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“We have to budget”: Midlands families struggle amid rising food prices

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 6:55 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - If you’ve noticed your grocery bill getting more expensive lately, you’re not alone.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics reports the cost for food rose 0.9% in September.

Meat has been affected the most, rising at a rate of 10.5% in the past year. Concurrently, beef prices have risen 17.6% in a year.

Although the prices are national statistics, higher costs at checkout are being felt here in the Midlands.

Lexington mom Joci Whittle says she’s had to make changes to work around her grocery budget and the rising food prices.

“We have to budget. I have my list ready, and I get there and everything’s more expensive, and you kind of have to readjust your plans—your meal plans for the week,” said Whittle. “A lot of our meals that did consist of meat, I’ve looked at vegetarian options.”

Changing your diet isn’t always easy, Whittle says.

“Especially with a toddler, you have a plan, your family is used to something, and then all of a sudden you have to come home and cook differently, and toddlers don’t really take well to change. So, it’s definitely been a struggle trying to get used to grocery shopping differently,” said Whittle.

Research Economist Joey Von Nessen says the issue is due to a worker shortage in the food industry.

“If we look at meat processing plants, in particular, having less workers means that these plants are having to raise wages to attract workers to the plant and they’re having to pass some of those costs onto consumers,” said Von Nessen.

Von Nessen says South Carolina industries will continue to struggle with the worker shortage until employers can get creative to attract new workers.

Until then, economists suggest smart shopping to cut costs.

“From the consumer’s perspective, I think the name of the game is flexibility,” said Von Nessen. “Being flexible, looking for alternatives, looking for items on sale, and making sure you’re on the lookout for items that you really want.”

Researchers say fixing supply chain issues takes a matter of months, not weeks, so prices may begin to drop in early 2022.

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