Costs on the rise

The prices of the items on Shirley Joy’s grocery list have gone up, up, up lately.

“Go back and look at bacon,” exclaimed Joy, 73, of Newport while shopping with her son at Food 4 Less Thursday.

Even the vegetables have gone up, she lamented. The two green peppers that used to cost Joy 99 cents are now $1.29.

Joy’s son, Doug Ward, 53, of New Matamoras, said their strategy to deal with inflating prices is buy less. But you still have to have the staples.

“You got to buy it. So you just got to cut back,” he said.

The price of many of the staples-bread, milk, and beef among them-are expected to inflate significantly more in 2014 than they did throughout most of 2013, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

According to the USDA’s December food price index report, overall food prices inflated between 1.25 and 1.75 percent in 2013, which was low compared to the 2.8 percent increase averaged over the last 20 years.

But food price inflation throughout 2014 is expected to nearly double that of the previous year. The USDA predicts an overall 2.5 to 3.5 percent price increase.

In fact, some of those increases are already evident, said Marietta Food 4 Less manager Bucky Lee.

“The items you’re buying raw, like produce, you’ll see a little fluctuation in the prices,” he said.

The price of milk for example, went up at the first of the month and has another price increase scheduled in February.

Marietta resident Alma Sparks, 51, has noticed.

“The milk is going sky high,” she exclaimed Thursday.

In addition, Sparks has noticed changes in the price of coffee and meat.

Beef prices, which already climbed between 1.75 and 2.25 percent in 2013, are expected to increase by up to 3.5 percent in 2014, the result of an increasing demand and decreasing supply, according to the USDA.

Supermarket shoppers are not the only one feeling the crunch.

Ken Kupsche, owner of The Cook’s Shop in Marietta, said the price of popcorn has greatly increased. Some of the popcorn items his store carries have doubled in price lately, he said.

“(It’s) because of the corn shortage because so much corn is going toward ethanol production,” he said.

Gerald Moore, owner of the Third Street Deli restaurants in Marietta and Parkersburg has felt the impact of higher meat prices, especially in his catering business.

“Beef went up tremendously at Christmas,” he said.

The price of the tenderloins the restaurant buys for its catering service went up by 50 percent, from $16 per pound to $24 per pound.

At an $8 per pound increase, Moore had little choice but to pass along the cost.

“It affected our catering prices for the holiday,” he said.

But normally, the business just incurs the cost of small price inflations, he said.

“We’ve just absorbed it,” said Moore, referring to instances when the price of bread has gone up in the past.

Items like bread and chocolate, which are tied to the price of their raw ingredients, take longer for consumers to notice, said Lee.

“It takes a little while to get in the supply pipeline. Raw chocolate could go up and it could be months before it gets to the consumers’ price,” he said.

Shopping with her family Thursday, Victoria Erb, 27, of Caldwell, said she has not noticed price increases lately any more than she ever does.

“All the prices go up all year round. Each season is different,” she said.

But Erb and her family have their own way of combating price creep.

“Buy ahead of time. We stockpile,” she said.