For several years I have been reporting bargains at my local supermarkets.

Consider the following typical bargains that I have been reporting: chicken legs at .59 lb, ground beef at .99 lb, prime rib at $4.99 lb, New York Strips at $4.99 lb, center cut pork chops at $2.19 lb., boneless skinless chicken breasts at $1.29 lb, and numerous other specials week in and week out.

Yesterday I received a mailbag request from “LK”:

Mish – how about a supermarket update. I long for your stories of ground beef @ .99 cents a pound. Holy cow, I just paid 2.30 a pound!

LK, perhaps the party is finally over for me. If a 3 week trend is sufficient to judge, the party is indeed over. Before reporting the current price basket, let’s backtrack a bit.

When I moved to the area I am now in, grocery stores were few and far between, and packed as well. That was over 10 years ago. Since then there was a population explosion. However, grocery store explosion that more than kept pace. For example, eight years ago the Jewel store I shopped at ran 8 lanes on Saturday and the waiting line was 4-5 deep in each aisle.

Now, in spite of population that has soared, I can walk into that same store practically any time and only 2-3 lanes are running. What happened is a Dominicks, a Meijer, another Dominicks, and two other stores I never shop at all opened up and all of them are big stores.

I do 85% of the shopping for our household and I know what prices are. Perhaps I live in a unique microcosm, but sale prices on meat, cheese, potatoes, beer, and pop prices have not budged for 5 years.

Vegetables, eggs, milk etc are exceptions. However, a carton of eggs will last us a month and I do not drink or even buy milk. My wife Joanne will buy a 1/2 gallon container of milk twice a month. Perhaps less.

For our regular shopping, I have been buying whatever has been on sale in the meat department. That is where a huge percentage of our food budget is.

I store extras in a freezer. Typically there is always something on sale: chicken, beef, or pork. Whatever it is I will stock up if we are low. Something happened about three weeks ago. For three weeks running, either there were no sale prices or the sales prices stunk.

And this was not just on meat prices.

For example, I am fond of Minute Maid Light Lemonade. It has no calories, no carbonation, and no caffeine. On sale I could (but not anymore) get 4 12-packs for $10. That sale went on like clockwork every three weeks for years on end. I would literally empty the shelves of Minute Maid Light Lemonade, typically 12-16 cartons. whenever I was running low.

Note that Minute Maid is a Coca-Cola product. All Coca-Cola products are usually offered at the same price.

A few weeks ago the sale price on such products went to 3 12-packs for $10. Now the sales price is “buy 2 get 1 free” which amounts to 3 for $12. Yikes. 4 for $10 to 3 for $12 is an enormous jump. I did not buy any.

For years on end, either Lays potato chips or Doritos were on sale 2 for 1, every other week on an alternating basis. I would buy 2 of whatever was on sale. Those sales recently vanished.

Many buy one get one free offers have become buy two get one free offers. That is a huge percentage increase.

Friday night I saw something for the first time ever: pork chops priced by the chop. They were $1.25 each, and thinly sliced. The price per pound was an outrageous $5.49 lb, in fine print of course. I have seen fillet mignon priced this way before, but never pork chops.

At the same time, there was a “2-for” price on both New York Strips and salmon. The price was not per pound, but rather per serving. The price per pound was not attractive and that price was in fine print. I took a pass.

I did find a bargain on cheese, but instead of the typical wide variety of things on sale, there was one particular brand on sale. I bought 6, one pound packages of New York Sharp white and those will last a while.

Ground Beef was on sale, not at $.99 or $1.29-$1.49 (typical), but rather 50% off at $1.99 lb. Yikes. Nonetheless, I took it. Boneless skinless chicken breasts, which I can normally get on sale for $1.29 lb. were on sale for $1.99 lb. I grabbed a couple packages of those as well.

Bacon on sale (good brands) are typically 2 for $5.00. Today a lousy brand was on sale at 2 for $6.00. I took a pass. By the way, I do not shop bacon by brand, but by looks. I inspect every single package and pick the best I can find. If I do not like the way it looks, I do not buy it, regardless of price.

Bacon freezes well and if the price comes down again I will buy six packages instead of the usual 2. Typically, some brand or other of bacon used to be on sale virtually every week. That’s not the case anymore.

I think you get the idea.

This all started in the last 3 weeks. I have no doubt that others have experienced food shopping pain long before I have.

Bottom Line

Sales prices on a basket of food has soared in the last month, at least for me. I am still working out of the freezer but I suspect I will be stocking up at higher prices for the first time in years.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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