‘It’s ridiculous’: Inflation is putting pressure on families with young children who are struggling to keep up with the weekly grocery bill

By Zoe Han

Two families tell MarketWatch how they cut their grocery bills

Soaring 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, used to think of grocery shopping as a break from their busy lives. No longer.

Now the couple are reluctant to buy certain items and have turned to cheaper grocers to cut costs. They used to buy fun drinks and items like specialty cheeses. Now they forgo the drinks and mostly buy rice, noodles and bread. “When we buy meat, it’s definitely frozen,” said Hatch, 36, who works as communications director at e-commerce accelerator Pattern.

Not everything from the frozen aisle makes it into her basket. The “really healthy, super tasty frozen meals” that Hatch ate all the time were $7 or $8 a pack, he said, “and that ended up being too much, too.” “You can start to hesitate about things like that “, he said.

The Hatch household spends about $200 a week on groceries. That bill has gone up with her new family member. “That’s an extra $2,600 this year … it really adds up,” he told MarketWatch.

Food prices are rising, as the current consumer price index shows. Food inflation hit 11.2% in September as supply chain disruptions and labor shortages take their toll. Inflation rose 8.2% year over year in September, down slightly from 8.3% the previous month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Thursday.

Inflation reached 9.1% in June, a nearly 41-year high. A clearer sign for consumers is that the so-called core inflation rate, which excludes food and energy prices, surged 0.6%. Wall Street had forecast a 0.4% gain. Last year’s core rate surge climbed from 6.3% to a new cycle high of 6.6%, marking the largest rise in 40 years.

Hatch and his wife liked their old grocery store for its more “curated” and relaxed shopping experience. “We just can’t shop there anymore, or at least not as often, because you have a bag or two of groceries and it’s as much as five or six bags of groceries from a lower-cost retailer or grocer,” Hatch said.

The couple also turned to breastfeeding when they couldn’t find their brand of baby formula in stores during the recent nationwide baby formula shortage. A product recall in February exacerbated the shortage caused by supply chain disruptions.

Switching to breastfeeding wasn’t easy – and it cost money.

“It’s really tough for my partner,” Hatch said. His wife has to juggle her work duties, pump milk and breastfeed. Because she—like many breastfeeding moms—needs to eat extra calories, her food bill has gone up.

For cash-strapped Americans in particular, the room for maneuver is shrinking. According to government data, the personal savings rate hit 3.5% in August, up from 7.5% last December. The personal savings rate in the US is the percentage of people’s income that is left after taxes and daily expenses.

According to the Financial Health Pulse 2022 US Trends Report, released last month by the Financial Health Network, a nonprofit organization, Americans’ financial health worsened for the first time in five years. Less than a third of respondents describe themselves as financially healthy, meaning they spend less than they earn, pay bills on time and have adequate savings.

More and more Americans are also piling up credit card debt. In the second quarter, credit card debt grew 5.5% sequentially and 13% year over year, the largest jump in more than two decades, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Kishana Taylor, 34, a postdoctoral fellow at Rutgers University-Newark, is also a breastfeeding mom. She and her husband live in Newark, NJ with their 4-year-old son and 9-month-old twin boys. Like millions of working Americans, she strives to avoid debt to put food on the table for her family.

The need for extra calories to keep up her milk supply has also resulted in more meals for Taylor. Every day, Taylor needs to eat 800 extra calories, which is almost equivalent to eating one meal every three hours, she said.

While baby formula can cost parents $1,200 to $1,500 in the first year, breastfeeding devices can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000, depending on the type of products and the medical care required. (A breast pump can cost anywhere from $25 to $200 or more.)

“We probably didn’t save as much as we would have liked because we were spending money on groceries — and inflation –” Taylor told MarketWatch.

So the parents started buying groceries in bulk and visited Costco every Sunday. Taylor and her husband buy what they expect to need for the week and return on Wednesday or Thursday to fill in any gaps.

Her weekly household grocery bill averages at least $175, she said. Every time they go shopping, Taylor and her husband try to stick to a $100 budget, but it’s “really easy to reconsider now,” she said. That also doesn’t account for the supplements Taylor needs to breastfeed.

“And that’s just the basics,” Taylor said. “It is ridiculous.”

Related:

“I want them to go to bed on a full stomach”: A mother tells MarketWatch how inflation has upended her family’s mealtimes

– Zoe Han

 

(ENDS) Dow Jones Newswires

10/15/22 1137ET

Copyright (c) 2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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