"It's a bit of a grinch's Christmas this year," says Suzy W., a local waitress who said she felt the pinch as her restaurant has lost clients due to menu price increases.
by Julia Pierrepont III
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 28 (Xinhua) -- "Groceries take a bigger and bigger bite of my paycheck every time," Juan G., a garment worker who declined to give his full name said Friday.
"Growing kids need food, but what about rent, phones, and electricity? This is a big problem for my family," said the worker living in downtown Los Angeles.
Many residents in the United States have echoed Juan's words as the holiday shopping season kicks off.
"I just bought some meat and it's off the hook," said Marty Ripley, a resident in Sacramento, describing his recent trips to the supermarket to local KCRA 3 news channel. "That's why you got to try and find it when it's on sale and that's when I'll buy 100 dollars or 200 dollars worth of meat and then freeze it."
KCRA 3 compared Thanksgiving ads from 2020 and 2021 in the Sacramento region, finding that prices are higher this year for several items, ranging from a couple of cents to a couple of bucks.
The consumer price index rose 6.2 percent in October from a year earlier, the strongest annual gain in over 30 years, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
Herb P., a senior citizen from Yorba Linda, a city located 55 km east of Los Angeles, told Xinhua, "I'm always operating on the edge and these prices could put me over. I could be living out of my car in a couple of months."
Cost pressure doesn't stop there. Additional variables bumping up costs include soaring increases in consumer demand and shortages of workers, seaworthy container ships, and warehouses.
Retailers have been absorbing some vendor price increases to stay competitive, but many are now starting to pass them on to consumers.
Overall food prices have risen 5.3 percent since September 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Veggies, fruits, cereal and even bread are showing price upticks, while bigger ticket items like, meat, fish, poultry, and eggs have spiraled up over 11 percent.
"There goes my steak and fries," said Marty K., trucker from Pasadena, a city located 20 km east of Los Angeles, adding that "My wife's been trying to get me to eat those Impossible Veggie Burger things. Guess I might have to, now."
U.S. consumers spent an average of 8.6 percent of their disposable personal income on food in 2020, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Additional food price increases will mean households have even less money available to spend on other essentials, such as rent, gas, utilities, transportation, and insurance.
The steady rise in food prices has impacted restaurants just as they were inching back from pandemic-related lockdowns.
"It's a bit of a grinch's Christmas this year," said Suzy W., a local waitress who said she felt the pinch as her restaurant has lost clients due to menu price increases.
One of the most staggering increases is in fuel, which has risen by a crippling 59.1 percent over last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That could put the cost of heating oil out of reach for some low-income families living in regions of the nation where winter temperatures can plummet to 20 degrees below zero.
"A 60 percent price hike!? Who can afford that?" said California native Jimmy who lives in the mountainous regions outside Bakersfield, California. He expressed worry over how he and his family would cope.
"What are we supposed to do when we cannot afford oil anymore -- turn off the heater and sit outside around a campfire?" he said.