‘It’s ridiculous’: Inflation puts pressure on families with young children who struggle to meet the weekly food bill
By Zoe Han
Two families tell MarketWatch how they cut their grocery bills
Rising prices are pushing Dallin Hatch away from his favorite grocery store in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Hatch and his wife, who have a 7-month-old son, saw grocery shopping as a break from the stresses of everyday life. Not anymore.
Now the couple are hesitant to buy certain items and have turned to cheaper grocers to cut costs. They used to buy fun drinks and items like specialty cheese. Now they are skipping drinks and buying mostly rice, pasta and bread. “When we buy meat, it’s definitely frozen,” said Hatch, 36, who works as communications director at Pattern, the e-commerce accelerator.
Anything in the frozen aisle doesn’t make it to their basket. The “really healthy, super tasty frozen meals” that Hatch used to eat all the time were $7 or $8 a pack, he said, “and that ended up getting too much too.” “You can start getting hesitant about that stuff,” he said.
The Hatch household spends about $200 a week on groceries. This bill has increased with their new addition to the family. “It’s $2,600 more this year…it really matters,” he told MarketWatch.
Food prices are on the rise, as evidenced by the latest consumer price index. Food inflation hit 11.2% in September as supply chain disruptions and labor shortages took their toll. In September, inflation rose to 8.2% year on year, down slightly from 8.3% the previous month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Thursday.
Inflation peaked at a nearly 41-year high of 9.1% in June. In a more worrying sign for consumers, the so-called core inflation rate which omits food and energy prices jumped 0.6%. Wall Street had forecast a 0.4% gain. The increase in the base rate over the past year reached a new cycle high of 6.6% from 6.3%, marking the largest gain in 40 years.
Hatch and his wife loved their former grocer of choice for its more “organized” and relaxed shopping experience. “We just can’t shop there anymore, or at least not as often, because you’ll get a bag or two of food and that’s up to five or six bags of food from a larger retailer or grocer. profitable,” says Hatch.
The couple also turned to breastfeeding when they couldn’t find their brand of formula in stores during the recent national formula shortage. A product recall in February exacerbated the shortage caused by supply chain disruptions.
Adjusting to breastfeeding was not easy and cost money.
“It’s really tough on my partner,” Hatch said. His wife has to juggle work responsibilities, express milk and breastfeed. Because she – like many nursing mothers – has to consume extra calories, her food bill has gone up.
The wiggle room is shrinking, especially for cash-strapped Americans. The personal savings rate hit 3.5% in August, up from 7.5% last December, according to government data. The US personal savings rate is the percentage of people’s income remaining after taxes and daily expenses.
The financial health of Americans fell for the first time in five years, according to the Financial Health Pulse 2022 US Trends Report released last month by the nonprofit Financial Health Network. Less than a third of respondents describe themselves as being in good financial health, meaning they spend less than they earn, pay their bills on time and have enough savings.
More and more Americans are also accumulating credit card debt. In the second quarter, credit card debt rose 5.5% from the previous quarter and 13% year-over-year, the biggest jump in more than two decades, according to the Federal Reserve Bank from New York.
Kishana Taylor, 34, a postdoctoral fellow at Rutgers University in Newark, is also a breastfeeding mother. She and her husband live in Newark, NJ with their 4-year-old son and 9-month-old twins. Like millions of working Americans, she wants to avoid debt in order to feed her family.
The need for extra calories to maintain her milk supply also meant more meals for Taylor. Every day, Taylor needs to consume an extra 800 calories, almost the equivalent of eating a meal every three hours, she said.
While formula in the first year can cost parents between $1,200 and $1,500, breastfeeding supplies can cost between $1,500 and $5,000, depending on the types of products and the medical care required. (A breast pump can cost between $25 and $200 or more.)
“We’re probably not saving as much as we would have liked because we were spending money on groceries — and inflation,” Taylor told MarketWatch.
So parents started buying groceries in bulk, visiting Costco every Sunday. Taylor and her husband buy what they think they need for the week and come back on Wednesday or Thursday to fill in the gaps.
Their weekly grocery bill averages at least $175, she said. On every shopping trip, Taylor and her husband try to stick to a $100 budget, but it’s “really easy to go over that right now,” she said. It also doesn’t take into account the supplements Taylor needs to breastfeed.
“And those are just the basics,” Taylor said. “It’s ridiculous.”
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