Sticker Shock at the Supermarket? You're Not Alone

Price of groceries just saw record-setting spike due to coronavirus pandemic
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2020 7:32 AM CDT
Sticker Shock at the Supermarket? You're Not Alone
Bring some extra cash to the market.   (Getty Images/Sergei Gnatiuk)

With most Americans sheltering at home as they wait out the coronavirus pandemic, you may have noticed that while your eating-out tab has gone down, your supermarket bill has gone up. It's not in your head: The monthly consumer price index has been released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it shows that the price of groceries rose 2.6% from March to April, the largest monthly increase since 1974, per the Miami Herald. The cost of meat, poultry, fish, and eggs saw the highest spike, at 4.3%; eggs by themselves rose 16.1%. The cost of fruits and veggies jumped 1.5%, as did the cost of dairy. Meanwhile, consumers paid 2.9% more both for nonalcoholic beverages and for cereal and baked goods—a record-setting single-month increase for the latter category, per the Washington Post.

Geri Henchy, a nutrition expert with the nonprofit Food Research & Action Center, tells the Post these price jumps have emerged partly because more consumers are picking up food at the market these days instead of going out, causing more demand, but also due to supply chain issues, such as virus outbreaks in food production plants and the shutdown of restaurants across the nation. "It's a tipping point for people who are already really struggling with resources," she says. Not that it's all bad news for consumers: Gas prices, for one, fell 20%, while clothing costs and travel expenses such as hotel and plane prices also dropped. "We saw an immediate, drastic decrease in expenditures away from home," a Michigan State food economist tells NPR. (Lawsuits in Texas and California are pushing back on the cost of eggs, which they call price gouging.)

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