Back when the pandemic first began, none of us knew how to shop for basic supplies anymore. Toilet paper vanished from store shelves, while household cleaning products sold for huge bids online. As COVID has become more of a known quantity, our supply chains have straightened out a little, but not in everything — and, it turns out, not always in the consumer's favor.
Buying food has become a much more expensive proposition than before we all began social distancing. CNN reports that between February and June, beef prices rose 20 percent, while other meat, eggs, and poultry saw increases of 10 percent or more. Even cereals and fresh produce became 4 percent more expensive. The danger of agricultural and meat-processing workers contracting the coronavirus has run headlong into companies' incentives to sell food and maintain profits, and no one seems to be coming out on top.
Other factors play into why we're spending more on groceries than ever before. One psychological reason has to do with our brains' response to scarcity — tl;lr: "[W]hen scarcity hits us, we actually stop associating price with quality, and we buy pretty much anything we can get our hands on."
These are systemic problems that are hard to combat on your own, but there are some individual ways to get your budget back in order. Between stretching out your grocery runs and paying attention to your income as it is, meal planning doesn't have to include panicking about what your total at checkout will be.