Eggs may be the new luxury status symbol at the grocery store checkout line, but they’re not the only product with a rising price tag. From chicken to fresh fruits and veggies, Americans everywhere are seeing painful price hikes at the grocery store — particularly if they’re buying organic.
We analyzed weekly retail pricing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine how food prices have changed from January 2022 to January 2023. Additionally, we analyzed U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey and American Community Survey data to estimate where people spend the largest percentage of their income on food prepared and eaten at home.
Here’s what we found:
- Americans are seeing increased pressure on their food budgets. Chicken costs are up 9.5% year over year, according to our analysis of USDA data, while fruits and vegetables are 10.9% more costly. Separately, the price of a dozen large white eggs has soared 141.8% in the same period.
- Beef prices have bucked these trends. In the past year, beef costs are down 2%. Filet mignon has seen the biggest drop (50.1%), from $19.01 a pound last year to $9.49 this year.
- Organic food prices are rising quicker than their conventional counterparts. Organic chicken costs 19.5% more than a year ago, compared with a 5.9% bump in conventional chicken costs. The same is seen with fruits and vegetables — organic costs are up 13.1% over the past year, while conventional costs are up 9.9%.
- U.S. households spend an average of $260 a week on food prepared and eaten at home. That means households spend an average of 13.8% of their income on food at home, according to our analysis of Census Bureau data.
- Mississippi residents spend the largest percentage of their income on food at home. Households in the state spend an average of 20.2% of their income on this food, followed by West Virginia (19.6%) and Louisiana (18.6%).
- District of Columbia residents spend the lowest percentage of their income on food at home. Households in D.C. spend an average of 8.1% of their income on food, ahead of Massachusetts (10.6%) and Connecticut (11.1%).
Food prices are rising — which products have seen the biggest swings?
With inflation as high as it’s been, it’s no surprise Americans are shelling out more for their groceries — but some food products have seen particularly high spikes. Chicken costs, for example, have risen an average of 9.5% between January 2022 and January 2023.
Specifically, the chicken product in the USDA database that has seen the highest price hike in the past year is organic chicken legs, which have risen from $1.09 a pound to $1.82 (67.0%).
On the other hand, the chicken products with the biggest price drops were:
- Rotisserie breast, which fell from $6.69 a pound to $2.99 (55.3%)
- Party wings (individual quick freezing), which fell from $3.80 a pound to $2.19 (42.4%)
- Legs, which fell from $1.19 a pound to 69 cents (42.0%)
Meanwhile, fruits and vegetables are 10.9% more costly this year than last year. Seven of the 10 fruits and vegetables with the biggest jumps saw price increases of more than 100%, though.
Some fruits and vegetables also saw large price drops. The top three fruits and vegetables with the biggest price decreases were:
- Organic green bell peppers, which fell from $2.99 a pound to $1.29 (56.9%)
- Seedless watermelons, which fell from $7.99 each to $3.99 (50.1%)
- Satsuma (citrus), which fell from $5.91 for a three-pound bag to $2.98 (49.6%)
Separately, the price of a dozen large white eggs has jumped 141.8% in the same period, to $3.99 from $1.65. Following that, the cost of large organic Omega-3 white eggs jumped by 42%, to $3.99 from $2.81.
Generally, the rise in grocery prices can be attributed to international conflicts and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s another reason why eggs in particular have seen such a high spike in prices, though: According to the USDA, an avian influenza virus — which started spreading in early 2022 — has led to more than 57 million chickens being culled, severely affecting the supply of eggs available.
@fs.pod Is eating organic worth the price tag? We dive DEEP discussing what the real differences are between organic and non-organic foods when it comes to: – Chemicals used during farming – Pesticides and insecticides – Overall nutrient density And so much more on this coming Monday’s podcast. #organic #organicfood #gmo #health #healthy ♬ Blade Runner 2049 – Synthwave Goose
Dreaming of filet mignon? Beef prices are down
Although consumers are shelling out more at grocery stores for most of their food products, there’s some good news: Beef costs are down 2% year over year. Filet mignon has seen the biggest drop (50.1%), from $19.01 a pound last year to $9.49 this year. Following that, the price of bone-in rib-eye roasts has fallen to $4.99 from $9.72 a pound (48.7%).
While that’s good news, the reason for the decline isn’t as positive. A severe drought in the U.S. has affected 60% of the nation’s cattle supply, according to the USDA. Many ranchers can’t feed their livestock, leading them to slaughter some of their cattle early — increasing the supply of beef across the U.S.
Not all beef prices have fallen, though. It’s worth noting that the price of flat iron steaks has risen from $7.13 a pound to $9.17 — a jump of 28.6%. Following that, prices for flat brisket have jumped to $9.44 from $7.42 (27.2%).
Organic food prices rising quicker than conventional groceries
Given how comparatively difficult it is to produce, it may be unsurprising that organic food prices are rising at a much faster rate than conventional foods. Among the food groups analyzed, organic chicken saw the biggest jump compared with its conventional counterpart: While conventional chicken costs 5.9% more on average than it did last year, organic chicken costs 19.5% more.
The most dramatic difference? Chicken legs. While organic chicken legs cost 67% more than last year (going to $1.82 from $1.09), conventional chicken legs are cheaper this year — prices fell by 42% (going to 69 cents from $1.19). Following that, some other cuts with some steep differences include:
- Whole wings: Organic prices rose 39.4%, while conventional prices fell 25.4%
- Skinless, boneless breast: Organic prices rose 26.1%, while conventional prices fell 3.7%
- Leg quarters: Organic prices rose 27.1%, while conventional prices stayed the same.
That’s true for fruits and vegetables, too. Organic costs for fruits and veggies are up 13.1% over the past year, while conventional costs are up 9.9%. Across all fruits and veggies, the difference is starkest among strawberries. While the price of organic strawberries rose by 224.4% (going to $9.99 from $3.08), the price of conventional strawberries rose by just 22.6% (going to $3.53 from $2.88). Some other notable differences include:
- Mixed mini sweet peppers: While organic prices rose 107.3%, conventional prices rose 25.8%
- Vine-ripe tomatoes: While organic prices rose 100.5%, conventional prices rose 18.6%
- Orange bell peppers: While organic prices rose 100.4%, conventional prices rose 17.7%
- Kale: While organic prices rose 80%, conventional prices fell 10%
U.S. households spend $260 a week on food at home
Given how much food prices have risen, it’s worth noting that U.S. households spend an average of $260 a week on food prepared and eaten at home, according to the Census Bureau. With the average household income in the U.S. at $97,962, that means households spend an average of 13.8% of their income on food at home, according to our analysis of Census Bureau data.
According to LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz, it’s understandable consumers are shelling out for their groceries.
“Americans love dining out and spend a ton of money in restaurants, but the truth is that we do most of our preparing, cooking, and eating at home,” Schulz says. “And though eating at home is often recommended to help keep expenses down, it’s not necessarily inexpensive. Cooking at home doesn’t have to mean ground beef and hot dogs. Today’s grocery stores are loaded with high-end options that can help you get in touch with your inner ‘Top Chef’ and go gourmet, if you’re willing to spend the money.”
Which groups spend the most on food eaten at home? Unsurprisingly, those with kids in the household ($322) spend significantly more than those without kids in the household ($223). High earners also spend more than any other income group — those earning $200,000 or more annually spend an average of $312 a week on food prepared at home, while those earning less than $25,000 annually spend an average of $234 a week.
By age group, those between 40 and 54 years old spend an average of $298 a week on food prepared at home — significantly more than the $209 average consumers ages 65 and older spend.
Which states spend the most (and least) on food at home?
By state, those with the lowest household incomes tend to spend a higher percentage of their income on food. Consider Mississippi as an example. Households in the state make an average of $68,048 annually (the lowest in the U.S.) and spend an average of $264 a week on food at home — making up 20.2% of their income, the highest in the country.
Following that, West Virginia ranks second. While households earn $72,294 on average (the second-lowest in the U.S.), they spend an average of $273 a week on food at home, or 19.6% of their income. Third is Louisiana, where households spend an average of $271 a week on groceries. With households here making $75,590 on average, they spend 18.6% of their income on food at home.
On the other end of the spectrum, higher-income households tend to spend a lower percentage of their income on food. The District of Columbia falls at the bottom of the chart: While making an average of $138,856 annually (the highest in the U.S.), households in D.C. spend an average of $216 a week on food. That’s an average of 8.1% of their income. That’s followed by:
- Massachusetts, where households make $124,789 on average and spend an average of $255 weekly on food (10.6%)
- Connecticut, where households make $120,009 on average and spend an average of $257 weekly on food (11.1%)
Saving money at the grocery store: Top expert tips
For many, trips to the grocery store are increasingly painful on the pockets. Although food is increasingly expensive, Schulz says it doesn’t have to break the bank. To save on some cash the next time you’re shopping, he recommends the following:
- Shop around. “It may be obvious and sound cliché, but it really, really matters,” Schulz says. “Taking the time to compare prices at different stores can make a real difference in your grocery budget. We tend to get very territorial about our favorite grocery stores, but the truth is that our favorite store around the corner may not have the best prices. Traveling a little further to another store may cost you some extra gas, but the savings at the grocery checkout counter can be worth it.”
- Look at store-brand goods. “Chances are that your grocery store’s own brand is cheaper than other name brands and often just as good,” he says. “That won’t always be the case, but it’s worth looking into.”
- Take advantage of credit card rewards. “If you’re not using a rewards credit card to buy your groceries, you’re leaving money on the table,” he says. “Plenty of cards offer extra rewards specifically for grocery spending. If a big portion of your monthly spending goes to groceries — and whose doesn’t? — you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t at least consider a grocery credit card.”
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