Picking up Nickels

Friday, January 05, 2007

2006 Grocery price inflation

Groceries are our second-largest household expense, so I have spent a good amount of time trying to understand what things cost and what I can do to reduce grocery spending.

I've noticed over the past year that quite a few grocery items that we use have increased in price and/or decreased in size. Of course, there are many legitimate reasons for rising prices (hurricane damage to crops, increased energy and transport costs, etc.), but the price increases passed along to the consumer really jump out at me.

Let's start by checking out price increases for a couple of discretionary items that we use:

Item Store Non-Sale Price Range Change
Boboli Pizza Crust Shaw's $3.19 - $3.89 70¢ (22%)
A1 Steak Sauce Shaw's $3.89 - $4.29 40¢ (9%)

I've used A1 sauce since I was a kid, but I'm now at the point where I won't buy it for more than $2 per bottle (after sale & coupon). The Boboli pizza crusts are very handy to keep in the freezer for a quick and easy meal, but their high price (and shrinking size) have finally pushed me toward dumping them in favor of $1 frozen pizza dough.

Now let's look at price increases for a few items that we use on a weekly basis:

Item Store Non-Sale Price Range Change
Tropicana Orange Juice (64 oz) Shaw's $2.89 -$3.79 90¢ (31%)
Columbo plain low-fat yogurt (32 oz) Shaw's $2.19 - $2.99 80¢ (37%)
Eggo Nutri-Grain frozen waffles Shaw's $1.99 - $2.59 60¢ (30%)
Nature's Promise organic milk (64 oz) Stop & Shop $2.99 - $3.69 70¢ (23%)

I am able to find decent sales and coupons for orange juice and plain low-fat yogurt at times, but the organic milk price increases really add up since milk coupons are not allowed in Massachusetts.

I typically buy six half gallons of milk, one half gallon of orange juice, and two 32 oz containers of plain lowfat yogurt every week. That equates to me paying an additional $6.70 per week (about $350 per year) at the regular prices for these nine items. I can reduce this cost somewhat by taking advantage of sales and coupons or making an extra trip to Walmart each week (yuck, not always worth the $2 savings), but I am stuck paying the full price more often than not.


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