Okay, so if you’re a loyal reader of CNN Business (and we hope you are!) you might have seen a headline Tuesday that said “Prices are falling at an alarming rate.” Or a headline today that said producers’ prices fell by a record amount.
Coronavirus Markets Dashboard
That probably feels … off to you. And for a good reason: Every time you go to the grocery store, that number at the end of the receipt keeps getting bigger.
Both things are true. Prices are falling across just about every category: Apparel, hotels, cars, car insurance, and airfare fell through the floor as people stayed home. Everyone knows gas prices are way cheaper.
But American grocery store price tags are soaring. Overall, the price of groceries grew 2.6%, including seasonal adjustments, in April. That was the biggest increase from one month to the next since 1974, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Prices at the supermarket are rising sharply because coronavirus has disrupted the food supply chain: When restaurants shut down, Americans started cooking at home, and demand for groceries shot up. But food producers and farmers didn’t have the ability to quickly shift their food deliveries to grocery stores. Supply chains are super-complex beasts.
The supply-demand imbalance got even more out of whack when meatpacking plant employees started to catch coronavirus. That created its own backlog, and meat producers had to shutter plants across the country, and the United States now faces some meat shortages.
Also not helping keep your grocery bill in check: Panic-shopping customers are buying lots of food they don’t need to eat immediately. Some grocery stores are putting limits on purchases to keep from running out of stock completely. Others are raising prices to ration certain items, and some are passing rising costs onto consumers as they face higher costs from their suppliers.
So it’s economics 101: Food supplies are pinched, and demand is high. That makes prices go up.
There’s not much escaping it.
Thinking about making an omelette before you start your work day from your couch? That’s going to cost you. Egg prices shot up 16.1% last month.
Keeping it simple and switching to cereal won’t help. Breakfast cereal prices rose 1.5%. So did milk, bread and juice, with 1.5%, 3.7% and 3.8% increases, respectively.
Treating yourself got more expensive, too. Doughnut prices shot up 5% last month, and muffins are 4.7% more expensive.
Coffee for your morning commute walk to the den? Roasted coffee prices rose 1.2% and instant coffee was up 2.5%.
Maybe you want some soup for lunch? Soup will cost you 2.6% more.
A soda for a mid-day treat? Carbonated beverage prices are up 4.5%. Maybe a cookie to get some sugar in you? Cookies cost 5.1% more in April than in March.
OK, let’s keep it healthy. How about some fruit? Fruit prices were up 1.5%, led by apples (4.9%) and oranges (5.6%). The entire citrus category shot up 4.3%.
Meat prices spiked 3.3%. So maybe you want to try something else? Pork costs 3% more. Chicken shot up 5.8%. Fresh fish soared 4.2%. And if you want to grill, hot dogs got 5.7% more expensive.
The news isn’t much better even if you’re trying to stay healthy. Vegetables rose by 1.5% and canned vegetable prices soared 3.6%.
Feeding your baby got more expensive too. Baby food prices rose 2.7%.
Some good news
There’s just not a ton of relief out there. But if you are looking for food prices that are getting cheaper, you’ve got a few options.
Ham prices fell by 1.7% and breakfast sausage was down 0.3%. Butter was down 1.3% and prepared salads fell by 3.6%. Fresh cupcakes fell 2.3% and tomatoes fell by 1.4%.