WYOMING, Michigan (WZZM) -- Grocery shopping is one of the biggest expenses in many families' budgets. Now that expense is getting even bigger with grocery prices creeping up in recent months.
The United States Department of Agriculture has predicted consumer food costs will rise between 3% and 4% in 2013. This on top of jumping nearly 3% last year. The increase is mostly the result of last year's drought and rising fuel prices. The increases are pretty much across the board, on everything from produce to poultry and beef, dairy and grains.
Locally, Spartan Stores, says it has been able to keep prices the same on hundreds of items with a program started last year.
"We have actually held prices and locked them down despite some of the commodity increases. We've seen a cost increase, particularly on proteins. We have seen a significant rise on things like chicken, beef, etc.," said Alan Hartline, Spartan Foods Executive Vice-President of Merchandising and Marketing. "But those are things we have actually locked down as part of our price freeze program. We extract expenses out. It is a tenacious approach to taking out expenses knowing the consumer is looking for value in today's environment and we have to continue to meet their expectation in that area."
The price freeze program will meet the needs of customers looking to make ends meet. When it was launched a year ago it offered 300 items at a fixed price for 90 days at a time. Now Spartan Stores offers up to 800 items on the list.
"I think given the economic environment over the past couple of years value has really been the mantra for our industry quite frankly. We have needed to find ways to provide value to the consumer seeking that out, whether they have a finite amount of money or they are concerned about the economic environment and are trying to save money," said Hartline.
Overall, shoppers are buying more things on sale and many are staying away from big name-brand products. Hartline says they have noticed an increase in shoppers buying Spartan brand products.
Customers are also comparing stores looking for those stores, that offer other household savings for shopping.
Hartline says the stores fuel rewards program is very popular. For example, shoppers who spend at least $75 Thursday through Saturday this week, can save $.50 a gallon on gas.
Food inflation is expected to ease by the end of the year as long as 2013 doesn't bring more adverse weather conditions.