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Inflation remains high, steadying out despite increases, CPI report finds

New economic federal data had some good news for metro San Francisco consumers: Gas prices have dropped nearly 11% in the past two months.

However, overall consumer prices were still gloomy with a 5.7% overall price hike over the past year, with energy leading the hike with a 20.9% increase, according to Tuesday’s August Consumer Price Index report published by the Labor of Bureau Statistics.

Rob Eyler, a professor of economics at Sonoma State University, said it’s still a guessing game on how high interest rates are going to go. And, he added, it’s still unclear if these interest rates are due to supply chain issues or buying too much supply.

“We knew that there were supply-side problems with policymakers, but there’s not a whole lot we can do about the supply-side in short term,” Eyler said. “(Policymakers) really need to come up with a long-term strategy to become more domestically resilient.

The data tracked consumer prices in San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward. But Sonoma County shoppers say they’re also feeling the sting of prices continuing to rise. Many have changed the places they grocery shop or eliminated items that are usually on their weekly list all together.

Jennifer Molidor is the senior food campaigner for the Center of Biological Diversity and studies food programs. She said multiple factors have caused food prices to jump, such as the recent heat wave, wildfires and the drought plaguing California.

“People have switched grocery stores; not gone out as much,” Molidor said. “Some of my colleagues have been cutting back on other things to be able to afford their groceries.”

Tuesday’s report revealed:

  • Inflation overall increased about 8% since last year with housing, food and medical prices being driving factors.
  • Groceries prices have gone up nearly 14% since last year.
  • Fuel and gasoline prices have jumped nearly 69% over the past 12 months.

Molidor said prices on foods that have gone up the most are meats, dairy and eggs. She added egg prices have jumped nearly 40% since last year and milk prices rose 17%.

She said she’s opted for buying more “shelf-stable” products, such as canned goods, beans and lentils and started purchasing less “water-intensive items,” such as oat milk instead of almond milk because they stretch her dollar better.

“I’ve also made sure to avoid the higher priced supermarkets ... and turned to what is available, the basics at stores like Grocery Outlet and Trader Joe’s,” Molidor said. “As a single working mom, food inflation hits hard.”

The rising prices of groceries, gas and utilities have led many Sonoma County shoppers to change their spending and saving habits. Many had to change the grocery stores they shop at to find better deals while others have opted to start growing their own food.

George and Ellie Naill, who are retired, are concerned about the money they invested for retirement. Ellie said they’re doing fairly well because of their savings, but they’ve had to cut back on buying a few “luxury” groceries, such as cream cheese, and even growing some of their own food to save money.

“There are things I’m willing to drop,” Ellie said. “We buy in bulk when we can and we are constantly trying to cut back on our expenses ... the gas prices are just absolutely killing us.”

You can reach Staff Writer Sara Edwards at 707-521-5378 or sara.edwards@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @sedwards380.

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