From food to cars to entertainment, you’re paying more for just about everything. The overall inflation rate increased by 3.2 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Consumer Price Index (CPI). Grocery prices went up even more. Southwest Floridians know the pain at checkout.
“Grocery shopping has gone up quite a little bit. Walmart, Publix, no matter where you go,” said Fort Myers shopper Roger McCullough.
“You come to the store this week, it’s $4. You come to the store next week, it’s $6,” commented Louise Briskin.
“We’re paying twice as much, sometimes even three times as much, for food, and it’s been really rough,” added Melanie Briskin, Louise’s daughter.
This is what many Southwest Floridians are thinking every time they walk up and down the grocery aisles, the last two years. Putting food on the table requires major budgeting or cutting back.
“I don’t buy near as much as I used to,” added veteran Bill Dunn.
“Every other week you see something going up,” shopper James Miller said. “You know, a penny or two, but it adds up.”
Southwest Florida grocery prices
WINK News Consumer Reporter Andryanna Sheppard has been tracking prices for the same 10 commonly bought items, like eggs and milk, at the same Target, Walmart and Publix for two years now. Surprisingly, each basket got cheaper over the last year but 2023 prices are still more expensive than 2021 prices. The chart below compares the same cart at all three stores. A trip at all three stores in 2023 costs less than a trip in 2022 but about $10 more than a trip in 2021. Prices at Walmart and Target were comparable all three years. Publix continues to be the most expensive.
“All of those accumulating increases are still there,” FGCU Economist Dr. Victor Claar added. “You will never be able to afford the same stuff that you could buy in February 2020 with the same money ever again.”
Cooling inflation doesn’t mean cheaper prices
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows groceries went up 3.6% in July 2023 compared to the year before. That’s not bad when compared to June 2022. Groceries back then went up 12.2%. And while three is better than 12, Dr. Claar wants shoppers to remember they are still paying more at checkout.
“If you translate this to a weight example, suppose you’ve been putting on 9-10 pounds a year, that’s super bad. You have to buy clothes all the time. It’s really tough managing your life and you decide to cut back but you’re still gaining 3-4 pounds a year, which is where we are now with the annual CPI. It’s still bad, and it still doesn’t make all that weight that you gained when you were gaining 9 pounds a year go away. It just means that you are gaining weight at a slower rate than before,” Dr. Claar said.
“It’s still brutal out there,” Claar continued. “Prices have not gone back and they will never go back. You do get some individual breaks on goods and services. Thank goodness eggs aren’t $5 a dozen anymore. They are back at a more modest price, but overall, groceries just cost more, and I don’t see an end to that anytime soon.”
When will it end?
That’s going to take more than a year. The Federal Reserve targets a two percent annual inflation rate. Chair Jerome Powell doesn’t expect to see that happen until the end of 2024 or even 2025.
So, until then, follow the advice from these shoppers.
“We try to save as much as we can,” Juan and Gloria said. “There are some things we prefer not to buy like we used to.”
“I gotta make do,” Dunn added.
In order to slow inflation, the Fed has raised interest rates 11 times since March 2022. The board will decide whether to raise rates for the 12th time at its September meeting.