Things are looking up as inflation appears to be slowing down. Inflation cooled to 5 percent in March compared to the year before, according to the Consumer Price Index released by US Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was 6 percent in February.
Strolling down the aisles, Roger McCullough still can’t believe how expensive groceries have become so he sticks to his grocery list.
“No matter where you shop,” McCullough said. “And I’m not too sure inflation is the only reason.”
Americans paid 8.4 percent more for groceries in March 2023 compared to March 2022. That’s down from 10.2 percent in February.
On a monthly basis, food at home dropped -0.3 percent in March. In February, that same category was 0.3 percent. This was the first time the category reached 0% for the first time since November 2020.
FGCU Economist Dr. Victor Claar said while prices are still going up, they aren’t going up as fast as they did in the past.
“People do spend a lot of money on gas. They do spend a lot of money on food,” Dr. Claar added. “They’re paying even higher prices on everything but especially on the things that aren’t gas and food.”
Since July 2021, WINK News Consumer Reporter Andryanna Sheppard has been keeping track of the same 10 grocery items at the same Fort Myers Target, Walmart and Publix to document an increase or decrease in price or a change in the item’s size. Her most recent shopping trip was the first time she noticed most items’ prices didn’t go up. Some of them on her list even went down.
Milk at Target went down only if you bought a gallon of skim or whole milk which costs $2.99. 2 percent milk stayed the same at $3.29. Last month, all gallons were the same price.
The price of eggs at Publix are still high but a carton of 18 went down almost 60 cents to $7.03.
Most items on the Walmart list stayed the same price, except eggs. Shoppers will spend 12 cents more for 18 at $3.88. A year ago, they were only $3.
“Buckle up. Prices will continue to get higher,” Dr. Claar added. “They won’t finally get back to the rate of increase that the [Federal Reserve] desires for a least a year and a half.”
The Federal Reserve targets an annual inflation increase of 2 percent. Dr. Claar said the Federal Reserve expects to reach that goal at the end of 2024.
So McCullough will keep pinching pennies and thinking twice before anything goes in the cart.
“Grocery shopping isn’t my favorite job. I’ll tell you that,” McCullough chuckled.
If inflation is slowing down, will the Federal Reserve raise interest rates again? Dr. Claar says “yes.” By how much? The country will find out when the Fed meets again in May.