You'd think that reduced transportation costs, less eating out, no hair or nail appointments, and canceled trips would mean we'd have some extra money in our pockets amid lockdown. Where else would our money go? Sure, we might be indulging in more take-out, bigger tips, paying grocery delivery fees, and ordering puzzles and art supplies. But with fewer ways to spend money, shouldn't our overall expenses be trending downward?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — the same government entity responsible for tallying our devastating job losses — the prices of bakery products, eggs, fish, meat, poultry, non-alcoholic beverages, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables all experienced spikes during the month of April. So, no, it's not you. Groceries are more expensive.
Eggs alone saw a jump of 16.1% but bakery products and cereal saw their "largest monthly increase ever," with 2.9% — no doubt partially due to all the anxiety bakers in quarantine. The index for non-alcoholic beverages also rose 2.9% while the indexes for dairy products as well as fruits and vegetables both rose 1.5%. Overall, the cost of food at home saw its largest monthly increase since February 1974.
It's important to note that a 2.9% increase, for example, does not mean the cost of bakery products went up 2.9%. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures the average change in price for certain consumer goods and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a monthly summary of the latest updates. So while it doesn't necessarily mean your local flour bag is 2.9% more expensive, the index does measure an upward trend in the cost of groceries. In short, grocery items are getting more expensive.
As we learned with the meat shortage, the novel coronavirus has disrupted every step of production, distribution, and supply while demand from home cooks adds pressure to an at-risk and unprotected labor force. A swirl of COVID-19 related factors is to blame for that uptick on grocery costs.