November 20/Boston/Boston Herald --Shoppers are feeling the pinch of higher food prices at the supermarket, and most consumers are convinced they will be shelling out even more cash for groceries next year.

“Prices keep going up,” said Vladimir Nefyodov, a home health aide who shops for his elderly clients in Boston. “My clients are on a fixed income, and they’re watching every penny, and they’re hurting. Banks got the government bailout, but people are left to suffer.”

Nefyodov is not alone. Nine out of 10 consumers say they are paying more for groceries now than they were a year ago, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports poll. In a survey of 1,000 American adults, 81% said they are at least “somewhat concerned” about inflation, including 47% who are “very concerned.”

Looking ahead, 76% of the respondents believe the amount they will be spending on groceries a year from now will be higher than today. Only 4% expect to be paying less for groceries in 2012; 15% say the amount they pay will be about the same as it is now.

The Herald’s Inflation Watch — a sampling of a dozen staple products — found average prices increased 7.2% compared to the spring. The items, including bread, milk, eggs, chicken and coffee that cost an average of $34.37 in March, cost $36.86 this month. The survey was conducted at Stop & Shop, Shaw’s and Roche Brothers in Boston and Market Basket in Somerville.

When we compared seven items in the basket to our 2004 survey, the average price swelled to $25.09, up from $20.73 — a 21% hike.

Barry Bluestone, dean of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, said there is no end in sight to rising prices. While the nation is in the midst of a weak economy, and consumers are cutting back on big ticket items, people still have to eat, he said.

Food prices are rising, in part, because the cost of wheat, soybeans and other commodities continues to soar. Transportation costs — the cost of gas — also show up in higher prices at stores.

“The other factor driving prices up is a growing world population,” Bluestone added. “And I expect the congressional cuts for dairy products, which are coming, will also drive prices up.”

Dillon Hawley, a sophomore at Northeastern University, said he carefully examines store circulars before shopping. “I am very price-conscious, so I check out what’s on sale and only buy those items,” he said.

But not everyone is cost-conscious. Harriet Barry, a retiree from Back Bay, said she does not check for sales. “I buy so few things that I don’t bother to check prices,” she said. “It’s just me.”


From the November 21, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.