Feb 2, 2023 - News

Chicago's food prices fall, but consumers still seek relief

Data: BLS. Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Food prices across Chicago were up nearly 8% in December compared with a year earlier, per a new analysis from Axios' Kavya Beheraj and Alex Fitzpatrick.

  • The cost of food eaten at home was up 8.3%, while the price of food eaten away from home was up 6.7%, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Yes, but: These numbers are down from November 2022 and much lower than last summer.

Why it matters: Grocery bills are a primary and powerful way that many Americans experience inflation.

  • As the cost of eggs, milk and other staples rise, families living on the financial edge must make difficult choices about what to buy — and what to skip.
  • For restaurants and other businesses, higher food prices can leave owners with the difficult choice of swallowing the costs or passing them on to customers.

Driving the news: COVID-related supply chain disruptions, climate change and higher energy costs are just some factors contributing to higher food prices.

  • Russia's war in Ukraine, a major wheat producer, continues to affect the global supply — and thus price — of that staple.
  • The Federal Trade Commission, meanwhile, is under increasing pressure from lawmakers and advocacy groups to investigate whether egg producers are manipulating prices.

The intrigue: Consumers may gripe about higher costs, but many businesses have noticed that they're willing to pay up. The New York Times recently reported that this is disincentivizing some from bringing prices back down to Earth.

The big picture: Rising food prices aren't just changing the kinds of items that Americans are buying, as Axios' Emily Peck recently reported — they're forcing families to buy less food entirely.

  • "People are starting to think about what they truly need — and what can wait," Emily wrote.

What we're watching: Glimmers of hope on the horizon.

  • Wholesale egg prices, for instance, are beginning to drop, Axios' Kelly Tyko reports. Retail prices usually follow.

The bottom line: Many of the underlying economic and political factors affecting food prices persist, making it all but impossible to predict what your grocery spending will look like this year.


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