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May 7, 2014 12:25 PM

The Rent err…..Groceries are Too Damn High!

I’ve been noticing over the last few months that supermarket prices are skyrocketing & I suspect some sort of collusion. I know this I a bad time of the year for produce, (the ongoing drought & Chile's season is ending & California is not yet producing much), seafood (North Atlantic waters are just starting to warm) & meat (higher drought related feed costs & smaller herds). All these factors considered there seems to be a move underfoot to get the public to accept higher food prices, just like the oil companies who use every bit of bad news to raise fuel prices. I guess thy figure people have to eat so if competitors don't cave in they can make higher prices stick.The jumps are pretty much across the board too and not proportionate to the valid reasons for increases. I consider myself a savvy shopper & normally plan my shopping trips based on what center of the plate, perishable protein items are on sale in their fliers. I try only to buy non-perishables (dried, canned, frozen, paper, cleaning supplies etc.) on sale and I buy enough to last me until I anticipate them being on sale again. I also try other brands when on sale and compare. For example, I no longer buy Tide Detergent because it’s way over priced and Kirkland (Costco) cleans equally well. Scott, Great Northern, Charmin toilet tissue all are equally soft now, so I buy what’s on special. Ketchup, Hunt’s I find is actually a better grade than Heinz. But some things cannot be replaced like Hellman’s mayo. Anyway, the specials have not been so special lately. All meat prices have shot up particularly pork, chicken prices are higher. Beef prices, we were told to expect the worst last summer, but have not risen appreciably, except for less tender cuts like chuck roast & ground beef. Cheese has also jumped up. I don’t know if it’s the supermarkets themselves or if it’s big agriculture, big meat, grocery buying groups but the fix is in!

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  1. I doubt there is some big conspiracy to raise prices.
    Food is a pretty good value, at least in my eyes. Think of how much more you'd be willing to pay for it.
    Do you shop at big supermarket chains or where are you buying most of your groceries?

    7 Replies
    1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

      Big supermarkets & Costco primarily.Food is a ggod value especially in the USA where we pay a fraction of our income on food compared to most other countries. That being said we spend a lot more of our income on other categories. American needs cheap food to feed the masses many who are struggling to make ends meet.The politicians know this too. I predict you'll be hearing a lot about food prices in the media in the near future.

      1. re: zackly

        "we pay a fraction of our income on food compared to most other countries. "

        I haven't lived abroad but I imagine this would be the case; though I did pass on the troll caught wild salmon at Costco the other day. Smallest package was in the 30's.

        My guess is that cost of medicine & higher education are two of the most expensive things in the U.S.

        1. re: ceekskat

          As opposed to other countries, guess it all comes out in the wash.

          1. re: ceekskat

            Salmon caught by trolls? Under bridges? Do they do a troll dance when they get one?
            Sorry... not familiar with the troll-caught designation yet, couldn't resist sharing the images that come to mind :)

            1. re: julesrules

              They are referring to salmon caught by the traditional fishing method of multiple hooks and lines that are towed(trolled) behind a boat, unlike the more common way of catching large quantities (entire schools) of fish via a towed net.

          2. re: zackly

            Um what? In talking to friends in Europe most grocery items are considerably cheaper there vs. the US. We spend more for many other things like cell phones, internet etc. This is an idea people have been fed, that we pay less here. Maybe we used to but it quit being, or isn't the case.

            The cheap food to feed the masses is BS. The price for pretty much all categories of food has gone way up over the last 5-10 years. There is always an excuse to bump it up or shrink the package size but it never ever goes back down after the excuse goes away.

            The media is always keen to pass on whatever this week's food panic is (drought=high beef, sugar is going to skyrocket). This is not a public service message, it is a way to make people go out and panic buy at a point where the related industry wants to bring in more sales for various reasons.

            What should be going on is an investigation into price fixing by commodity traders, big food processors and the grocery manufacturers industry.

            1. re: blackpointyboots

              Yeah. Univ. CA Berkeley and National Public Radio are SO bad about that, aren't they?

        2. It's not going back down, I'm pretty sure. Food has been really cheap in this country, relative to average income, for an awfully long time; I'm old enough to remember when ground beef was a quarter per pound, and the average lunch-counter hamburger was the same price … but that was when $10K per year was a solidly middle-class income. Our agriculture is taking a hit already from climate change, and that's not gonna get any better either. I read a story a couple of days ago about the efforts being made to breed a more heat-resistant chicken … and as for meat prices in general, I'm expecting those to keep climbing. One day I'll thank Mrs. O for going vegetarian, thus forcing me to learn how to cook that way.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Will Owen

            You're probably right on all your points. Market forces like people refusing to buy may push prices down temporarily but if the producers can't turn a profit they'll have to close up shop.

            1. re: Will Owen

              High feed prices from the ridiculous use of agricultural products to produce ethanol + extreme weather have forced a race to slaughter over the past several years leaving a reduced stock of animals. Attempts to build the numbers back up mean less animals for current beef production. Add the high cost of diesel & you got yourself some pricey beef.

            2. Having lived outside of the US up until 6 months ago (and making a local salary) - the US has it very nice regarding the percentage of one's salary that's spent on food. Very nice. Living abroad, I spent a far higher percentage of my salary on food.

              I'm not trying to talk down to people who get used to budgets working a certain way and then having circumstances change - but the US has had it easy on the cost of food for decades compared to the rest of the world.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cresyd

                It's that people have come to expect prices that are artificially low and now that demand for food is rapidly increasing; prices are adjusting to the proper equilibrium. The unexpected shock factor is going to surprise a lot of consumers I think, as they probably didn't anticipate these increases. I see meat, seafood, and dairy prices increasing substantially for the mass market consumer in the next 5-10 years, with smaller, more non-commodity meats, dairy and seafood, getting a smaller, but definitely not insignificant price increase.
                I will say that at co-ops, farmers markets, and smaller non chain stores, I haven't really seen any decline in my purchasing power. Though I think the prices at those stores are higher (not sure to what degree) than most big chains to begin with.

                I can't say for certain but I bet the groceries you were getting were probably substantially better quality than what you'd find in most American supermarkets, cresyd.

                1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                  I was living in Jerusalem - and I will say that certain indigenous or locally friendly produce was of a higher quality. Regarding "hot house" products - I'd be hard pressed to say that the asparagus found in Jerusalem is/isn't better than what you'd get in the US.

                  However, what I did get very used to was a substantial increase of price in all "convenience" foods (i.e. anything in a can, box, etc.). While some items I'd eventually come to determine, 'no this is worth the convenience price' - it definitely helped me become a more "from scratch" and seasonal cook. When you notice that between x-z months tomatoes cost double - you learn how to use less of them.

                  I understand how easy it is to get on a soap box about these things - so I'm trying to avoid that. But if US prices are on the rise, it may just be more to US food prices reflecting global food prices.

              2. my biggest problem with food prices in the US is they are hard to make sense of - some products are highly subsidized, others are not. Costs vary greatly from store to store and knowing exactly what you are getting requires paying much attention to sources and prices every time you shop.

                I don't mind paying for quality or sometimes compromising quality for a really good price but I hate feeling like I got sold. ie the quite expensive strip steaks at the nicer supermarket near me are terrible and tasteless.

                our local coop is making progress to a brick and mortar store and I really hope this will help remedy this.

                1. I am in the grocery business and there is no collusion. It is bad and it is going to get worse for many of the reasons mentioned in the press. Hang on.....

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: HoosierFoodie

                    But why did they take a quantum leap recently? It was like someone flicked a switch.

                    1. re: zackly

                      Prices have been skyrocketing for at least five or six years, ever since the "recession" ended. Weather is playing a big part, so not a collusion (on mankind's part anyway!). When there is a shortage of something, like grain or beef, the manufacturers can get better money in other parts of the world so they ship it there instead. What little is left for us, they can ask any price.

                      1. re: coll

                        Where do you live where the recession has been over for five or six years?

                        1. re: jpc8015

                          Technically, according to the government. My personal recession is far from over.

                          1. re: coll

                            "according to the government"...that is a big red flag right there.

                            1. re: jpc8015

                              I'm livin' the dream, believe it! When it's all over, I'll write my best selling book ;-)

                      2. re: zackly

                        I don't think they are skyrocketing as much as so many products going up at the same time. Milk has shot up this fast before but not along with beef, pork, limes (oranges and bananas may go up, too) etc... at the same time.

                        1. re: zackly

                          Have you been following fuel prices? Fuel is used to plow the fields, run sprinkler systems and harvest fields and fishes. Everything we eat is delivered by truck. Rising fuel equals rising delivery cost and must be reflected in each item we purchase.

                          1. re: Cam14

                            When we lived in SW Oregon, there was a big billboard on I-5 that said "If you bought it, a truck brought it." Good thing to remember.

                            1. re: Cam14

                              Yes, and petroleum is used in many facets of food production, I know. Fuel has always been a part of the equation but that isn't the only factor right now.

                              1. re: Cam14

                                FUEL: Turn the fields, plant the seeds, irrigate, crop dust, harvest, truck to bulk storage, truck to food processing plants, truck to food distribution centers often requiring reefer cooling, energy to keep cold at distribution centers, truck to retail stores often using reefers & energy to keep many products cold or frozen until purchased & energy to keep the climate in the stores comfortable for shoppers........yeah........I think your on to something with the cost of fuel :-)