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5 Supermarket Staples That Cost More This Summer

These everyday grocery items have surged in price since last June

Overhead view of a dining table as two pairs of hands holding knives and forks dig into plates of breakfast.
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Food prices have soared 10.4 percent over the past 12 months ended June, meaning that budget-conscious shoppers have had to buy less of more expensive foods — or do without them.

Fortunately, it’s summer, which means that fresh vegetables, such as zucchini and corn, are relatively cheap. But some favorite supermarket staples could see continuing price hikes, thanks to ongoing supply chain issues and high fuel costs. Here are five, in particular, that are taking a bigger bite out of your food budget this summer.

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1. Butter

You might want to put off mastering the art of French cooking this year, at least until butter prices settle down. Butter has jumped 21.3 percent in the past 12 months, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Thinking of switching to margarine? Think again: The butter substitute has gone up 34.5 percent in the past 12 months.

Butter is the hardest hit of the hard-hit dairy component of the consumer price index (CPI) over the past 12 months. (The CPI measures the cost of a basket of consumer goods and services, and is the government’s main measure of inflation.) The COVID-19 shutdown of restaurants and other places reduced demand for milk and milk products, says Tom Balmer, executive director of the American Butter Institute, and the industry still hasn’t caught up with the rebound in demand. “Higher input costs — feed, labor, etc. — have not been conducive to expanding the national dairy herd,” Balmer adds.

In addition, butter tends to be the last in line for things to be produced from the milk supply. “These days, cheese is the big driver in total milk usage,” he says. That means there’s less butter to go around, giving sellers leverage to charge more for it.

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2. Eggs

You’ve probably had your grocery budget scrambled if you eat a lot of eggs: Egg prices have gone up 33 percent in the past 12 months.

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An outbreak of bird flu cracked the egg market in spring, and the nation’s chicken flock hasn’t entirely rebounded. Over 36 million birds in 32 states have been affected by the strain of avian flu, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The virus has a near 100 percent mortality rate.

And chicken feed isn’t cheap. The price of corn, a major component of chicken feed, rose to more than $8 a bushel in April, according to Macrotrends. Prices have fallen by about $1 since then, but are still about $1.50 higher than they were 12 months ago. The USDA forecasts that egg prices could ease in the fall. This summer, however, eggs are still expensive.

3. Milk

Pretty much any food derived from cattle has risen in price, and milk, up 16.4 percent in the past 12 months, is no exception. Here again, the cost of corn is a big factor, but so is the cost of labor.

U.S. dairy farming is mainly a large-scale industrial operation. Since 2003, the U.S. has lost more than half of its licensed dairy operations (which now number just shy of 32,000), according to the USDA. Most of them were small family dairies.

Mega-dairies with herds from 1,000 to 20,000 cows provide most of the milk in the U.S. The average dairy worker earns $13.33 an hour, according to Zippia, a job recruiting company. The dairy industry relies heavily on immigrant workers, and some states are pressing farmers to pay overtime or higher wages — which, in turn, get passed on to consumers. The USDA is predicting modestly lower milk prices in 2023, however, as the nation’s dairy herd increases.

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4. Coffee

That morning jolt of joe is costing you 15.8 percent more than it did 12 months ago, the BLS says, and the main reason is that coffee isn’t grown domestically. Much of the coffee sold in the U.S. comes from Brazil, which had an exceptionally dry growing season.

But that’s not all that’s jamming java prices. To get coffee to the U.S., you have to ship it, and the world’s shipping lanes have been clogged all year. The Baltic Exchange Dry Index, which measures the cost of shipping, soared in May. Fortunately, both shipping prices and coffee prices have eased since then — and, barring worse weather, coffee prices should drop next year.

5. Bread

Your bread is rising, and it’s not just the yeast. The cost of a loaf of bread is up 10.8 percent since last June, and for that you can blame Russian president Vladimir Putin, at least in part. Ukraine and Russia produce about 28 percent of the world’s exported wheat supply, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine has halted much of the grain exports from the region. The price of wheat has soared 65 percent in the past 12 months.

Energy costs are another reason the price of bread — and many other grocery items — has risen. As most drivers are painfully aware, the price of a gallon of regular gasoline has climbed from $3.17 a year ago to $4.47 as of July 20, according to AAA. Most of the ingredients for bread arrive by truck, and the finished product reaches store shelves by truck as well.

You can’t make bread without bakers, and they, too, need more money to keep up with the rising cost of gasoline and groceries. Average weekly wages have risen 4 percent in the past 12 months, but once you factor in inflation, wages are down 3.6 percent, according to the BLS. If inflation continues at its current pace, you can expect workers to demand higher wages — which, ultimately, will increase the price of bread further.

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