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'There’s no going in and grabbing things now': Food inflation impacts shoppers ahead of Thanksgiving

Inflation has reached record-breaking peaks in 2022, and one of the fastest rising costs is food.

ST. LOUIS — Moody’s Analytics reports, the typical American household spends $445 more a month to buy the same items it did a year ago.  

Inflation has reached record-breaking peaks in 2022, and one of the fastest rising costs is food. 

With the holidays right around the corner, a festive dinner will probably be more expensive. Just about everything costs more, including food.

In August 2022, national grocery price inflation was recorded at 13.5%, the largest annual food inflation spike on record since May 1979. 

Economist and Webster University professor, Mitch Ellison tells our reporter, “People are substituting down so they can afford the same amount they had before.” 

This year, American shoppers are navigating double-digit percent price increases for turkey, potatoes, stuffing and other holiday staples.

We spent some time at St. Louis-based supermarket chain, Schnucks. The Executive Vice President of Schnucks Supermarkets, Ted Schnuck, said shoppers buying Schnucks-brand turkeys won’t see a change in price from last year. 

“We know that customers are strapped, and their wallets might be a little bit tighter considering gas prices increasing and utility prices increasing," he said.

“Our frozen turkeys are the same price as last year despite inflation. Our sweet potatoes are the same price as last year, despite inflation. Our celery is actually down from last year," said Schnuck.

With record food inflation levels in 2022, shoppers who are gearing up for holiday dinner are checking the price tags first, before anything else. 

We spoke with Jada Hillard as she was out grocery shopping in the St. Louis area. “Things are very high. There’s no going in and grabbing things now. I have to really look for it and budget myself because eggs are two dollars now and they were just 97 cents a couple of months ago.," she said.

Another shopper, Helen Crosby, told us, “I learn how to eat less now and enjoy what I get…". 

A September 2022 survey by Morning Consult found that 72% of shoppers are slashing their grocery lists, intentionally buying less food at the store to save money. Only 64% of shoppers reported doing this in September 2021. 

Staples like eggs, milk, cereal, bread and butter are at the center of some of the largest price hikes. 

USDA reports, in 2021 the national average price for a gallon of whole milk was $3.77 and 2% reduced-fat milk cost customers around $3.74. 

In 2022, shoppers are paying $4.41 for a gallon of whole milk and $4.36 for 2% reduced-fat milk. 

Morning Consult reports, 81% of shoppers are reaching for generic or store brands to save money. 

Ellison said making similar buying choices could help push producers to lower prices in the long run. “That actually will help cure inflation if you send a signal to the producer that ‘I’m not going to buy the Oreos. I’m going to buy the store brand," Ellison said.

Schnuck said supply chain issues are affecting the entire grocery industry. “Certainly, there have been a lot of supply chain challenges over the last two and a half years or so. Often, that’s driven by challenges at the manufacturer," he explained.

 “A lot of raw material inputs have also gone up as well," he said.

These issues play a part in the prices you see on the shelves. In response, some customers are changing how they shop.

 We are seeing some different purchasing behaviors,” Schnuck said. “Customers who are willing to spend a little bit more time looking through the digital coupons can find some really great deals that they may not see on the shelves in store.” 

Shoppers are stretching every dollar this year, and that could mean choosing more cost-friendly recipes for the holiday dinner. 

Bill Head, Schnucks vice president of meat and seafood said, “A turkey breast is a good item. If you don’t want to buy two turkeys and you want to have more turkey for your meal, that’s fine. A current trend -- people are really getting into hams as well.”

Chef Amy Feese of Schnucks Cooking School told our reporter, “Olive oil, salt and pepper roasts a beautiful vegetable…simplicity, I think, is a great way to bring out the beauty of the ingredients and will help you save money too.” 

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