • Produce at the retail level rose again as the average cost of potatoes from three stores rose by an additional 7.9% and apples also rose by a full 10%.  Eggs shot up in price by almost 17%, but this product has shown that it can fluctuate in price over the past year so it’s uncertain whether such an increase will stick.
  • There were fewer items that had price increases than last month, as well as items with rises greater than 5%.


PracticalDad Price Index – September 2011
Item Size Category 7/11 8/11 9/11
hot dog rolls (ct) 8 bread 1.20 1.20 1.20
loaf, wht bread, store brand (oz) 20 bread 1.22 1.22 1.26
spaghetti, store brand (oz) 16 bread 1.21 1.24 1.21
child cereal, sugar flakes, store brand (oz) 17 cereal 2.90 2.90 2.90
cereal, rice chex, store brand (oz) 12.8 cereal 2.74 2.74 2.74
oatmeal, one minute, store brand (oz) 42 cereal 3.26 3.26 2.92
milk, 2% (gallon) 1 dairy 3.98 4.01 4.04
butter, unsalted, store brand (lb) 1 dairy 3.49 3.49 3.49
vanilla ice cream, store brand (qt) 1 dairy 2.01 2.01 2.01
grated parmesan cheese, store brand (oz) 8 dairy 3.08 3.08  3.08 
American cheese, deli (lb)  1 dairy  5.52  5.52  5.59 
peanut butter, store brand (oz)  28  grocery  2.96  3.06  3.09 
grape jelly, store brand (oz)  32  grocery  1.92  1.99  1.99 
kidney beans, dark, store brand (oz)  15.5  grocery  .87  .93  .92 
can green peas, store brand (oz)  15  grocery  .94  .96  .96 
can diced tomatoes, store brand (oz) 14.5  grocery  1.01  1.01  1.01 
can cut green beans, store brand (oz)  14.5  grocery  .94  .96  .96 
can corn, store brand (oz)  15.25  grocery  .94  .96  .96 
spaghetti sauce, store brand (oz)  26  grocery  1.22  1.22  1.26 
cola, store brand (L) grocery  .96  .96  .96 
caffeinated coffee, store brand (oz)  13  grocery  4.15  4.32  4.36 
diapers, store brand (ct)  100  hlth/bty  18.63  18.63  18.70 
formula, Enfamil Premium, Lipil (oz)  23.4  hlth/bty  22.94  23.29  23.59 
child ibuprofen, OS, store brand (oz)  hlth/bty  4.99  4.96  4.96 
adult ibuprofen, caplet, store brand (ct)  100  hlth/bty  6.89  7.41  7.41 
shampoo, Suave (oz) 22.5  hlth/bty  1.71  1.81  1.86 
pads, long/maximum, Poise (ct)  42  hlth/bty  16.09  16.09  16.09 
bath soap, Dial (ct)  hlth/bty  5.39  5.39  5.84 
aluminum foil, store brand (sq ft)  75  hshld  2.97  2.97  3.01 
kitchen trash bags, handletop, store brand (ct)  26  hshld  4.16  4.31  4.31 
paper towels, 2 ply, store brand (ct)  hshld  7.26  7.26  7.26 
hot dogs, meat franks, store brand (oz)  16  meat  2.69  2.69  2.69 
ground beef, 80% lean (lb)  meat  3.46  3.46  3.46 
eggs, large (doz)  meat  1.81  1.78  2.08 
lunchmeat, deli ham, chopped (lb)  meat  4.06  4.39  4.06 
chicken, roaster (lb)  meat  1.56  1.66  1.59 
fish sticks, Gortons (ct)  44  meat  7.66  7.49  7.49 
tuna, chunk lt, water packed, store brand (oz)  meat  .81  .81  .81 
bananas (lb)  produce  .59  .59  .59 
apples, Red Delicious, bag (lb)  produce  3.76  3.99  4.32 
carrots, bag (lb)  produce  2.39  2.39  2.39 
OJ, non-concentrate, store brand (oz)  64  produce  2.76  2.79  2.79 
potatoes, Russet (lb)  produce  4.32  4.32  4.66 
sugar, store brand (lb)  staple  3.22  3.22  3.22 
flour, store brand (lb) 5 staple 2.20  2.20  2.29 
canola oil, store brand (oz)  48  staple  4.46  4.39  4.39 
rice, white, long-grain, store brand (oz)  staple  1.73  1.73  1.81 
                         Total     185.00  187.05  188.57