How Much More Are You Spending at the Grocery Store?

groceries

On Aug. 11, Mary Ellen Burris, a senior vice president of consumer affairs for Wegmens, a family-owned grocery chain in upstate New York wrote a blog post titled “Sky High Beef” to explain to customers why beef prices have risen lately:

We get used to ups and downs in meat supply but current costs for beef are higher than I’ve ever seen in my 41 years at Wegmans. Our meat experts tell me the current inventory of cattle in this country is the smallest in over 60+ years! Small supply of course translates to higher costs and retail prices. The supply is especially tight for dairy cattle, the traditional source of lean beef for making ground beef.

Sustained droughts in the West in recent years made the price of corn go up, which affected feed costs and discouraged farmers from expanding their cattle herds. For families who rely on beef as a quick and easy source of protein, Burris suggested buying their “family pack” to get “the best value in the meat case.”

It’s more than beef. The Wall Street Journal reports that diseases among pig populations have caused pork prices to rise. Bacterial infections have affected shrimp populations. Dry weather has affected fruit, vegetable and coffee prices. (Remember the Great Spring Lime Shortage?) One grocery shopper the Journal talked to noticed she has gone from spending $130 a week at the grocery store for her family of three to more than $200 a week.

“I don’t even buy chips, snacks or any pre-made salads anymore,” she told the Journal. “What is going on?”

All of this prompted me to go through my bank statements to examine grocery spending for the past few months, and sure enough, what used to be $40-$50 grocery store trips have risen to $60-$70 grocery store trips. Shoppers who’ve made attempts to save have tried buying cheaper cuts of meat, buying in-season produce, and shopping the sales (here’s a cereal tip!).

And what about you? Noticed any increases while grocery shopping?

Photo: Jaro Larnos

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35 Comments / Post A Comment

j a y (#3,935)

Yup. I track my spending closely and my monthly grocery bill has gone from 150 per month to about 270 over the last 8 years. Some of that is inflation and some of it is buying more luxury product.

But I used to buy most meat on sale for 99c/lb. These days that’s very rare… Occasional picnic ham and entire pork legs.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@j a y Yeah, it seems like chicken (my main meat purchase) hardly ever even gets down to the sale price of $1.99/lb anymore.

ATF (#4,229)

@LookUponMyWorks That is driving me crazy. The sale price on chicken lately has been $2.69 a pound and that’s just not okay.

j a y (#3,935)

@LookUponMyWorks In the good old days (10 years ago or so) I could buy chicken leg quarters for 79c/lb! /nostalgia

These days (confirms with flyers)whole chickens for $2/lb is about as good as you can get. I see the chicken leg quarters sometimes for $1.79. Pork chops on sale are $2/lb. That being said, I still shop the sales because regular price on those is about double.

RiffRandell (#4,774)

I only buy turkey bacon for meat at the moment, but I feel that eggs went up recently at Aldi. I need to just buy from a neighbor and get some homegrown eggs, I’m sure someone around me sells.

ATF (#4,229)

I don’t even know because I stop in and buy things as needed. I spent almost $70 this week buying things for the husband’s birthday beer themed dinner (this year was stout meatballs in a beer BBQ sauce on French bread with provalone, honey brown ale cornbread with honey butter, and sriracha IPA roasted corn). But other than that, it’s $30 or $40 every week or so.

But related! Market Basket is back!!!! Can we all jump for joy and go buy things at crazy reasonable prices there again!?! With a 4% discount on your entire purchase just because?!

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@ATF Best birthday party theme ever?

ATF (#4,229)

@LookUponMyWorks It’s the third year I’ve done it. It all started because he doesn’t really need anything, so buying gifts for him can be a challenge. But he does love beer and I like to cook, so here we are. Winds up being a LOT of cooking but also tons of fun. The only rule is that all parts of the meal must have beer in them somehow.

First year was bacon cheddar beer bread grilled cheeses with beer battered broccoli tempura and a chocolate stout cake

Last year was honey glazed porter chicken on IPA rice with beer caramelized onions in sauteed spinach and I think some sort of beer bread side and a chocolate IPA cake that was far to IPA tasting for my liking.

andnowlights (#2,902)

@ATF THAT SOUNDS AMAZING! Man, I wish my husband could eat meat because I would so make that his birthday meal this year!

nell (#4,295)

@ATF YESSS Market Basket! I am filled with fist pumping populist joy this morning and I’m so excited to go grocery shopping this weekend. I definitely have noticed that I’ve been paying more for groceries but I have been chalking it up to the Market Basket fiasco. (background for non-New Englanders: http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/specials/market-basket)

ATF (#4,229)

@andnowlights I get a lot of my beer recipes from this site – http://thebeeroness.com/ Everything routinely turns out amazing and she has tons of veg recipes!

ATF (#4,229)

@nell The closest MB to me is in Everett but you can be damn sure at some point this weekend I will stop in to say congrats to the associates and to buy whatever I can find on the shelves! It feels like such a victory! I feel like this article captures it nicely – http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/08/27/with-epilogue-market-basket-drama-sight-what-have-learned/4Z26D2H1Yzh1dvf3jc1B2O/story.html

“For six weeks, we were mesmerized by the sight of thousands of grocery clerks, cashiers, and other workers protesting at stores, on Facebook, and on the front pages of this paper. They did so at great risk, without the protection of a union, not because they wanted higher wages, but merely the return of their beloved boss, Arthur T. Demoulas.

Who among us would do that? Not many, if any at all. We were riveted because we wanted to be them. These rebellious employees gave voice to the voiceless masses who just wanted to hold on to decent wages for a decent day’s work at a time when fat cats get $50 million paychecks for showing up, and the gap between the rich and the poor is as gaping as ever.”

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

I hardly ever buy beef…I think last time I did it was January and I was making stew. I’m happy to get most of my protein from eggs, beans, and chicken, although chicken is getting pretty pricey these days. Bacon is a once-a-month treat; pork tenderloin is my absolute favorite dish to make if I’m entertaining (lol), but the last time I purchased that was probably in…March.

I’ve noticed that a few kitchen staples like olive oil have gone up, as well. Probably also drought related. :-(

andnowlights (#2,902)

@LookUponMyWorks Now I really want my mom’s pork tenderloin. Christmas is so far away.

sea ermine (#122)

I haven’t BUT I go through the store adding up everything on my phone’s calculator to ensure it doesn’t go over $50 a week. I haven’t noticed myself buying less and I definitely haven’t been eating less but it could just be that I’m adjusting my purchases to get the same amount for less because that’s what’s in my budget.

That said, I don’t eat a lot of beef (mostly duck, chicken, fish, occasionally a pork tenderloin) so maybe that’s it?

therealjaygatsby (#4,053)

I mean maybe this isn’t such a bad thing. Traditionally, meat was considered a “treat,” eaten only every so often or a few times a week. Now, most people can’t go one meal without some kind of meat. We’ve grown so used to cheap meat, mostly produced through the terrible terrible factory farm system. Maybe this will get people to try some new sources of non-meat protein, or at least cut down on the amount of meat that we’re consuming as a nation. I’m not holding my breath on either of these things happening, though.

garli (#4,150)

@therealjaygatsby I’ve been making an effort to eat less meat but it’s more related to water usage guilt than price. My inner tree hugger that killed the lawn felt bad about how much water it takes to produce a pound of meat.

Goodie (#5,447)

@therealjaygatsby but meat is so delicious! I always tell myself I am going to eat less meat, but then I walk past the butcher and see a yummy steak or rack of lamb and I cant help myself. Maybe I just need the price to go up more.

sariberry (#4,420)

@therealjaygatsby I completely agree. I’m not a vegetarian, but I try to be conscious of where my meat comes from and how it gets there. It’s a disturbing system that impacts everything from our carbon footprint to water consumption. I really wish people would think about it more, and at least moderate their meat consumption. If higher prices are what it takes, maybe that’s a good thing.

NoName (#3,509)

@therealjaygatsby I received a “for the bride” guide from 1948 as a semi-gag gift a few weeks ago, and I’ve been fascinated by the section on household budgets. Back then, it was considered reasonable to spend 28% of your household income on food. In comparison, rent was 25%. My takeaway from this is that we have been extremely spoiled by the development of cheap factory-farmed food.

garli (#4,150)

Wasn’t the lime shortage mostly due to cartel actions in mexico? I haven’t noticed much produce price change, but in the summer we do a lot of trades with friends and neighbors. That makes it sound like I live in the country, but most people around here have fruit trees and way more tomatoes and squash than they know what to do with.

My grocery bill has gone up a touch, but part of that is getting out of the habit of eating out so much so it’s a net savings.

andnowlights (#2,902)

Our spending has gone up about $25 a week, I think, since we moved here two years ago. I haven’t tracked what went up, exactly, but that’s kind of annoying. I’m SHOCKED at our grocery bill some weeks after I add it all up (after going to all the places we shop at). We don’t even eat meat because the husband can’t and sometimes I think about how much easier/cheaper it would be if he could (fish is $$$ and we usually have it 2-3 nights a week, otherwise we eat vegetarian for dinner. I’m still a meat girl, though).

palamedes (#7,548)

One thing to watch for, for your health, is not to replace protein with carbohydrates. We seem to be increasing our intake of the latter in general, and the rising cost of meat will make it more tempting. I think that contributes a lot to the obesity problem these days.

beastlyburden (#6,122)

According to Mint, I spent $35/grocery trip from August 2008 – July 2009 and $54/trip on the same from August 2013 – July 2014, so, uh, yeah, damn, my food costs have reaalllllly gone up.

OTOH, those numbers are a bit skewed in a few ways. We have a Costco membership now that we didn’t have in 2008-2009, and all of those costs (which include things like toilet paper, a new TV, shampoo/conditioner, etc.) get lumped together into “groceries” because I’m too lazy to break it out. We also made a conscious decision to spend more money on certain kinds of food, including sustainably and humanely raised meat, which ain’t cheap.

I understand that I’m only able to say this from a position of privilege and plenty, but I really strongly believe that meat should be more expensive than it is. 99 cent/lb. chicken has enormous ecological and ethical costs. Of course, the recent increases in the price of meat have nothing to do with improved foodways, so it’s lose/lose all the way around.

kbn22 (#1,414)

I’ve definitely noticed that the price of some of our staples has gone way up. Not beef so much (I get most of that at the Farmer’s Market – about $3-3.50/lb for ground beef or sirloin, and $20/lb for tenderloin, which is what it’s been for a few years), but bacon that was $4 last year is now $7. Organic milk was $4, and has edged steadily up to $4.50 in the last couple months. Butter is up, coffee is up, eggs are up, cheese is way up. I buy multiples of things when they go on sale, but we’re still spending more than we used to (due to a combination of price increases and because we’re trying to eat better). I tried to compare year-to-year expenditures on Mint, but couldn’t figure out how to do that – I did, however, see that Mint says we’ve spent $25,000 in groceries over the past four years. Which is, frankly, pretty jaw-dropping when you consider we’re just two adults and a teeny toddler, and not like, a house with four teenage boys.

cryptolect (#1,135)

@kbn22 $25,000 for 4 years is about $6,000/year, or $500/month. That’s about what my household of two adults and a teeny toddler spends on groceries as well. And given the teeny toddler’s insatiable thirst for organic, non-hormonal cow’s milk, I only see it getting worse…

Vixy (#7,634)

I’m in a unique situation because of where I live (in a very rural Arctic village where everything must be flown in), but my husband and I easily spend $750 a month on groceries (it’s more like $850, probably). Milk is $12-14/gallon, a box of cereal is $10, a 12-pack of soda is $13 (not that we ever buy soda), and chicken ranges from $6-8/lb. There is only one small store in our village, and it has a non-compete clause until 2018 (not sure whose bright idea that was). I actually cannot wait until we move and pay a quarter of what we are paying now. I used to think I paid a lot for groceries living in downtown Boston, but I see that I was quite mistaken :).

drydenlane (#5,919)

@Vixy Pleeeaaaasee write a post about life in your village. Sounds fascinating!!

Vixy (#7,634)

@drydenlane It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing, so I just need to get a post together! I’m glad to know people would be interested in hearing about rural Arctic life :).

drydenlane (#5,919)

I can’t bear to tally what I spend on groceries each month, but I’d say we typically spend $60 per week (~$240 per month) to feed two. I don’t eat or buy (for my boo) meat. I moved to Portland from Atlanta, and there was a great market in Atlanta where I could buy produce and dry goods at really great prices. I also big time miss Publix, the best grocery store ever (I haven’t been to a Wegmans yet), and its BOGO deals.

I have caught parts of Extreme Couponing at the gym and sometimes toy with trying to become a couponing whiz, but it seems like a lot of work and might not work with the type of stuff I tend to buy.

kbn22 (#1,414)

@drydenlane Shout out for YDFM!

Natalie (#6,708)

My neighbor, whom I have never met, has a flourishing, abundant lime tree. On my walk home from the grocery store, I stop on the sidewalk and look around and then quickly pluck one from the tree. She’s never going to eat all those limes. The ones at the grocery store are dry and expensive. Am I a bad person?

eatmoredumplings (#3,808)

@Natalie Not if she never notices or cares :) one lime at a time seems pretty low-impact if the tree is full of htem.

eatmoredumplings (#3,808)

My grocery costs have stayed the same for about the last 5 years, but that’s because my budget has stayed the same. I buy meat as a specialty item once or twice a month, usually from more expensive and humane sources, so I haven’t noticed a rise in prices. My shopping habits have changed a little in slightly cheaper ways though: I’m trying not to over-buy for more than I can cook in a week, and honestly, I have transitioned to eating a little more prepackaged food and frozen veggies and a little less fresh produce in the last few months thanks to energy and time issues.

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