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Most Mountain West consumers spending more on groceries

 This month, the national average was $259.06, only down 77 cents from January. But for most of the Mountain West, spending increased.
Steve Buissinne
This month, the national average was $259.06, only down 77 cents from January. But for most of the Mountain West, spending increased.

Most consumers in our region spent more on groceries this month due to an increase in prices. And there’s a good chance they’ll spend even more soon.

The U.S. Census Bureau releases data from the first two weeks of every month as part of its Household Pulse survey. One factor it assesses is how much people spend on food that’s prepared and eaten at home.

This month, the national average was $259.06, only down 77 cents from January. But for most of the Mountain West, spending increased.

New Mexico led the pack, as the average consumer spent nearly $24 more on groceries in comparison to the January data. Consumers in Idaho, Nevada and Utah also spent more, putting all these states above the national average.

On the other hand, Wyoming and Colorado consumers decreased their spending. The average Colorado consumer spent almost $31 less than they did last month.

“Food inflation has been really high for a few years now,” said Joshua Berning, an associate professor in the department of agriculture and resource economics at Colorado State University. “We're hoping that it eases up a little bit, but it hasn't really as much as we were expecting."

Though consumer habits might have changed in Colorado, prices remain high, Berning said. “I think the demand has slowed down a little bit. It's just a small tick compared to the huge increase we've seen in prices over the last two years," he said. "But it's still notable to see that's happening for sure.”

He said many factors contribute to the increase in food prices, but a primary one is the avian influenza outbreak.

“One of my daughter's friends, they had to get rid of their birds that they had at their own home as well, because they had an outbreak of avian influenza …” he said. “But it takes a while to get those flocks back up to laying production.”

Berning also factors such as climate change, the reliance on global food supply during the war on Ukraine and increased spending after the pandemic.

“We had two and a half years not spending a whole lot, not doing a whole lot of things,” he said. “I think going forward, if we're facing these higher prices, people can start to be a little bit more conservative again, really planning out their meals a little bit more in order to be more effective with their spending.”

He expects food prices and spending to increase over the coming months. To save money, he recommends that consumers shop around for the best prices and invest in meal prepping to get the most out of their food.

Most states spent above the national average in February on groceries. Utah and Idaho consumers spent $261 on average, while New Mexico consumers spent $268 and Nevada consumers spent $279. Colorado consumers were below the national average, spending $257 on average. The same was true for Wyoming consumers at $237.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2023 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.

Emma VandenEinde