Food prices will go up

The managing editor Shea Wilson is leaving Jan. 28. The rest of the staff was asked to write editorial columns the next couple weeks or so until we get a new managing editor. This is my first to be published. joan

Middle and lower-income families can expect a greater financial pinch in the upcoming months as grocery stores no longer can afford to silently absorb the rising cost of food. The past year grocery stories have seen rising food prices but have generally absorbed the extra costs on items like meat, seafood and produce and lowered their already tight profit margin, rather than pass the costs along to customers, according to a recent Associated Press story.
That has been the unspoken good news for unemployed consumers and those with less money to spend on groceries after having a wage freeze or cutback in hours. For now, the national grocery store leaders have retained shelf prices, but with profits and stocks falling, do not expect this to continue. To stay in business, even grocery stores need to make a profit.
The bad news for the national food chains is that with 40 million Americans now relying on foods stamps, (up 50 percent from four years ago), middle and lower income consumers increasingly go to supercenters that offer less selection but cheaper prices than traditional grocery stores.

For that reason, grocery sales at stores like Walmart, Target and Costco, grew at a rate of 10 percent a year over the past five years, according to Packaged Facts, a market research firm. However, sales at traditional grocery stores are growing at a the slower rate of numbers – closer to 4 percent.
For grocery store executives, their increasing costs become a “Catch-22,” with lowered profits and a decline in the companies’ values on the stock markets. If they raise the shelf prices, it not only costs their customers more and will inevitably reduce the number of items purchased, it may even send more to shop at department stores with aisles set aside for groceries.

Inevitably, the piper must be paid for any business to succeed – including a favorite local grocery store. For the consumer who prefers their local grocer, or for anyone who does not live close to a supercenter, to get the most out of each supermarket dollar, shop the sales and stock up on basics. Think ahead so that leftovers do not go to waste. Plan meals to use up leftovers before cooking another meal or creating a new meal, a casserole or soup from leftovers.