Inflation, rising cost of groceries, fuel are changing consumer habits

APPLETON — When Doug Steltenpohl recently visited the grocery store, he noticed a significant increase in prices for some of his favorite items. And he is not alone.

While Steltenpohl and his wife used to enjoy grilled steak for dinner a few times a month, they had to cut back on that luxury as the price of meat rose.

“I shop for groceries in the family and I’ve noticed the prices of a lot of things have gone up a lot,” Steltenphol said. “I kind of choose what I can and can’t buy.”

Over the past year, Americans have noticed significant price spikes on things like food, clothing, gasoline and other necessities.

Inflation has affected the entire state, with many deciding to adjust or completely change their shopping habits in order to afford food and other necessities.

According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index (CPI) released in March 2022, grocery items like meat, fish, poultry and eggs are up 13.7% nationally since last year, the biggest 12-month increase since the period ending March 1981.

Overall, prices for all consumer goods have risen 8.5% since March 2021, driven by a 32% increase in energy prices. Food in all categories is up 8.8%

The CPI measures the change in prices paid by consumers for goods and services. The CPI reflects the spending habits of urban consumers, urban wage earners and office workers.

the CPI for the Midwest regionwhich includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin, indicates that prices home food prices increased 11.3% from last year and out-of-home food prices increased 8.4%.

How do customers fight high prices?

An informal online survey of USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin readers showed that more than half of the 185 survey participants from northeast Wisconsin had changed their place of purchase due to rising prices.

“I’ve pretty much quit Pick ‘n Save and trade more with Walmart for housewares and plus-size branded items,” wrote Jane Cryan of Oshkosh. “For pork, chicken, fresh fish and seafood, I negotiate with Festival Foods, but I don’t know how much longer I can afford Festival Foods prices.”

“I do most of my shopping at Walmart because it’s cheaper, although the quality is slightly lower,” said Julie Ricks of Green Bay.

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Respondents indicated that meat, grains, dairy, produce, soft drinks and gasoline were the areas where they noticed the price increase the most.

Many said they were using more coupons than before and comparing prices of items from store to store to find the best deal.

In addition to switching grocery stores, comparing prices and coupons, customers also opted to leave behind their favorite snacks and treats.

When items cost more than they’d like to spend, customers like Robyn Nagreen of Appleton have opted out of buying specialty or high-end items like they normally would.

“I also buy less organic products,” Nagreen said in the survey.

The grocery store isn’t the only place consumers are adjusting to the effects of inflation. Gas price increases have caused people across the state to make other sacrifices as well.

The national gasoline price average peaked at $4.33 a gallon in early March, but has since fallen slightly, according to AAA. Fuel prices had not been this high since 2008.

A year ago, and still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Gas prices in Wisconsin averaged $2.65 per gallon. Today, the average statewide cost sits at $3.79.

“Running around town for things is different,” Steltenpohl said. “If we needed to go three or four times a week we could do that, but now we have to budget and figure out how many times we can go a week because gas prices have gone up so much. .”

What drives prices up?

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has driven fuel prices higher over the past two months.

March 8, President Biden announced the United States would ban imports of oil, coal, and natural gas from Russia following the invasion.

“We stand united with our allies and partners to work together to reduce our collective dependence on Russian energy and maintain the mounting pressure on Putin, while taking active steps to limit impacts on global markets. energy and protect our own economies,” said a White House press release declared.

The president followed with an executive order banning other Russian imports such as vodka, diamonds and seafood, which further drove up the prices of these items.

Yet Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is only the latest reason for rising prices in the United States

The coronavirus pandemic on supply networks continues to limit store inventory in some regions, while a nationwide labor shortage drives up labor costs and prices that consumers pay.

Josh Hamill, Woodman’s store manager at 595 N. Westhill Blvd. in Appleton, supplies are so limited that most distribution companies only allow stores to order a limited amount of items, which also leads to a lack of products on the shelves.

“We’re constantly trying to fill in the holes,” Hamill said. “It’s a constant battle to try and keep up.”

Todd Delvoe, manager of Piggly Wiggly at 2465 Lineville Road in Green Bay, said price increases for drinks sold in aluminum cans have been particularly striking.

“Anything canned, like soda, the price has gone up,” Delvoe said. “If you look in anyone’s ads, you used to get a Coke deal for four packs for ten bucks. Now you’re lucky if you can get three packs for twelve or thirteen dollars. Anything that was supposed to go in an aluminum can’t he’ve noticed increased.”

Delvoe said he also noticed an increase in the price of meat.

Hamill said there was not one specific item where he saw a particularly steep price increase over other items; prices are up for most items in the store, he said.

Officials at both stores said they had not seen a drop in sales or activity at their stores.

“We’re just a grocery store and people have to eat,” Delvoe said. “It could affect stores that sell groceries as well as products that people don’t necessarily need anymore.”

Hamill said he’s actually seen an increase in business at Woodman’s.

When will prices return to normal?

At this time, there is no answer as to when food, fuel and energy prices will stabilize, let alone begin to fall.

A Wisconsin Economic Forecast released by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue in November 2021 cited a IHS Markit study that predicts that inflation will slow this year and fall to 2% by 2023.

For now, it seems like budgeting, price matching, and reducing unnecessary items are the best way for customers to fight price inflation in Wisconsin.

Contact Jelissa Burns at 920-226-4241 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @burns_jelissa or on Instagram at burns_jelissa.