(FOX 9) - Grocery prices increased by an average of 12.2% in June, the most since 1979, according to the latest inflation numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That got us to thinking, is the real-life inflation that we're seeing at local grocery stores any different than the official figures? So, a group of FOX 9 coworkers found old receipts from summer 2020 -- checking your app's order history makes this easier -- and returned to shop those same lists to see how much prices have increased.
We visited three stores in the Twin Cities: Target, Hy-Vee, and Cub. To keep things consistent, we shopped at the locations that we visited two years ago. At each one, we logged the price of every item, then compared it to the 2020 price.
Across the three stores, our shopping cart had a total of 62 items. The old price: $193.51. New price: $240.23, or a 24% increase. That's above the national inflation rate for groceries, which stands at 13.1% when combining the past two years, and it reflects how different items are increasing in price at different rates.
Old price: $69.14. New Price: $78.62. Increase: 14%
Our basket of 19 items at Target took us across the store, from the produce area to light bulbs. In-season strawberries and blackberries were on sale for cheaper than we bought them two years ago, but an 11-ounce box of Nilla wafers had increased from $2.99 to $4.49 (a 50% jump) and a 13.7-ounce box of Ritz crackers had spiked from $2.39 to $3.79 (up 59%).
A few items were out of stock, which required a bit more effort to find the marked price on store shelves.
Old price: $73.40. New Price: $93.57. Increase: 27%
Our shopping list was the longest at Hy-Vee, where we were looking for 25 items. This list was heavy on produce, breakfast foods, and ingredients for tacos.
Fruits and breads had seen little or no change in price. But Old El Paso enchilada sauce had doubled (from $1.37 to $2.79) and eight ounces of store-brand cream cheese had increased from $1.50 to $3.49 (up 133%).
We also noted an example of shrinkflation, when manufacturers keep prices about the same but decrease the amount of product. We couldn't exactly match Arm & Hammer's 150-ounce laundry detergent because the company had cut the size to 144.5 ounces -- while raising the price by $1.
Old price: $50.97. New Price: $68.04. Increase: 33%
The 18 items we were seeking at Cub gave us the most insight into where inflation was hitting the most. Canned soups had increased significantly (78% for Campbell's, and at least 65% for different varieties of Progresso).
Pre-packaged deli meat was also eye-opening. While Smithfield hard salami and turkey breast had been $3 two years ago, even the sale prices had jumped to $4.99 now. Again, bread had seen little or no change in price.
What shoppers can do
We took our shopping experiences to Mark Bergen, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, who said they're proof that inflation isn't hitting evenly, and shoppers need to adjust. Among his thoughts:
- Shop more. If you have time, pay attention to price fluctuations, which happen more frequently during periods of inflation.
- Plan menus differently. Instead of letting your menu dictate the foods you buy at the grocery store, reframe your thinking. Let the ingredients that haven't increased in price drive your menu decisions.
- Recognize retailer and manufacturer strategies. Retailers might deal with higher input costs is by offering fewer promotions. Likewise, manufacturers may shrink product sizes. This increases your effective cost.
Retailers are not often the source of price increases, Bergen said. Instead, the source is more likely further back in the supply chain: Russia's invasion of Ukraine has increased crop prices, high fuel prices have raised transportation costs, and worker shortages have led to dips in production.
"It’s probably safe to say, in food especially, you’re likely to see inflation for a while now, so it’s a good thing to get used to learning to live with," he said. "I wouldn’t be aiming my blame at the retailer or any single company or individual. Inflation is a much bigger thing that has to do with cost increases."