Author Topic: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?  (Read 2984 times)

BayAreaFrugal

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 50
Are other people feeling that over the last year so itís been harder to keep the grocery bill down? I have a toddler and Iím incredibly sleep deprived, so Iím not sure if everything is really getting more expensive or if Iím just too tired to make smart buying decisions.  Iíve also noticed that the quality of produce has plummeted, which has led me to look for better stores, but the prices there are so obscene that Iím completely demoralized.

Zikoris

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2844
  • Age: 31
  • Location: Vancouver, BC
  • Vancouverstachian
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2018, 12:27:14 PM »
It's probably very region-specific. Here in Vancouver my grocery spending has been stable for about six years so far.
Blogging about frugality, travel, and Vancouver life - www.incomingassets.wordpress.com

I also have a journal! http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/the-zikoris-diaries/

nereo

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7682
  • Location: la belle province
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2018, 12:51:55 PM »
Are other people feeling that over the last year so itís been harder to keep the grocery bill down? I have a toddler and Iím incredibly sleep deprived, so Iím not sure if everything is really getting more expensive or if Iím just too tired to make smart buying decisions.  Iíve also noticed that the quality of produce has plummeted, which has led me to look for better stores, but the prices there are so obscene that Iím completely demoralized.

The best data on food prices probably comes from the BLS and their "basket of goods" which is part of the consumer price index.

Short answer: overall food prices have been remarkably steady, and near historic lows for the past several years.  Food prices went up ~1.6% over the last 12 months, which is slightly below overall inflation (so food prices have either barely budged of gone down somewhat).
Regionality of course factors into it; I can't comment about whether SF has been increasing faster than, say, Des Moins (though those data exist) - these are all 'broad brush' strokes.
Ultimately what you buy determines whether prices are increasing/decreasing.  For example, avacadors have been getting more expensive, while pork has gotten cheaper.  If you buy more of the former than the latter it will influence your perception.

You can drill into the information here: https://www.bls.gov/cpi/

some items I pulled out:
Meat + poultry + eggs = +2.8%
Food away from home = +2.5%
Food (groceries, overall) = +1.6%
Dairy = -0.5%
Cereals = -0.6%
"Do not confuse complexity with superiority"

chasesfish

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2151
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Texas
    • Years in the making, I created a journal!
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2018, 12:53:46 PM »
Where are you shopping?

Stores with limited item count (Costco) seem to be replacing more regular options with organic instead of giving consumer choice.  I noticed this in a small Safeway out in California last month, much lower selection than our big Safeway in Texas and most of the options were the more expensive of the choices.
Check out our journal, counting down the days until I Stop Ironing Shirts

We hit $1mil by 33 and will retire at 36!  Stop by over at my site Stop Ironing Shirts

Share the love - Chase Sapphire Preferred Signup Link: https://www.referyourchasecard.com/6/OS5OVSFUKD

Catbert

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1440
  • Location: Southern California
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2018, 02:42:54 PM »
I don't notice much difference with regular grocery stores and Costco (except as Chasesfish noted, more expensive organic is replacing lower priced regular items). 

However, I have noticed rising prices as some discount/cheap stores.  There is an ethnic grocery store where I use to find fantastic bargains  (e.g., 10 lbs of heirloom tomatoes for $2.50 or 10 red bell peppers for $1).  Still cheaper than the regular grocery store but not bargains like a couple of years ago.  Are there fewer bargains or am I just shopping there less and missing them?    A discount store selling groceries among other things still gets returns/dents/leftovers from Costco.  But often the prices are the same as Costco where before the seemed less.

mm1970

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5389
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2018, 10:39:33 AM »
I haven't noticed much of a change.  My last 2 years of grocery costs were about $6850 & $7000, and my boys are growing.

However, I can relate on being exhausted and having a toddler.  That's probably the bulk of it right there.  In fact, our bill is skyrocketing this year, and it's not food prices, it's my patience for shopping at 7 effing stores to get the best prices.

ketchup

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3307
  • Age: 27
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2018, 11:06:11 AM »
I haven't noticed really any appreciable increase in grocery prices since I started buying my own real groceries (2012).

nessness

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 174
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2018, 11:25:34 AM »
I'm in CA too (assuming that's where you are from your username) and every time I go to a regular grocery store like Safeway lately everything seems obscenely expensive. I mostly shop at WinCo now though and for the most part their prices seem to be holding steady.

BayAreaFrugal

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 50
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2018, 01:06:22 PM »
I haven't noticed much of a change.  My last 2 years of grocery costs were about $6850 & $7000, and my boys are growing.

However, I can relate on being exhausted and having a toddler.  That's probably the bulk of it right there.  In fact, our bill is skyrocketing this year, and it's not food prices, it's my patience for shopping at 7 effing stores to get the best prices.

Yea, I think that probably is the bulk of it. I'm probably just being too lazy to do any real kind of meal planning, and end up just buying whatever I think my toddler might eat. And there are definitely some grocery staples I'm buying now that I didn't use to purely because they're one of a handful of things he'll reliably eat (goldfish and cheese sticks being two of two of my new regular purchases).

BayAreaFrugal

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 50
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2018, 01:10:41 PM »
I'm in CA too (assuming that's where you are from your username) and every time I go to a regular grocery store like Safeway lately everything seems obscenely expensive. I mostly shop at WinCo now though and for the most part their prices seem to be holding steady.

I don't think I have a WinCo in my area. I've been doing most of my shopping at Lucky for the past several years, and I'm usually able to get in and out of there without doing *too* much damage, but lately their produce has been horrible. I'll often end up having to throw things away 2-3 days after purchasing them because they're already going bad. And given that grapes and berries are some of the only healthy things my toddler will eat, I'm constantly buying them and throwing them out before we can finish them. Which has led me to my search for other stores, where everything seems to be 1.5-3x as expensive. It shouldn't be this hard to feed my family healthy food on a budget in such a populated area.

Capt j-rod

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 288
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2018, 01:45:37 PM »
In Ohio everything is seasonal. When it is in season it is dirt cheap... When it is out, it is outrageous. I freeze blueberries, peaches, and other produce. We can vegetables, applesauce, and tomatoes. I notice that it depends on which week of the month that you shop has a lot to do with pricing here. The third week of the month is the cheapest. Don't know why, just happens to be that way. The kid thing plays hell on judgement, I have two. If they are with me it is hard to focus and half way through I say screw it and leave.

Mrs. Rocker

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 43
    • Off Our Rocker RV
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2018, 05:20:31 PM »
Freeze the grapes and berries before they go bad. They are great in smoothies or on yogurt with granola. Frozen cut up grapes and pineapple pieces are a good snack that kids tend to like.
Living and loving our crazy RV life. www.offourrockerrv.com

nessness

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 174
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2018, 09:20:11 PM »
I'm in CA too (assuming that's where you are from your username) and every time I go to a regular grocery store like Safeway lately everything seems obscenely expensive. I mostly shop at WinCo now though and for the most part their prices seem to be holding steady.

I don't think I have a WinCo in my area. I've been doing most of my shopping at Lucky for the past several years, and I'm usually able to get in and out of there without doing *too* much damage, but lately their produce has been horrible. I'll often end up having to throw things away 2-3 days after purchasing them because they're already going bad. And given that grapes and berries are some of the only healthy things my toddler will eat, I'm constantly buying them and throwing them out before we can finish them. Which has led me to my search for other stores, where everything seems to be 1.5-3x as expensive. It shouldn't be this hard to feed my family healthy food on a budget in such a populated area.
Yeah I just looked at a map and the closest ones to the Bay are Tracy, Antioch, and Vacaville.

Have you tried ethnic grocery stores for produce? That was my go-to when I lived in the LA area.

Another Reader

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4371
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2018, 09:32:30 PM »
I only shop Lucky for sale items.  Their produce is not great, but occasionally something decent will go on sale.  I won't touch the chicken, it's not handled properly. 

Do you have a Sprouts near you?  Much better produce at better prices.  Sales are very good.  Best boneless skinless chicken pieces anywhere at bargain prices.

Prices are definitely up at Safeway.  Produce is very expensive.  I buy the coupon, Just 4 You, and Five Dollar Friday specials for things I need and use.

mountain mustache

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 63
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2018, 09:51:58 PM »
since I moved to CO in 2012, prices have definitely gone up. I now live in a small town with only a Safeway, and it's insanely expensive, compared to City Market, Sprouts, etc. I recently did a comparison between my grocery bill at Safeway in my town, and at Whole Foods in a slightly larger, but still pretty small town. The Whole Foods bill came out cheaper, and included more organic foods! I was pretty shocked. I think Safeway has really gone up the past few years, and I've been noticing the prices at Sprouts going up slightly as well

kimmarg

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 622
  • Location: Northern New England
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2018, 08:03:46 AM »
Are other people feeling that over the last year so itís been harder to keep the grocery bill down? I have a toddler and Iím incredibly sleep deprived, so Iím not sure if everything is really getting more expensive or if Iím just too tired to make smart buying decisions.  Iíve also noticed that the quality of produce has plummeted, which has led me to look for better stores, but the prices there are so obscene that Iím completely demoralized.

feel the same way and I have a toddler. I think it's a combo of the toddler eating a lot more than you'd think (and wasting a lot more by eating half of everything no matter how much you serve) also a bit more convenience foods because you're tired from chasing the kiddo.

BayAreaFrugal

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 50
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #16 on: February 13, 2018, 10:48:40 AM »
I only shop Lucky for sale items.  Their produce is not great, but occasionally something decent will go on sale.  I won't touch the chicken, it's not handled properly. 

Do you have a Sprouts near you?  Much better produce at better prices.  Sales are very good.  Best boneless skinless chicken pieces anywhere at bargain prices.

Prices are definitely up at Safeway.  Produce is very expensive.  I buy the coupon, Just 4 You, and Five Dollar Friday specials for things I need and use.

There's a Sprouts not too terribly far away, I can try them out next week.

galliver

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1690
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2018, 11:05:26 AM »
I'm in CA too (assuming that's where you are from your username) and every time I go to a regular grocery store like Safeway lately everything seems obscenely expensive. I mostly shop at WinCo now though and for the most part their prices seem to be holding steady.

I don't think I have a WinCo in my area. I've been doing most of my shopping at Lucky for the past several years, and I'm usually able to get in and out of there without doing *too* much damage, but lately their produce has been horrible. I'll often end up having to throw things away 2-3 days after purchasing them because they're already going bad. And given that grapes and berries are some of the only healthy things my toddler will eat, I'm constantly buying them and throwing them out before we can finish them. Which has led me to my search for other stores, where everything seems to be 1.5-3x as expensive. It shouldn't be this hard to feed my family healthy food on a budget in such a populated area.
If you're in South Bay, look up Felipe's Produce and Foothill Produce. And maybe Milk Pail Market in Mountain View, but I think I remember hearing they closed? The shopping experience isn't for everyone, but the prices are great. Not sure if there's something like them in other parts of the bay...there should be!

I also second the recommendation for Sprouts, if those two don't work out. They might look fancy schmancy like Whole Foods, but the produce (and imo on-sale meat) is good and inexpensive.

Another Reader

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4371
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #18 on: February 13, 2018, 11:12:07 AM »
I only shop Lucky for sale items.  Their produce is not great, but occasionally something decent will go on sale.  I won't touch the chicken, it's not handled properly. 

Do you have a Sprouts near you?  Much better produce at better prices.  Sales are very good.  Best boneless skinless chicken pieces anywhere at bargain prices.

Prices are definitely up at Safeway.  Produce is very expensive.  I buy the coupon, Just 4 You, and Five Dollar Friday specials for things I need and use.

There's a Sprouts not too terribly far away, I can try them out next week.

The new format of the on-line ad is difficult to read, but give it a look.  Wednesdays, both the prior week and the new week's ads apply, making it a good day to shop.

Kansas Terri

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 105
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #19 on: February 13, 2018, 12:15:22 PM »
The government claims there is almost no inflation. The government lies.

When I had toddlers I used to make a big pot of stew at the beginning of the week, which would give me  no-think hot food when the kids were hungry. Mind, I also made lunches and things, but toddlers want to eat every couple of hours because their stomachs are relatively small. I could nuke a snack and give it to them.

I also made sure I had crackers, cheese, and bags of little apples. HEck, half the time I just set the crackers, cheese, and fruit on the table so they could help themselves, which made my eldest VERY proud. She saw it as a sign of growing up that she could get her own snack!

nereo

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7682
  • Location: la belle province
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #20 on: February 13, 2018, 12:42:47 PM »
The government claims there is almost no inflation. The government lies.

I don't get this sentiment. The BLS's methods are freely available for anyone who cares to look, and just about everyone who's done so reaches the same conclusion; the past decade has been characterized by incredibly low and stable inflation in the US.
"Do not confuse complexity with superiority"

mm1970

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5389
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #21 on: February 13, 2018, 01:20:18 PM »
I haven't noticed much of a change.  My last 2 years of grocery costs were about $6850 & $7000, and my boys are growing.

However, I can relate on being exhausted and having a toddler.  That's probably the bulk of it right there.  In fact, our bill is skyrocketing this year, and it's not food prices, it's my patience for shopping at 7 effing stores to get the best prices.

Yea, I think that probably is the bulk of it. I'm probably just being too lazy to do any real kind of meal planning, and end up just buying whatever I think my toddler might eat. And there are definitely some grocery staples I'm buying now that I didn't use to purely because they're one of a handful of things he'll reliably eat (goldfish and cheese sticks being two of two of my new regular purchases).
For us it was gold fish, cheese sticks, and those damn individual yogurts and applesauce pouches.

Kansas Terri

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 105
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #22 on: February 13, 2018, 01:39:11 PM »
The government claims there is almost no inflation. The government lies.

I don't get this sentiment. The BLS's methods are freely available for anyone who cares to look, and just about everyone who's done so reaches the same conclusion; the past decade has been characterized by incredibly low and stable inflation in the US.
In fact I have heard that the price of electronics has gone DOWN! But the price of food is up.

The government has a history of changing what is in the mythical "shopping basket" to reflect what it wants to. After all, it is not possible to look at one of everything that can be bought, so the government only looks at the costs of SOME things. 

The costs of many things-like shirts- have not particularly  gone up, but the costs of food has. Inflation is, after all, an AVERAGE change of price, and if a government cherry picks what items they will look at then the results will reflect what is politically expedient.

Another Reader

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4371
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #23 on: February 13, 2018, 01:46:55 PM »
The federal government has a vested interest in reporting low inflation.

Food prices are like the stock market.  Individual prices may go up or down, things may be on sale, but the general trend is up.  Milk has been fairly steady.  Chicken is starting to go up.  Beef and pork prices vary with supply.  Any type of prepared food, even things like cheese, crackers, yogurt and butter has gone up a lot.  It shows in the sale prices.  A tub of Greek Gods yogurt was routinely on sale for $2.49 a year ago.  Regular price was $3.29-$3.49.  Now the regular price is $4.59 to $4.99 and it goes on sale for $3.49.  Butter is always on sale around Thanksgiving and it freezes.  What was $1.99 to $2.49 a pound on sale in 2016 was $2.99 and up on sale last November.  Costco was the cheapest at $2.78.  Last year broccoli crowns were $0.99 a pound on sale.  This year $1.59.  Anecdotal evidence, yes, but I buy the same things every year and the bottom line on the receipt continues to increase.

Kansas Terri

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 105
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #24 on: February 13, 2018, 01:55:14 PM »
What Another Reader said.

I use my pantry to hold what I buy on sale. 5 years ago green beans, full price, were 75 cents a can and now, In my local stores, they are $1.25 a can and we like string beans.

BUT! Twice a year a local store sells store-brand green beans at 50 cents a can, and I buy enough to last us a while and I store them in the pantry. That, and other buys, reduces the sting of rising food prices.

Another Reader

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4371
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #25 on: February 13, 2018, 02:52:10 PM »
What Another Reader said.

I use my pantry to hold what I buy on sale. 5 years ago green beans, full price, were 75 cents a can and now, In my local stores, they are $1.25 a can and we like string beans.

BUT! Twice a year a local store sells store-brand green beans at 50 cents a can, and I buy enough to last us a while and I store them in the pantry. That, and other buys, reduces the sting of rising food prices.

Exactly.  I cook with Pacific low sodium chicken stock.  None of the other brands compare.  Last year on sale at Sprouts for $2.00 a box.  Sale usually happens twice a year.  Buy about ten or twelve when on sale.  This year, Sprouts just had them on special, 2 for $5.00.  Bought fewer because the expiration date was in July.

Safeway had a special on Barilla pasta at $0.88 a couple of weeks ago.  Limit four.  Four boxes came home in my shopping bag.  No Yolk egg noodles were $1.25 for 8 ounces.  Not a fabulous price, but good enough that four bags of those came home.  Navel oranges have been on sale at 50 cents a pound at several places.  Better for you than drinking the processed juice.

Lots of Sprouts chicken breast tenders at $1.99 per pound reside in the freezer.  Most versatile protein there is, divided up into various packages for cooking stir fry dishes and serving them as individual meals fried, in salads, or made into a chicken salad.  No waste.

Costco sizes are too big for a small household.  Foodmaxx has 5 pound bags of Golden Star jasmine rice on sale this week for $3.49.  Safeway has it on sale for $5.28.  It's worth the extra stop on the way home to pick up a couple of bags.

You can eat well on a grocery budget of $100 a month per adult in the Bay Area if you shop carefully.  $150 gets you gourmet.

nereo

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7682
  • Location: la belle province
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #26 on: February 13, 2018, 06:40:28 PM »
The government claims there is almost no inflation. The government lies.

I don't get this sentiment. The BLS's methods are freely available for anyone who cares to look, and just about everyone who's done so reaches the same conclusion; the past decade has been characterized by incredibly low and stable inflation in the US.
In fact I have heard that the price of electronics has gone DOWN! But the price of food is up.

The government has a history of changing what is in the mythical "shopping basket" to reflect what it wants to. After all, it is not possible to look at one of everything that can be bought, so the government only looks at the costs of SOME things. 

The costs of many things-like shirts- have not particularly  gone up, but the costs of food has. Inflation is, after all, an AVERAGE change of price, and if a government cherry picks what items they will look at then the results will reflect what is politically expedient.

I don't think you really understand what the BLS does when it computers the CPI.  There's nothing 'mythical' about the shopping basket; its content are known and designed to reflect how US shoppers, on average, actually shop. Its periodically updated to reflect this, and all changes are indexed. They explain it like this:
Quote
The CPI market basket is developed from detailed expenditure information provided by families and individuals on what they actually bought. For the current CPI, this information was collected from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys for 2013 and 2014. In each of those years, about 7,000 families from around the country provided information each quarter on their spending habits in the interview survey. To collect information on frequently purchased items, such as food and personal care products, another 7,000 families in each of these years kept diaries listing everything they bought during a 2-week period.

Over the 2 year period, then, expenditure information came from approximately 28,000 weekly diaries and 60,000 quarterly interviews used to determine the importance, or weight, of the more than 200 item categories in the CPI index structure.

Their methods are all detailed here.
While its certainly true that they do not track the price of every food item, they do list a broad range of foods, from dairy to cereal to pork and chicken. All of this info is publicly available down to the individual item (e.g. 'milk') being purchased and the region where it was purchased.
"Do not confuse complexity with superiority"

Another Reader

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4371
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #27 on: February 13, 2018, 08:02:20 PM »
The government claims there is almost no inflation. The government lies.

I don't get this sentiment. The BLS's methods are freely available for anyone who cares to look, and just about everyone who's done so reaches the same conclusion; the past decade has been characterized by incredibly low and stable inflation in the US.
In fact I have heard that the price of electronics has gone DOWN! But the price of food is up.

The government has a history of changing what is in the mythical "shopping basket" to reflect what it wants to. After all, it is not possible to look at one of everything that can be bought, so the government only looks at the costs of SOME things. 

The costs of many things-like shirts- have not particularly  gone up, but the costs of food has. Inflation is, after all, an AVERAGE change of price, and if a government cherry picks what items they will look at then the results will reflect what is politically expedient.

I don't think you really understand what the BLS does when it computers the CPI.  There's nothing 'mythical' about the shopping basket; its content are known and designed to reflect how US shoppers, on average, actually shop. Its periodically updated to reflect this, and all changes are indexed. They explain it like this:
Quote
The CPI market basket is developed from detailed expenditure information provided by families and individuals on what they actually bought. For the current CPI, this information was collected from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys for 2013 and 2014. In each of those years, about 7,000 families from around the country provided information each quarter on their spending habits in the interview survey. To collect information on frequently purchased items, such as food and personal care products, another 7,000 families in each of these years kept diaries listing everything they bought during a 2-week period.

Over the 2 year period, then, expenditure information came from approximately 28,000 weekly diaries and 60,000 quarterly interviews used to determine the importance, or weight, of the more than 200 item categories in the CPI index structure.

Their methods are all detailed here.
While its certainly true that they do not track the price of every food item, they do list a broad range of foods, from dairy to cereal to pork and chicken. All of this info is publicly available down to the individual item (e.g. 'milk') being purchased and the region where it was purchased.

The BLS does not go food shopping with me.  My anecdotal evidence is my bottom line.  The cost of food for my household has been going up for probably two years and it accelerated dramatically starting around the middle of last year.  Yes, some things have not gone up - mostly things like some meat and produce that vary with supply.  Everything else has gone up.

JLee

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4627
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #28 on: February 13, 2018, 08:04:59 PM »
The government claims there is almost no inflation. The government lies.

I don't get this sentiment. The BLS's methods are freely available for anyone who cares to look, and just about everyone who's done so reaches the same conclusion; the past decade has been characterized by incredibly low and stable inflation in the US.
In fact I have heard that the price of electronics has gone DOWN! But the price of food is up.

The government has a history of changing what is in the mythical "shopping basket" to reflect what it wants to. After all, it is not possible to look at one of everything that can be bought, so the government only looks at the costs of SOME things. 

The costs of many things-like shirts- have not particularly  gone up, but the costs of food has. Inflation is, after all, an AVERAGE change of price, and if a government cherry picks what items they will look at then the results will reflect what is politically expedient.

I don't think you really understand what the BLS does when it computers the CPI.  There's nothing 'mythical' about the shopping basket; its content are known and designed to reflect how US shoppers, on average, actually shop. Its periodically updated to reflect this, and all changes are indexed. They explain it like this:
Quote
The CPI market basket is developed from detailed expenditure information provided by families and individuals on what they actually bought. For the current CPI, this information was collected from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys for 2013 and 2014. In each of those years, about 7,000 families from around the country provided information each quarter on their spending habits in the interview survey. To collect information on frequently purchased items, such as food and personal care products, another 7,000 families in each of these years kept diaries listing everything they bought during a 2-week period.

Over the 2 year period, then, expenditure information came from approximately 28,000 weekly diaries and 60,000 quarterly interviews used to determine the importance, or weight, of the more than 200 item categories in the CPI index structure.

Their methods are all detailed here.
While its certainly true that they do not track the price of every food item, they do list a broad range of foods, from dairy to cereal to pork and chicken. All of this info is publicly available down to the individual item (e.g. 'milk') being purchased and the region where it was purchased.

Only 7000 families in the entire country get the CPI survey?  WTF...I was supremely unlucky, then.  That survey lasted over a year...

Bicycle_B

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1625
  • Mustachian-ish in Live Music Capital of the World
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #29 on: February 13, 2018, 08:25:46 PM »
Nereo, thanks for posting.  As a stats buff whose degree prepared for, among other things, a possible BLS job, I hold BLS in fairly high regard.  I didn't actually work there, but suspect that their work is pretty darn good.

As an indicator of what an average person pays, their stats are better than our individual anecdotes, because they have a wider sample and we Mustanchians are more likely to be unusual individualistic shoppers. I fully respect that the individuals reporting higher prices on their favorite items experienced what they said, but that doesn't mean average prices rose.  It means that prices on one specific person's favorites rose.

My own anecdote is that I lazily buy canned black beans at my favorite grocery... and in an indulgent mood, pecan shortbread cookies.  Recently my main grocery reduced the daily price of a 1 lb can of black beans from 72 cents to 55, a reduction of more than 20%.  Then they dropped their store brand pecan cookies from $1.89 for a 1 lb package to $1.39, drop of more than 30%.  These are marked as permanent changes, not sales, though of course they will change eventually.

Balancing the anecdotes makes me again suspect that BLS is pretty on target.  I sympathize with those whose key items went up though.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2018, 08:28:31 PM by Bicycle_B »

MaybeBabyMustache

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 858
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #30 on: February 13, 2018, 08:57:57 PM »
I'm in CA too (assuming that's where you are from your username) and every time I go to a regular grocery store like Safeway lately everything seems obscenely expensive. I mostly shop at WinCo now though and for the most part their prices seem to be holding steady.

I don't think I have a WinCo in my area. I've been doing most of my shopping at Lucky for the past several years, and I'm usually able to get in and out of there without doing *too* much damage, but lately their produce has been horrible. I'll often end up having to throw things away 2-3 days after purchasing them because they're already going bad. And given that grapes and berries are some of the only healthy things my toddler will eat, I'm constantly buying them and throwing them out before we can finish them. Which has led me to my search for other stores, where everything seems to be 1.5-3x as expensive. It shouldn't be this hard to feed my family healthy food on a budget in such a populated area.
If you're in South Bay, look up Felipe's Produce and Foothill Produce. And maybe Milk Pail Market in Mountain View, but I think I remember hearing they closed? The shopping experience isn't for everyone, but the prices are great. Not sure if there's something like them in other parts of the bay...there should be!

I also second the recommendation for Sprouts, if those two don't work out. They might look fancy schmancy like Whole Foods, but the produce (and imo on-sale meat) is good and inexpensive.

@galliver - my favorite places to shop. You must be my neighbor :-)

MaybeBabyMustache

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 858
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #31 on: February 13, 2018, 09:01:02 PM »
Hello, fellow BayArea mustachian. We've been able to keep our food spending in checking over the past few years, but it's taken quite a bit of work. Making more than buying pre-made, meal planning, reducing waste, finding cheaper alternatives (although, we buy 90% of our groceries at Costco & almost everything else at the produce stand). My kids are getting older (11 & 12) & they eat quite a bit. We don't buy snacks, drinks (other than coffee & milk), and I think that's pretty much the biggest cost savings.

Goldielocks

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5337
  • Location: BC
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #32 on: February 13, 2018, 11:03:06 PM »
... buying whatever I think my toddler might eat. And there are definitely some grocery staples I'm buying now that I didn't use to purely because they're one of a handful of things he'll reliably eat (goldfish and cheese sticks being two of two of my new regular purchases).

Yep,  those toddler / preschool / early elementary "special" foods actually cost a whole lot per serving.

Cheese sticks
Yogurt
squeeze tubes (of anything)
juice boxes
granola bars
Chicken fingers (and fries)
etc.

Your challenge -- Add up the cost per week for any kid-specific purchased food items, that you would not buy as a single woman.

If significant...
challenge yourself to chop / package all your kid's food items from home made / bulk supplies and to avoid buying anything "ready to eat" or "portion packed" for a month.

calimom

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 621
  • Location: Northern California
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #33 on: February 13, 2018, 11:58:22 PM »
OP, are you anywhere near a Grocery Outlet? If you are and  haven't checked this store out, it's worth a look. Not for everyone, and consistent in their offerings, but pretty decent and affordable organic produce. There can be  close-outs from other stores (check the expiration dates) and lots of things younger kids like for lunches/snacks - for not very much $$. I resisted the idea of this store for awhile, but there's one in my town and I hit it about every other week or so.

nereo

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7682
  • Location: la belle province
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #34 on: February 14, 2018, 06:03:48 AM »
Nereo, thanks for posting.  As a stats buff whose degree prepared for, among other things, a possible BLS job, I hold BLS in fairly high regard.  I didn't actually work there, but suspect that their work is pretty darn good.

As an indicator of what an average person pays, their stats are better than our individual anecdotes, because they have a wider sample and we Mustanchians are more likely to be unusual individualistic shoppers. I fully respect that the individuals reporting higher prices on their favorite items experienced what they said, but that doesn't mean average prices rose.  It means that prices on one specific person's favorites rose.

My own anecdote is that I lazily buy canned black beans at my favorite grocery... and in an indulgent mood, pecan shortbread cookies.  Recently my main grocery reduced the daily price of a 1 lb can of black beans from 72 cents to 55, a reduction of more than 20%.  Then they dropped their store brand pecan cookies from $1.89 for a 1 lb package to $1.39, drop of more than 30%.  These are marked as permanent changes, not sales, though of course they will change eventually.

Balancing the anecdotes makes me again suspect that BLS is pretty on target.  I sympathize with those whose key items went up though.

I sympathize with the other posters too, and I'm not trying to refute that some people's food prices have gone up.  It certainly is dependent on what you buy, and as @Another Reader said, the BLS is not shopping along side each one of us.
The topic sentence of this thread is "have groceries gotten more expensive...". If we are talking about groceries in general, the answer is 'not very much'.

I also wrote the above to directly confront the notion that the CPI is somehow rigged or mysterious or not an accurate representation of most people's reality.  All of these are false, but for whatever reason there's a vocal subset of our population that loudly proclaim such things. I'm probably not going to change their minds, but I want to provide a counterpoint for other readers that really don't understand what the CPI or how the BLS operates. Hopefully I might reach those folks - and I actually think there are a lot of people in that camp.

This is not government propaganda or lies. As surveys go its basically the gold standard - statistians quibble about whether it is as representative as it could be, but it's pretty damn good, it's transparent, and it's a dataset that goes back almost a full century with monthly precision. It's hard to find a better data set.

Since we're adding anecdotal accounts - as a couple we've tracked spending for the past 7 years. In 2017 we spent $48 less on food than in 2016 -though these numbers are from Canada. Perhaps it helps that we pay more attention to the cost-per-meal than buying the same item over and over. The decline is probably as much about us optimizing our shopping as it does any real changes in prices. YMMV.
"Do not confuse complexity with superiority"

galliver

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1690
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #35 on: February 14, 2018, 10:26:24 AM »
I'm in CA too (assuming that's where you are from your username) and every time I go to a regular grocery store like Safeway lately everything seems obscenely expensive. I mostly shop at WinCo now though and for the most part their prices seem to be holding steady.

I don't think I have a WinCo in my area. I've been doing most of my shopping at Lucky for the past several years, and I'm usually able to get in and out of there without doing *too* much damage, but lately their produce has been horrible. I'll often end up having to throw things away 2-3 days after purchasing them because they're already going bad. And given that grapes and berries are some of the only healthy things my toddler will eat, I'm constantly buying them and throwing them out before we can finish them. Which has led me to my search for other stores, where everything seems to be 1.5-3x as expensive. It shouldn't be this hard to feed my family healthy food on a budget in such a populated area.
If you're in South Bay, look up Felipe's Produce and Foothill Produce. And maybe Milk Pail Market in Mountain View, but I think I remember hearing they closed? The shopping experience isn't for everyone, but the prices are great. Not sure if there's something like them in other parts of the bay...there should be!

I also second the recommendation for Sprouts, if those two don't work out. They might look fancy schmancy like Whole Foods, but the produce (and imo on-sale meat) is good and inexpensive.

@galliver - my favorite places to shop. You must be my neighbor :-)

Actually, no, haha, though I might like to change that soon. I grew up in the area and visit friends and family there a lot. :)

NoStacheOhio

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2139
  • Location: Cleveland
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #36 on: February 14, 2018, 10:32:39 AM »
Anecdotal, but specific. Butter has gone up for us. We typically buy store brand, unsalted when it goes on sale, which is fairly regularly.

Around 2016, the "normal" sale price was 2 lb. for $5. Some time in 2017 the "normal" sale price went to $6 or 7 (we've seen both).
The first step is acknowledging you have a problem, right?

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/digging-out-of-a-hole/

MaybeBabyMustache

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 858
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #37 on: February 14, 2018, 10:54:37 AM »
@galliver - ahh, makes sense. As you know, fabulous area, so pricey! :-)

BayAreaFrugal

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 50
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #38 on: February 14, 2018, 02:51:32 PM »
OP, are you anywhere near a Grocery Outlet? If you are and  haven't checked this store out, it's worth a look. Not for everyone, and consistent in their offerings, but pretty decent and affordable organic produce. There can be  close-outs from other stores (check the expiration dates) and lots of things younger kids like for lunches/snacks - for not very much $$. I resisted the idea of this store for awhile, but there's one in my town and I hit it about every other week or so.

I've somehow never even heard of Grocery Outlet before, but turns out there's one 3.5 miles away from me. I'll have to check them out.

BayAreaFrugal

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 50
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #39 on: February 14, 2018, 02:58:37 PM »
... buying whatever I think my toddler might eat. And there are definitely some grocery staples I'm buying now that I didn't use to purely because they're one of a handful of things he'll reliably eat (goldfish and cheese sticks being two of two of my new regular purchases).

Yep,  those toddler / preschool / early elementary "special" foods actually cost a whole lot per serving.

Cheese sticks
Yogurt
squeeze tubes (of anything)
juice boxes
granola bars
Chicken fingers (and fries)
etc.

Your challenge -- Add up the cost per week for any kid-specific purchased food items, that you would not buy as a single woman.

If significant...
challenge yourself to chop / package all your kid's food items from home made / bulk supplies and to avoid buying anything "ready to eat" or "portion packed" for a month.

Maybe it could be worth trying again. I actually wasted a bunch of money a while back thinking I could make my own squeeze pouches. I bought a set of reusable pouches and ingredients to make a few varieties. My son hated everything I made and I despised the reusable pouches because they were so hard to open for cleaning and re-filling.

I try really hard for the most part to only give my son real foods, and I do very well for meals, but fail miserably for snacks. That's where all the extra toddler grocery spend is for me.

CalBal

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 249
  • Location: US
  • Dont Panic
    • Journal
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #40 on: February 14, 2018, 03:04:01 PM »
If you are in the East Bay, Berkeley Bowl has really good produce prices (and a lot of variety), and, I think, bulk bins? At least, they used to. Kind of a zoo on the weekend, but worth it. (I moved away 2+ years ago.)

TrMama

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2187
Re: Have groceries gotten more expensive or am I losing my touch?
« Reply #41 on: February 14, 2018, 05:06:39 PM »
... buying whatever I think my toddler might eat. And there are definitely some grocery staples I'm buying now that I didn't use to purely because they're one of a handful of things he'll reliably eat (goldfish and cheese sticks being two of two of my new regular purchases).

Yep,  those toddler / preschool / early elementary "special" foods actually cost a whole lot per serving.

Cheese sticks
Yogurt
squeeze tubes (of anything)
juice boxes
granola bars
Chicken fingers (and fries)
etc.

Your challenge -- Add up the cost per week for any kid-specific purchased food items, that you would not buy as a single woman.

If significant...
challenge yourself to chop / package all your kid's food items from home made / bulk supplies and to avoid buying anything "ready to eat" or "portion packed" for a month.

Maybe it could be worth trying again. I actually wasted a bunch of money a while back thinking I could make my own squeeze pouches. I bought a set of reusable pouches and ingredients to make a few varieties. My son hated everything I made and I despised the reusable pouches because they were so hard to open for cleaning and re-filling.

I try really hard for the most part to only give my son real foods, and I do very well for meals, but fail miserably for snacks. That's where all the extra toddler grocery spend is for me.

Grocery spending for families with growing kids is subject to two kinds of inflation. The regular inflation, plus the 'appetite inflation' because each year, kids get bigger and hungrier.

In the early years, they're fussy and don't have the self control to stop themselves from laying on the floor and wailing when they don't get their special snack. Around age 10, they start growing like weeds (puberty is around the corner and appears to require many calories). This growth spurt helps make them less picky (because they're so hungry), but the flip side is that they eat everything in sight. Instead of snacking on a handful of goldfish crackers, suddenly you're handing them a pork chop in a vain attempt to hold them over for an extra 15 minutes.

Sometimes, my groceries don't all make it home from the store. My kids eat them in the car during the 10 minute ride home.