The Lettuce Crunch

In recent days, the lowly iceberg lettuce has been caught in a storm. Previously, shoppers paid little attention to this sandwich staple, which sat meekly at $1.99 per piece. In many years of buying groceries, I could say that people took the green one for granted. Never mind that they ate it along with their ham or roast beef. Never mind that this formed the base of their healthy salads and crepes. The head lettuce is a very versatile ingredient, whether in Mexican, Greek, or Southeast Asian cuisine. Perhaps because of this versatility and ubiquity, we couldn’t spare a thought for this humble green.

The skyrocketing cost of lettuce

This week, the news has been saturated with lettuce talk. In some states, including New South Wales, shortages have inspired a dramatic increase in prices. People were already complaining that a head could cost $9.99. Now, it is as much as $11.99, if you could find any. Before you throw a tantrum, it’s not just lettuce. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and other greens, have gone sky high. As a result, fast food chains such as KFC, Subway, and Oporto have all mixed cabbage with lettuce in their burgers, wraps, and subs. Funny enough, the sudden demand for cabbage would also drive up their prices. Now, cabbage is likewise selling for $9.99.

On social media

So remarkable has the upshot been that some influencers have taken to social media to highlight the unbelievable prices that lettuce command. A pair of cheeky Woolworths shoppers posted a video of them placing a lettuce in a bag, with the words ‘channel lettuce’ taped for good measure. The post was an instant hit, accumulating in excess of 720,000 views apart from thousands of comments and likes. The pair were obviously comparing the purchase of lettuce with the iconic handbag. The multitude was quick to respond. Others suggested appellations for similar vegetables that have soared in price, including Gucci Zucchini, Coriander Prada, and Broccoli Venetta.

Apart from this, the lowly lettuce has been the subjects of many memes. From Facebook to Twitter, TikTok to Instagram, there has been a widespread effort to parody the expensive veggie. These posters, whether amateur or pros, are trying to inject some laughs in an otherwise gloomy reality.

Holy guacamole

This is the polar opposite with what happened a few months ago. There was such a surfeit of avocados in Queensland that growers decided to dispose truckloads of the fruit. Videos of avocado mountains became viral. The in-season fruit is normally expensive. If you’re adding guacamole to your nachos or sandwich, prepare to pay a few dollars for a few spoonfuls. The growers admitted that the transport costs interstate would negate any sales of the fruit. As a result, they reasoned that it was better to chuck them.

Truckloads of avocado (Queensland)

In other news

Meanwhile, in other supermart news, Aldi will finally provide customers with smaller trolleys. Until now, the budget grocery has stuck with massive, antiquated trolleys. This is no good to preggers women, who have complained about this for some time. One must note that this has been the norm with its competitors for years. Aldi has also mobilised baskets, which hasn’t been the case since they entered the market two decades ago. A few months past, they likewise greenlit self-service checkouts. Coles has also stepped up their game, offering refurbished iPhone 8’s for $279. Previously, the supermarket giant was selling second hand iPhone 7’s for $259. Unlike the latter, the former is locked to Boost.

Here to stay

This is new to most of us. This kind of exorbitance has not happened in at least the last few decade . The uncertainty caused both by COVID and climate change is being felt almost at lockdown level. Indeed, lettuce has become the poster veggie for these challenging times. From being an overlooked kitchen go-to, it now epitomises the rising food costs. They reason that if the humble lettuce could be so in demand and unaffordable, then what’s next? Economists use the Big Mac Index to gauge countries’ spending capacity. Using the ‘lettuce barometer’ for the same purpose doesn’t sound too far fetched. The war in Ukraine has impacted oil prices half a world away. Surely, the repercussions of these upheavals will continue.

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