Gas & Groceries

By: Philip Stewart Email
By: Philip Stewart Email

May 23, 2007

Another issue with the skyrocketing gas prices is what it means for the price of other things.

The cost is taking its toll on shoppers at the grocery store. Gas and groceries are similar in that people are trying to cut back on gas and trying to cut back on groceries. But most say they need both, despite the cost.

"Everything is going to have an effect on shoppers, just like the gas prices," said Kathy Lucckese as she loaded groceries into her car at the Giant on Pantops. "If they keep going up, I don't know what's going to happen."

What is already happening is a rise in prices at the grocery store, partly because the cost of gas is having a trickle-down effect at the checkout lines.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, average food prices were up 4% in April alone.

"Prices are just outrageous everywhere, so that's why I just look around for bargains," explained LaBrae Harris. "I go different places. I might go to four different grocery stores. I search the paper for the sale prices."

Lots of the price increases are in the produce department. Per pound, tomatoes, lettuce and oranges are some of the biggest increases.

Much like gas usage, shoppers say they can try to cut back on some groceries, but the fact of the matter is that people have to eat.

"As far as milk, bread, stuff like that, the staples, people are still going to have to get that," said Richard Thomas, who also pointed out that he spent nearly $80 filling up one of his three pickup trucks this week.

"We have to eat, but we live in the country, so I can grow some," said Harris. "We have gardens in the country."

In fact, all three of these shoppers said they have gardens. It's a way to save a little cash during the warmer months.

While they all admit they can't stop buying groceries entirely, they also admit that they're getting frustrated.

"I believe that people will go in and buy what they need and that's it. They won't do a lot of big shopping at one time unless it's on sale, and they can use it and it doesn't go bad," said Lucckese.

Consumer advocates also suggest checking out local farmers markets, like the one held weekly in Charlottesville. Local growers usually sell things for less than grocery stores, since they don't have to pay for long-distance shipments or gas surcharges, fees that often get passed on to the consumer at grocery store chains.

The price increases are also partly due to winter freezes, droughts in some areas and inflation, but gas is the factor that is driving up prices the fastest.

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