Recent Grocery Price Trends in the Southeast: What's More Expensive and What's Becoming Affordable

A. Nicole
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Grocery shoppers in the South had become accustomed to the relentless rise in food prices over the past couple of years, driven by a series of unprecedented events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical tensions, labor disruptions, and surging consumer demand. However, there seems to be a slight respite on the horizon, as data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that grocery prices experienced a brief dip earlier this year, offering consumers some relief. Although prices have not returned to pre-pandemic levels, they have stabilized, with inflation rates slowing down, thanks in part to the Federal Reserve's efforts to curb the rampant inflation.

In August 2023, the cost of groceries in the South increased by a modest 0.2% compared to the previous month. This follows decreases in grocery prices earlier in the year, which were largely driven by declines in the prices of eggs, meats, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Despite these recent fluctuations, the overall cost of groceries in the South remained 3% higher than in August 2022, reflecting the lingering effects of the inflationary pressures seen in the preceding years.

Here are some of the notable grocery items that experienced price increases in the South over the past month, along with their annual changes:

Romaine Lettuce (per lb.)

  • One-month increase in cost: +6.8%
  • August 2023 cost: $2.44

Ground Coffee (per lb.)

  • One-month increase in cost: +6.1%
  • August 2023 cost: $6.22

White Potatoes (per lb.)

  • One-month increase in cost: +5.3%
  • August 2023 cost: $1.16

Whole Chicken (per lb.)

  • One-month increase in cost: +4.4%
  • August 2023 cost: $1.83

Strawberries (per 12 oz.)

  • One-month increase in cost: +3.7%
  • August 2023 cost: $2.49

Ice Cream, Prepackaged in Bulk (per 1/2 gal.)

  • One-month increase in cost: +3.2%
  • August 2023 cost: $5.88

Potato Chips (per 16 oz.)

  • One-month increase in cost: +1.6%
  • August 2023 cost: $7.06

Lemons (per lb.)

  • One-month increase in cost: +1.5%
  • August 2023 cost: $2.24

Wine (per 1 liter)

  • One-month increase in cost: +1.4%
  • August 2023 cost: $12.41

Ground Beef (per lb.)

  • One-month increase in cost: +0.5%
  • August 2023 cost: $5.48

These price increases, though relatively small, can have a significant impact on consumers' grocery bills, especially when they accumulate over time. Items like coffee, potatoes, and lettuce are staples in many households, making these increases particularly noteworthy.

It's important to note that while grocery prices have risen for these specific items, other categories have experienced decreases, providing some relief for consumers. Let's take a look at the groceries that have become more affordable in the South in recent weeks:

Long-Grain White Rice (per lb.)

  • One-month decrease in cost: -5.0%
  • August 2023 cost: $1.11

Chocolate Chip Cookies (per lb.)

  • One-month decrease in cost: -4.2%
  • August 2023 cost: $5.04

Eggs (per dozen)

  • One-month decrease in cost: -4.0%
  • August 2023 cost: $1.73

Tomatoes (per lb.)

  • One-month decrease in cost: -3.5%
  • August 2023 cost: $1.66

Ham (per lb.)

  • One-month decrease in cost: -2.2%
  • August 2023 cost: $4.30

American Processed Cheese (per lb.)

  • One-month decrease in cost: -2.1%
  • August 2023 cost: $4.71

Dried Beans (per lb.)

  • One-month decrease in cost: -2.0%
  • August 2023 cost: $1.49

All-Purpose White Flour (per lb.)

  • One-month decrease in cost: -1.4%
  • August 2023 cost: $0.49

White Bread (per lb.)

  • One-month decrease in cost: -1.0%
  • August 2023 cost: $1.75

Spaghetti and Macaroni (per lb.)

  • One-month decrease in cost: -1.0%
  • August 2023 cost: $1.17

These price decreases provide a silver lining for consumers, as they can help offset the rising costs of other grocery items. It's worth noting that these fluctuations in prices are influenced by a multitude of factors, including supply chain disruptions, weather conditions affecting crops, and consumer demand.

As the South and the rest of the nation navigate the complex landscape of inflation and economic recovery, consumers will continue to monitor their grocery bills closely. While some items have become more expensive in recent weeks, there are still opportunities to save on essential items at the supermarket. As the economic situation evolves, it remains important for consumers to stay informed and adapt their shopping habits accordingly to make the most of their hard-earned dollars.

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