Did you feel the sticker shock as you filled your shopping cart?
October’s reading of the consumer price index just adds a bit of indigestion to what we already know. The jump in food prices is staggering.
Inland Empire Groceries lead the pack by four counties, costing 13.3% more in a year. In Los Angeles and Orange counties, food inflation rose 10.8%. Groceries nationwide were 12.4% more expensive in the last year.
Southern Californians, did you get a 6% hike this summer?
This is a growth story. And not a good one. Especially when food inflation far exceeds the 6% average increases for Southern California workers achieved during the past year.
In Riverside and San Bernardino counties, food inflation has averaged 10.8% this year compared to 4.3% annually in 2019-2021. In LA-OC, it’s 10.9% this year versus 2.8% the previous three years.
In every meal
It’s not just a few skyrocketing prices. Harsh food inflation can be seen in every aisle.
My trusty spreadsheet looked at the biggest nationwide jumps in individual food categories. You could create an entire day’s menu plan using these sky-high cost items.
Breakfast: Eggs (+43% in 12 months), butter (+27%), cereals (+17%), coffee (+15%) and milk (+14.5%).
The lunch: Bread (+15%), soups (+17%), cured meats (+19%), frankfurters (+15%) and snacks (+14%).
Dinner: Chicken (+14.5%), rice-pasta-cornmeal (+17%), canned fruit and vegetables (+19%) and potatoes (+15%).
Salad: Lettuce (+18%), Salad Dressings (+20%) and Olives-Pickles-Condiments (+17.5%).
Dessert: Cakes, cupcakes and biscuits (+16%).
…even feeding Fido or Fluffy is bad, with pet food prices rising 15% in one year.
And there’s also distressing holiday wishes within the CPI: hints at how much the popular fare might cost for upcoming family reunions.
Turkey is 17% more expensive than a year ago. Meanwhile, ham costs 9% more and gravy 15%. Maybe skip the peas? They’re up 12%, while sandwiches are up 14% and cakes will cost 19% more.
I can’t skip the shopping
Food inflation is a financial pain that affects everyone.
According to IPC estimates, groceries account for 8.5% of a typical household’s spending. You know the cost is a much larger chunk of the household budget for people of lesser means.
Food is a necessity and not a purchase to be delayed.
Instead, consider skipping overly inflated items as tracked by the CPI. Start with meals out, which cost 9% more a year. Or air travel, which is up 43%. A new car works 9% longer, if you can find one. Meanwhile, at home, flooring costs were up 13%, dishes up 12%, and even stationery up 13%.
No quick fixes
Help will not come soon. Food inflation has few quick fixes.
The food chain is under stress. The drought has damaged crops. Labor shortages make harvesting, shipping, and processing food all the more expensive. Higher fuel costs increase transportation costs. And the war in Ukraine, an agricultural giant, makes matters even more complicated.
The institution that does the most on overall inflation, the Federal Reserve, is mostly powerless when it comes to food costs.
“My colleagues and I are acutely aware that high inflation imposes significant hardship as it erodes purchasing power, especially for those least able to meet the higher costs of essential goods such as food, shelter and transportation,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said at a recent press conference.
But he later added, “We don’t directly influence, for the most part, food and energy prices.”
Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at [email protected]