What’s getting more expensive and cheaper at the grocery store

What’s getting more expensive and cheaper at the grocery store

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According to the latest Consumer Price Index, egg prices increased by 8.9% in December compared to November.

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Going to the grocery store is easier on the wallet.

Food prices at home rose a modest 1.3% for the year ending in December, according to the latest Consumer Price Index report released Thursday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This is the lowest annual growth since June 2021 and a far cry from the 11.8% increase recorded in December 2022.

Overall food prices rose 0.2% month-on-month, in line with the pace of growth seen in November, CPI data showed. During the year, food prices increased by 2.7%, and overall inflation remained below the level of 3.4%.

Driving this growth is the food from home category (meals and snacks at restaurants, vending machines and other places), which grew by 5.2% annually.

“Food-away-from-home growth is lower than March’s multiyear peak of 8.8%, but still faster than at any time between 1983 and 2020,” Comerica Bank chief economist Bill Adams wrote Thursday. “Wages for low-wage occupations such as restaurant jobs are growing faster than the U.S. average, creating price pressures for restaurants to shift to higher prices.”

He added: “But the big picture is that the economic dislocations caused by the pandemic are diminishing, economic growth is returning to a more normal pace and there is less of a labor shortage problem, helping inflation to return to normal.”

If the allure of a fox, box, mouse and house wasn’t enough to encourage Sam-I-Am to eat some green eggs and ham, Thursday’s inflation data won’t help matters either.

Egg and ham prices rose the most in December compared to other food categories tracked in the CPI.

Egg prices (the standard, non-green-yolk variety) rose 8.9% from November, marking the highest monthly increase since last January, as bird flu hit the industry again. For now, economists believe this latest bird flu won’t be as severe as the 2022 flu that decimated flocks and sent egg prices skyrocketing (at one point up 70% year-over-year).

Egg prices fell by 23.8% in the 12 months ending in December.

Also, these Christmas baths in December have seen some inflation. BLS data showed that ham prices rose 2.6% for the month (2.9% excluding canned ham).

Fats, oils and peanut butter products posted a like-for-like increase of 2.6% in December, while raw beef steak prices rose 2.4%.

On a year-over-year basis, the highest price increases continued in the frozen still juice and raw beef steaks categories, which were up 19.1% and 11.2%, respectively.

Tubing of frosted juice has become more expensive due to bad weather (especially hurricanes) and the devastating citrus disease. A recent severe drought in the United States has resulted in reduced cattle numbers and limited beef supplies.

Crackers (+7.7%), baby food (+7.3%) and sugar (+6.9%) also saw the highest returns compared to a year ago.

“I think people are especially upset when they go to the grocery store and see high prices,” Wendy Edelberg, director of The Hamilton Project and senior fellow for economic research at Brookings, told CNN. “But a lot of these prices that we’re seeing every day, these prices have the potential to drop right away.”

Some produce is easier on the wallet, and it comes at a good time for fresh New Year’s resolutions: Lettuce, in particular, is down 4% from November and 16.7% from the previous year.

Potatoes are also falling in price, down 2.8% since November and falling at the same rate every year.

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Fresh vegetables are among the food products that are falling in price. The latest Consumer Price Index showed food prices rose just 1.3% for the year ending in December.

Apart from eggs and lettuce, the categories with the largest year-over-year price declines for December were tomatoes (-7.2%), apples (-5.9%) and fresh vegetables overall (-4.8%).

Other annual declines in dairy products, including cheese, butter and milk, were down 3.3%, 2.9% and 1.8% respectively.

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