80% of Americans say grocery costs have notably increased since the pandemic started, survey finds

Personal finance

A customer shops at a Safeway store on June 11, 2024 in Mill Valley, California. 
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

The rate of price increases for food has subsided in recent months, according to the latest government inflation data.

However, shoppers still report feeling burdened by the prices they’re seeing in the grocery store aisles. To that point, within the past few years, 80% of Americans say they’ve felt a notable increase in the cost of groceries, Intuit Credit Karma reported last month.

Since the start of the pandemic, grocery prices have risen 25%, the report also found.

Some consumers have had to sacrifice necessities to afford food, the personal finance company found.

That includes 28% who sacrificed other needs like rent or bills to pay for groceries, and 27% who occasionally skipped meals. Additionally, 18% have either applied for or considered applying for food stamps, while 15% rely on or have considered turning to food banks.

Yet, 53% indicated they earn too much to qualify for food stamps or other government assistance but still have difficulties paying for necessities.

While most consumers report noticing higher grocery costs, 51% have also seen increases in gasoline prices; 39% said other bills like cable, electricity and internet have spiked; 27% said housing costs have gone up; and another 27% said dining out costs have risen.

The survey was conducted online by Qualtrics on behalf of Intuit Credit Karma, from May 7-13 among 2,011 adults.

The high cost of groceries has caught the attention of Congress.

“Grocery prices skyrocketed during the pandemic, and in many cases they’ve kept going up, even though the pandemic is over,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said at a recent Senate hearing.

Some retailers have moved to reduce grocery prices in response to consumer price fatigue. Target announced plans to reduce prices on about 5,000 items including meat, milk, fruits and vegetables. Amazon Fresh plans to cut prices on about 4,000 items online and in stores. Walmart has also increased its “rollbacks” on groceries and sales on other items.

For those who are truly struggling to cover grocery costs, finding a local food bank through FeedingAmerica.org may help, according to Credit Karma.  

For those who have the flexibility to reevaluate their spending, trying new strategies may also help.

“It’s a good opportunity to create smart shopping habits,” said Trae Bodge, a smart shopping expert at TrueTrae.com.

While food inflation is subsiding, certain categories still had notable year-over-year price increases as of May. That includes juices and drinks, frankfurters and bacon.

Avoiding categories where food costs are surging may help keep grocery costs low, experts say.

Where possible, consumers can shift their purchasing habits — by eating at home rather than dining out or by buying chicken instead of beef, for example — to limit the effects of rising costs, said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.

“There is a range of opportunities to make choices and to substitute at lower prices and to get better value,” Hamrick said.

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Visiting different retailers — both in person and online — may help consumers find the best value available and take advantage of sales.

If a store has a loyalty program, Bodge recommends signing up for it to make sure purchases are eligible for discounts or rewards. Switching over to store or generic brands can also provide meaningful savings. Additionally, buying products in bulk may help save up to 40%, she said.

Certain websites and apps help make shopping more efficient.

Coupon sites like CouponCabin may give discounts for ordering groceries online. Flashfood may provide alerts to deals on overstocked grocery items. Martie also has offers on deeply discounted items.

“If you combine all of those things, you can save significantly on your groceries,” Bodge said.

The method of payment at the checkout counter may also lead to more savings, specifically concerning cash-back rewards through credit cards, she said.

To effectively use those perks, it’s important to maintain a balance you can pay off each month. Research from the Urban Institute shows Americans may be saddled with debt after turning to credit cards, buy now pay later programs and payday loans to pay for groceries.

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