WE ALL HAVE OUR OWN indicators for where the cost of living is headed. These are the kinds of things that hit us viscerally. Last weekend, we had family visiting, and we decided to order pizza and wings. Two large pizzas, two dozen wings and an order of chicken tenders for our grandsons cost $103. A large pepperoni pizza alone was $26.
On Sunday morning, my wife and I took our two older grandsons out to breakfast. Two short stacks of buttermilk pancakes with bacon, an acai bowl, and one order of bacon, eggs and toast came to $74. Two coffees and two orange juices were almost $20 of the bill.
Neither of these meals included cocktails, beer or wine. Alcohol prices seem to be particularly high at restaurants in a resort town like ours. I’m a wine fan and enjoy looking for great bottles at bargain prices. It’s common to see wines priced at three times the retail price.
A recent article in USA Today supports my sense that food prices have climbed sharply. The article quoted recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Food prices overall are up 4.6% since September 2020. But meats, poultry, fish and eggs have jumped 10.5%. Compare this to the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures the average change in the price of goods and services. CPI has increased 5.4% since September 2020.
Several years ago, I did a thorough review of our spending. We were using a rewards credit card for as much of our spending as possible, making sure to pay it off in full each month. This gave us a good database to gauge how much we were spending on things like groceries, dining out, gifts, gas and so on. I used the data to project our retirement budget.
How does our spending today compare to those estimates? I took a quick look at 2021’s spending, and I’m pretty sure we’ll exceed the “dining out” budget. Food inflation is part of the reason, but lately we’ve also been eating out more than we expected. Living in a beach town, with lots of transient and part-time residents, can make every day seem a bit like “vacation.” And when friends and family visit, they are indeed on vacation, and their desire to go out is greater.
I’m not worried about the cost, but it’s something to keep an eye on. In addition to being expensive, dining out isn’t always the healthiest choice. Inviting friends and family to dinner at our home is just as much fun, even if we’re ordering in expensive pizza. And it gives me a chance to share one of my bargain wine discoveries.