This year, typical holiday stress is exacerbated by inflationary concerns, with 62% of shoppers reporting their grocery costs have increased year-over-year, according to FMI-The Food Industry Association’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2022 series focusing on holiday shopping.

When it comes to holiday plans, 45% of shoppers are more concerned about the price of holiday meals than the price of travel or gifts. Despite inflation-induced concerns, average weekly household grocery spending is currently at $148 per week, which is down from the $161 peak during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to FMI.

“Food is the centerpiece for so many of our holiday gatherings. Despite inflationary pressures, consumers are determined to enjoy the festivities this year as they normally do,” said Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI. “The food industry is working tirelessly to keep costs down and to ensure that our timeless traditions can continue during this holiday season.”

Grocery prices continue to climb. In September, according to the latest Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U), supermarket prices rose 0.7%, contributing to a 13% increase in the past year.

Compared to September 2021, the index for cereals and bakery products was up 16.2%, the meat, poultry, and eggs index was up 9%, the dairy product index was up 15.9%, and the index for fruits and vegetables rose 10.4%.

More than half of shoppers said they've noticed price increases for most products, notably fresh meats, fresh produce, refrigerated dairy foods and milk, FMI said. Shoppers say they manage expenses by eating out less (57%), by purchasing new clothes less often (55%), and by cutting back on gifts for family (47%), driving (45%), and holiday celebrations (45%).

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“While many Americans say that their food habits have recently shifted, worries about food prices are experienced as even more dynamic,” the report stated. “Two-thirds (65%) say they worry about food prices more than a year ago, and 57% worry more about the amount they spend on groceries. Almost one-third say they now worry more about having enough to eat. Solutions to address this include eating more at home, eating leftovers, avoiding food waste, and meal planning.”

So how are consumers looking to adjust to potentially high holiday costs ahead? The report noted that consumers are looking for deals, choosing store brands, enjoying more home-cooked meals, making fewer dishes overall, substituting more affordable options, or spending less in other categories to provide holiday meals.

Far fewer shoppers this year believe COVID-19 will impact their holiday plans, the report states. More than two-thirds say they will celebrate the holidays "about the same" as last year, representing a year-over-year increase for every holiday. Food shortages during the holidays remain a concern for 58% of shoppers, unchanged from 2021.

In the case of missing holiday ingredients, 50% of shoppers would prepare different foods this holiday season, up from 47% a year ago, and 36% will look for a new recipe to try, up from 32% last year. Only 27% of consumers report being “very concerned” about food items needed for holiday meals being out of stock.

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