America’s rising food prices due to inflation hitting a 39-year high in November are causing some to change their diets.
The consumer price index jumped 6.8% from a year earlier, the fastest pace since 1982, as prices surged for staples such as food and gasoline, as well as new and used cars, rent and medical care, the Labor Department said Friday. Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs were up 12.6% from November 2020.
For Amber Tolbert, of Birmingham, Alabama, it has meant more pasta and less meat for her family.
“The meat going up so much I have definitely felt,” Tolbert said. “I have been changing what I buy to be less meat forward and getting more pasta and vegetables. Sometimes I split the ground beef between meals.”
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On a monthly basis, overall consumer prices increased 0.8% in November while core prices advanced 0.5%.
There are many reasons for the higher grocery bills, including labor shortages, widespread supply-chain bottlenecks, countless product shortages and strong consumer demand.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual Thanksgiving dinner cost survey, the average cost of this year’s classic Thanksgiving feast for 10 was $53.31, more than $5 a person, which was the priciest meal in the survey’s 36 years and up 14% from $46.90 in 2020.
Christmas shopping hit by higher prices due to inflation
Online shopping has also been hit by inflation. On Thursday, Adobe announced online inflation data for November, which it said reached a record high at 3.5% year-over-year, which is the largest increase since Adobe began tracking the digital economy in 2014. It’s also the 18th consecutive month of online inflation.
Prices were down 2% from October because of holiday discounts, which were lower than last year, Vivek Pandya, lead analyst, Adobe Digital Insights, said in an interview with USA TODAY.
“We had anticipated prices being higher for November because what we were seeing when we were tracking discounts on Cyber Monday and Black Friday was that discounts were weaker,” Pandya said, adding discounts ranged from 5% to 25%, lower than 10% to 30% last year.
Tolbert said she estimates the cost of her groceries are up by around 50% compared to earlier in the year. She said she plans on changing the budget along with food plans.
She’s also changing Christmas for her family. “We will be simplifying our Christmas this year and re-focusing on what the season is all about while making it fun,” Tolbert said.
Kristen Myers, editor-in-chief of The Balance personal finance website, told USA TODAY that Americans can expect to spend about 17% more for Christmas than before the pandemic.
“Everything is more expensive this year, from gas and rent to food and goods, and unfortunately the price of almost everything is still rising into the holidays,” Myers said.
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Dollar Tree prices increase to $1.25
Dollar Tree has started rolling out its 25-cent increase to stores across the country. The retailer said when announcing the price hike that the decision was not “a reaction to short-term or transitory market conditions.”
Dollar Tree said the shift to $1.25 pricing will allow them to introduce new products and bring back previous products discontinued because of the $1 price constraint. In September, Dollar Tree announced it was testing products with prices above $1, as well as Dollar Tree Plus stores with prices at $3 and $5.
Signs posted at stores are alerting shoppers to the increase. Some items cost less than $1.25, including some greeting cards that are still two for $1.
“For 35 years, our buyers have trekked around the world seeking out fantastic products at extreme value,” a sign posted at a Coral Springs, Florida location said. “We remain fiercely committed to our mission of bringing you Extreme Value Everyday, whatever the price.”
♦Shopping tip: One way to find out if your Dollar Tree has already raised prices is by checking on the store circular available online at Dollartree.com/weeklyad.
Saving tips to stop inflation from ruining your budget
Here are three fast tips to help combat rising costs:
Shop store brands, discount grocers
Store brands have grown in popularity in recent years and no longer carry the stigma they once may have when they were considered more generic.
Trader Joe’s and discount grocer Aldi are well-known for carrying more products under their own private labels than store brands. Target, Walmart and Kroger have also added more products under private brands in recent years.
“You often see lower prices and a lot of great quality there,” Andy Harig, FMI vice president, tax, trade and sustainability, recently told USA TODAY.
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Costco, Sam’s Club offer ways to stock up in bulk
Buying in bulk at Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale can cut your number of shopping trips down and lower costs. However, the wholesale clubs are not immune from rising prices.
Richard Galanti, Costco’s chief financial officer, said Thursday during a call with analysts that the inflationary pressures the retailer is seeing come from labor cost, freight cost, higher demand, container shortages and port delays.
“We’ve always said we want to be the last to raise the price and the first to lower the price, recognizing there’s a limit to what you can do based on these cost increases,” Galanti said.
Shopping tip: While wholesale clubs do have membership fees, new members can often find specials and the savings often outweigh the fees. If they don’t, check out club refund policies on memberships. You can also save by going with a friend who is a member. Note, Costco accepts food stamps at clubs, according to its website.
Use cashback apps, rewards programs
Clipping coupons is no longer the only way to save money. Cashback apps and rewards programs can save money on everyday purchases, when going out to restaurants, including fast-food chains, and on your holiday gifts.
Popular cashback apps include Ibotta and Fetch Rewards. You can also put money towards college with the UPromise program and earn cash back on online programs with Rakuten, formerly known as Ebates, and RetailMeNot.
♦Savings tip: Sometimes rewards and loyalty programs are the key to accessing deals. For instance, if you want to try McDonald’s Mariah Menu rolling out Monday, you need to have the fast-food chain’s app. Being signed up for rewards programs was also needed last week to get a Burger King Whopper for 37 cents and to save 10% on Target gift cards.
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Contributing: Paul Davidson and Brett Molina, USA TODAY