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Groceries cost more during COVID-19, but you can still save money

Economists explain the prices and how to save
Posted at 10:18 AM, Jul 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 00:28:05-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Take a good look at your grocery list the next time you're at the grocery store. Chances are the cost has gone up recently for many of the items you're looking for.

The price of keeping your pantry stocked and food in the refrigerator continues to increase throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Experts who spoke with News5 told us why groceries are costing more and said we shouldn't expect relief anytime soon. But, there are some strategies we can use to improve our food security and save a few extra dollars.

"Food is probably one of the most expensive items other than your rent," said Chuck, a Colorado Springs shopper. "Food, you've got to have it. You can't survive without it."

Milk, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables are costing more at the grocery store during COVID-19. Data from the USDA shows prices for most groceries are up about 3 to 5% compared to last year while beef has increased by 10% from May to June.

"I had to wait for the sale," said Kim, a Colorado Springs shopper. "I tried to get here early to get it."

Experts say the virus has impacted food supply chains that are unable to move inventory fast enough.

"We don't really have enough labor for the harvest of some goods. We've had outbreaks in meat processing and chicken processing plants and that has increased prices," said UCCS Economic Forum Director Tatiana Bailey. "Then on top of that, there's a logistical issue. We don't have the workers, necessarily, to transport the goods."

Plus, a surging number of COVID-19 cases has some consumers once again panic buying and hoarding. Economists say it's contributing to higher prices.

"Hopefully people learned from the first time around not to do that again and not to put your neighbors in a bind," said Katie, a Colorado Springs shopper.

Economics professors from CSU-Pueblo fear grocery store prices will hurt people who are out of work the most.

"You were working and now one of you has lost your job, maybe lost several hours of pay. Then, even that 10% increase in prices at the grocery store will feel significant," said CSU-Pueblo Professor of Economics Aun Hassan.

Experts say we should be prepared for rising costs in the grocery store and at the gas pump.

"We're already seeing that and we expect to see more of that in the future and that's going to put a pinch on households," said CSU-Pueblo Professor of Economics Kevin Duncan.

Unable to afford that grocery list, more and more families are now turning to food banks including Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado.

"Tuna, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, those are really difficult to get and when we do see it they are really more expensive," said Care and Share Food Bank For Southern Colorado CEO Lynne Telford.

Food bank leaders say they've felt the strain of a greater need and increasing food prices.

"We're really working hard on meeting the new need. We are seeing a lot of people who have never accessed food banks before, never needed charitable food before," said Telford.

To help you plan future trips to the grocery store, here's your Rebound Rundown:
- Groceries are expected to cost more until after the first of the year
- To save, shop at several different stores for the best deals
- Buy in bulk at warehouse stores
- Consider downloading grocery apps
- If you are struggling to afford food, food banks like Care and Share can help

Grocery apps that offer cash rebates or cashback: Checkout 51 or Ibotta.

Here are other websites offering money-saving tips for grocery shopping: