Inflation Nation: Why you’re paying more at the grocery store

Trips to the grocery store, like nearly everything nowadays, are costing more and more each month, bringing extra hardships to families across the area.

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“Right now we’re having to cut it down a little bit. I used to buy more fresh stuff. I used to buy a lot more milk, just a lot of meat. I’m having to cut a lot of meat, so they’re having to get more processed stuff sometimes,” Toinette Trotter, a Dayton mother of six told News Center 7′s Molly Koweek.

Trotter spends about $300 a week at the grocery store. But while she’s spending the same amount, she said she’s not getting as much for her money.

“It’s just difficult. I’m trying to get my kids the same thing they used to have, but they’re not able to get that anymore,” Trotter said.

But Trotter isn’t alone. Analysis released in March by Moody’s Analytics shows the average American household is spending an extra $296 per month on groceries. That’s up $20 since January, because of inflation.

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture also shows price differences over a two year period on many grocery store staples:

Chicken breast per pound:

  • March 2020: $2.96
  • March 2022: $3.87
  • Difference: $0.91

Ground beef per pound:

  • March 2020: $3.88
  • March 2022: $4.76
  • Difference: $0.88

Eggs per dozen:

  • March 2020: $1.53
  • March 2022: $2.05
  • Difference: $0.52

These price increases are continuing to create challenges for shoppers.

“Especially when you want to entertain your grandchildren or family, it’s pretty tough to make all the ends meet,” Jane Brown of Dayton said. “It’s like, what can I do without so I can make sure that I have the things that I need.”

While everyone is dealing with it, the question still is what’s causing it. Disruptions caused by COVID-19, supply chain issues, the war in Ukraine and more have often been cited as part of the reason for price increases.

But that’s only part of the story according to Zoë Plakias an assistant professor at The Ohio State University in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics.

“Every point in the food system with humans in it has been affected by COVID, which is every point in the food system. It all kind of compounds,” Plakias said.

But while case numbers and hospitalizations have decreased food prices continue to rise.

“There’s been kind of a resurgence in demand for goods, and so what that has meant is that, even in the face of these continued supply chain pressures, which make it hard for distributors, and producers, and retailers to all get products to where we want them, we have also started to pick up our spending,” Plakias said.

Meaning those higher demands are leading to higher costs.

Additional uncertainty outside the U.S. is still playing a factor in how prices here are increasing, Plakias said. Current lockdown threats caused by COVID cases in China are again impacting supply chains. And the war in Ukraine continues to cause a squeeze on the global market.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2021 the U.S. imported just 3 percent of its crude oil from Russia. Plakias explained, other countries that previously got more of their oil from Russia are now purchasing from the same pool as the U.S.

“Energy prices impact every part of the food system as well because of all the movement of goods,” Plakias said.

All these external factors are still only part of the entire price increase issue, according to Plakias, saying corporations at home could also be taking advantage of the situation.

“Certainly I do think it’s feasible that there are people that are taking advantage of this opportunity, at the same time they have these really high costs that have come from the pandemic,” Plakias said.

Looking at the nation’s largest meat processor for example: According to Tyson’s quarterly report, profits were up 48 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same time last year. The company’s CEO blames inflation.

However, the reason for the added costs in their carts isn’t what people like Trotter and Brown are focused on at the grocery store.

“It’s very frustrating and I hope things will kind of calm down eventually, sooner than later,” Brown said.

The USDA does not expect these high prices to come back down this year. For 2022, it projects 5 to 6 percent inflation.

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