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“It’s rough on everybody”: Rising grocery prices force Midlands customers to switch stores, buy less

Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 9:20 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 16, 2021 at 6:59 AM EST
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CAYCE, S.C. (WIS) - Loading up the grocery cart is getting more expensive as inflation is now the highest it’s been in three decades.

Data released last week from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that groceries for the average American cost 6.4 percent more than they did a year ago, which represents the largest increase since December 2008.

In the Midlands, customers are saying that these grocery price hikes hit especially hard during the holidays when there are more expenses across the board. Many have begun to adjust their routines as a result.

“It’s rough on everybody,” Valerie Johnson, a shopper, said. “But you have to just go with the flow and see if they can straighten things out.”

Some shoppers are looking beyond traditional supermarkets for their groceries.

“I have to shop at other stores besides regular stores,” she said. “I have to go to Family Dollar and I have to go Dollar Tree and some other stores that hold the same thing but hold it at a lower price.”

One shopper said she often goes to two or three stores each week, checking for the lowest prices.

Data from NielsenIQ, which sources price data from the majority of supermarkets nationally, shows that a dozen eggs costs $2.51 on average, 18 cents more than they did a year ago. Chicken breasts are up 25 cents a pound to $3.33, a 16-ounce package of bacon costs $6.41, which is an increase of $1.09, and a loaf of bread costs an average of $2.78, which is a 21-cent increase.

Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that other prices are soaring as well. Beef prices are up 20.9 percent from last November, fish and seafood is up 8 percent, milk is up 4.6 percent and fruits and vegetables are up 4 percent.

“Gas, groceries, everything is getting higher but there’s no extra money,” Gwendolyn Ball, a Columbia resident, said. “So as these things get higher, you have to decide which one is most important: your food, your medicine, your gas and stuff of that nature so you have to compromise. And my compromise is I get what I can afford and what I can’t afford, I call my daughter and see what she can afford. And if she can help me out this week or next week, she does.”

Bree Bess has all but eliminated meat from her diet, not for dietary reasons, but financial ones.

“I try to keep track of all my expenses and I see a steady increase kind of eating into other items of my budget and so I’ve kind of made some changes in the recipes that I make,” she said. “Try and use maybe less meat or more vegetables and just try to make things go farther.”

Bess said she has a section in her budget that she typically sets aside for Christmas presents. This year, though, the majority of that will instead be going toward necessities like groceries.

Ball said it can be a struggle sometimes, but she’s thinking of those who are less fortunate this Christmas.

“I’m just grateful that I’m able to make ends meet each day,” she said. “All you have to do is just have faith that God will help you and he will. Just take it one day at a time.”

According to the South Carolina Department of Social Services, almost 300,000 households statewide receive help paying for their groceries through emergency SNAP benefits. These emergency funds, paid for by the federal government, expire at year’s end.

RELATED STORY | Gov. McMaster extends emergency SNAP supplements through December

Federal Reserve policymakers said Wednesday that they may seek to raise interest rates as many as three times in 2022 as they look to curb inflation.

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