PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Grocery store prices are increasing whether you are buying online or going to the store. According to the latest government data, consumers are paying 3.5% more, and for a family of four, that can be a sizeable cost difference.
Experts say that could be as much as $500 more a year at a time when the pandemic has left so many struggling to make ends meet.
"We had a suspicion that prices were going to go up. But I don't think we realized how bad it was going to be," said Patrick Penfield who is a professor of supply chain practice at Syracuse University. "The whole supply chain is increasing, and nobody wants to absorb that cost. So, unfortunately, the person or people that are going to bear it are the consumers."
Consumer Reports said meat, seafood, and fresh produce prices are up 8% compared to this time last year.
Paper towels and toilet paper are still up more than 5% as more people are at home and demand is up, but the supply is down.
"I don't think anybody realized, you know, the magnitude of issues that we're seeing within the supply chain right now. And that's something that we'll get through," Penfield added.
But a growing number of popular consumer companies are hiking prices as well. General Mills, the maker of Cheerios, announced it needs to offset higher freight manufacturing and commodity prices.
Hormel is raising prices on products like Jennie-O ground turkey in light of higher grain costs.
But there are ways to save. Consumer Reports says to stock up and strike when the price is right.
"I mean, I think if you want to stay on budget, you've got to think about what you routinely use. And if you see it on sale, you certainly need to buy it in bulk," said Consumer Reports nutritionist Amy Keating.
Also, buy store brands, which are at least 20 to 25% lower than name brands. Costco and Trader Joe's earn top marks by CR members and Target has just introduced "Favorite Day," a house brand for baked goods, frozen desserts, and beverages.
Here are more tips:
-Shop drug stores and even gas station mini-marts. Sometimes they offer lower prices on staples like milk and eggs.
-Use a cash-back credit card.
-And use discount apps like Ibotta and Flipp. Both coordinate store loyalty cards with current coupons.
With Flipp, just scan at the checkout to apply your savings.
Consumer Reports: Get ready for sticker shock at the grocery store as prices increase