Food Spending During Covid

Link post

Our house has shared gro­ceries, and in my most re­cent rec­on­cile I saw that our spend­ing is up quite a bit rel­a­tive to this time last year. In 2019, April through July, our monthly spend­ing per per­son was $172, while in 2020 it was $303. In the big pic­ture this is due to the pan­demic, but I’m not sure which fac­tors are re­spon­si­ble for most of the change. Some ideas:

  • Our house is not go­ing into stores, and we’ve been hav­ing gro­ceries de­liv­ered. This re­duces our risk, but it’s also some­what bet­ter at limit­ing spread in gen­eral. Gro­cery de­liv­ery is more ex­pen­sive, es­pe­cially when you in­clude the tips. I ex­pect this is the largest com­po­nent for us.

  • [EDIT: Ju­lia points out that an­other rea­son In­sta­cart is more ex­pen­sive is that we’re gen­er­ally choos­ing the cheap­est op­tion for things, and so when they make sub­sti­tu­tions they’re pick­ing more ex­pen­sive ver­sions or gen­er­ally not pre­dict­ing our prefer­ences very well.]

  • Food has got­ten more ex­pen­sive, but only by ~3%: CPIFABSL is up to 269 from 261 in Fe­bru­ary.

  • I’m not eat­ing lunch at work, since the office is closed. I also used to eat my fruits and veg­eta­bles there, and they’re more ex­pen­sive than the mostly carbs I used to eat at home.

  • Peo­ple in the house aren’t eat­ing out any­more. I don’t think any of us were eat­ing that many other com­mer­cially pre­pared meals, but it’s a com­po­nent. The house gro­cery bud­get won’t count a restau­rant meal, but it will count the food you eat at home be­cause you didn’t go out to eat.

  • I used to also buy things when they were on sale, and with­out walk­ing through the gro­cery store that doesn’t re­ally work any­more.

  • We’ve been buy­ing some things from a restau­rant sup­ply place, and while for some prod­ucts it is sub­stan­tially cheaper, oth­ers are fancier than what we would nor­mally buy. I sus­pect this one about can­cels out.

It’s very noisy, but here’s a chart show­ing our his­tor­i­cal food spend­ing. It’s a 90 day run­ning av­er­age, so the re­cent ris­ing slope is mostly the step-change of our newer more ex­pen­sive situ­a­tion be­ing smeared over a longer pe­riod.