CINCINNATI — Recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows grocery prices are up more than 8% than this time last year. While some consumers are still buying groceries and cooking at home, others have found it more convenient and cheaper dining out.
Darice Chapel, 29, has always enjoyed cooking meals at home. But she found herself cooking less during the pandemic.
“Take out Tuesday became a big thing in my household and then it kind of just turned into take out every day,” said Chapel. “It was kind of just more convenient.”
But even now that we’re coming out of the pandemic, she’s still not cooking as much. That’s because inflation is making it challenging for her to afford groceries.
“Buying two weeks of groceries lately has been costing between $100-$150, which is a lot,” she said. “That’s twice what I used to pay a few years ago when I lived alone.”
So instead she eats out at restaurants or uses DoorDash to get her meals delivered to her. She said it’s not only convenient, less food is wasted, and it’s cheaper.
“It doesn’t make sense for me to buy a ton of groceries,” she said. ”They don’t make groceries for small portions. They don’t make groceries for single people. So, it just ends up being a lot of times cheaper for me to eat out or order something.”
A recent study by the U.S. Census Bureau shows Americans spent more than 20% more at restaurants than on groceries in 2022. University of Cincinnati Economics Professor Erwin Erhardt said the trend seems to continue even now in 2023.
“It is a surprise in a way given the cost of food, but a trip to the grocery store has honestly gotten very expensive,” said Erhardt.
Erhardt believes inflation, along with people getting more comfortable socializing after the pandemic, has caused people to eat out more.
“People are reconnecting, getting back out in some cases with people they haven’t seen in three years and I think once you break through and start doing that again you start enjoy going out again and I think that’s what’s going on,” he said.
But even with more people eating out more than at home, data also shows that while revenue has gone up for restaurants, profits have declined.
“According to the Q1 Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) Business Impact Poll of owners and operators across the state, 96% of respondents saw food costs rise with 36% seeing food costs increases of 10% or more,” said Jennifer Bushby, Ohio Restaurant Association communications manager. “Additionally, 58% report labor costs at least 5% with 30% of operators reporting an increase of at least 10%.”
Either way, Chapel said unless prices at the grocery store drop she plans to continue eating out.
“I have work, I have school, I have the dog, and I also help take care of my parents as well,” she said. "So maybe if I didn’t have so much going on it would make a difference. But just where I’m at with life and just the chaos it’s just so much easier to have someone who is willing to bring it to me.”