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Grocery prices are finally falling

Seen here is the inside of an Albertsons Cos. brand Safeway grocery store in Scottsdale, Arizona, on January 3. After years of increases followed by months of plateau, grocery prices fell last month.
Ash Ponders/Bloomberg/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
Seen here is the inside of an Albertsons Cos. brand Safeway grocery store in Scottsdale, Arizona, on January 3. After years of increases followed by months of plateau, grocery prices fell last month.

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN

New York (CNN) — Food shoppers can finally breathe a slight sigh of relief: After years of increases followed by months of plateau, grocery prices fell last month.

Grocery prices retreated 0.2% from March to April, adjusted for seasonal swings, according to inflation data released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But on the other end, food prices at restaurants rose 0.3% in that period. Food prices overall were flat as a result.

The dip, while small, is a welcome reversal. Grocery prices began soaring at the start of the pandemic, far outpacing overall inflation for years as supply chains snarled, the war in Ukraine affected global crop exports, extreme weather damaged yields and corporations took an opportunity to pad prices. But back in February, overall food prices remained flat for the first time since April 2023. And now they’ve actually gone down, even if only slightly.

Still, grocery prices are higher than they were a year ago. In the 12 months through April, prices rose 1.1%. But overall inflation for that period was higher, up 3.4%.

Apples and eggs take a plunge

In that year-long period, a number of individual items got cheaper: Ham fell 3.4%, cheese dropped 3.3% and fish and seafood, along with potatoes, decreased 2.1%. Coffee prices went down 2%. Milk slipped 1.2%, and rice ticked down 1%.

Two items saw notable drops: Apples, in the wake of a supply glut last year, plunged 12.7%. And eggs, last year the poster child for rising prices, were down 9%, continuing a more recent downward trend.

Still, some items got more expensive over the course of the year, particularly beef, due in part to a constrained supply of cattle exacerbated by deadly wildfires in Texas.

Uncooked beef roasts spiked 10.1%. And summer grilling season staples shot up as well, with hot dogs rising 7.1%, uncooked beef steaks up 6.5%, and uncooked ground beef rising by 6%.

Elsewhere in the grocery store, flour rose 2.5% and fruits and vegetables together inched up 1.7%.

From March to April, several grocery items got cheaper.

In that month, eggs plunged 7.3% and apples fell 2.7%. Overall, fresh fruits and vegetables declined 1.1%. Milk fell 0.8% and poultry fell 0.6%. But some items got more expensive: Breakfast sausage jumped 3.4%, flour went up 3.2%, ham jumped 1.8% and bacon rose 0.8%.

Fast food prices jump

While grocery prices have been moderating, menu prices remain high, especially at fast food spots.

In the year through April, prices at restaurants rose 4.1%.

At sit-down restaurants, prices went up 3.4%, while at limited-service restaurants — where you’re served at the counter — prices rose 4.8%.

After years of rising menu prices, customers have started to pull back, visiting chains less often and spending less when they do.

McDonald’s once boasted that customers didn’t flinch at higher prices, but has recently reported that it is struggling with lower-income customers.

Casual dining chains are attempting to capitalize on the frustration. Applebee’s and Chili’s are trying to lure customers away from fast food spots by pointing out that it can now cost about the same to get lunch at McDonald’s as it does to order a slower burger.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Business/Consumer

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