By Cara Ding, Steven Kovac, Jackson Elliott, Michael Sakal, Allan Stein and Jannis Falkenstern of Epoch Times
On the verge of celebrating Thanksgiving with her family, Melissa Ngo wasn’t happy after her grocery shopping trip. The high price of gasoline has cut into her family’s budget for everything, she said.
She’s now having to shop at three different grocery stores—Giant Eagle, Marc’s, and Aldi—to find the lowest prices.
“It’s everything,” said Ngo, a resident of Lakewood, Ohio, whose husband works as a dye-maker in Cleveland. “Everything has gone up, not just gas. The main thing I’ve noticed at the grocery store that has gone up in price [is] U.S. meat. It’s about double from last year.
“We’re a one-worker family, and we’re always having to juggle. Now, we’re juggling more.”
As a resident of the west Cleveland suburb and Democratic stronghold, Ngo is quick to admit that she’s sorry she voted for President Joe Biden in the 2020 election. She usually votes Democrat. She said she may not vote in the next election.
For Allen van Houten and Kathy Ellison of Lakewood, things have always been tight. Going into the 2021 holiday season, their budget is tighter still.
Van Houten, an Army and Navy veteran on disability, and Ellison, who works as a cook at a local restaurant, had just finished shopping at the Giant Eagle. Because of the skyrocketing price of gasoline and the higher food prices, they hardly go “anywhere” anymore, they said.
They’re doing without as they prepare to spend Thanksgiving together.
“We’re penny-pinching a lot more from last year,” Ellison said. “Now, we’re always penny-pinching.
“Working a 40-hour workweek doesn’t keep your head above water anymore. Everything has gotten higher in price—food, gas, and utilities. And it’s not getting any better.”
Van Houten noted that the couple have been depending on each other to get through such a difficult time.
“If we didn’t have each other, we couldn’t survive,” he said.
In addition to purchasing a smaller turkey this year, they’ve eliminated deviled eggs and potatoes from their Thanksgiving meal.
“We’re going to three different grocery stores because we’re having trouble finding stuff,” Ellison told The Epoch Times. “We’re looking at pies at Giant Eagle that used to be on sale for $3.99. Now, they’re $5.99. We’d like to get a Dutch Apple pie, but those are $13.99. Sometimes, the supplier takes advantage of these situations, too.”
The couple blames the situation on the high prices of gas and food, the workforce shortage, and the government. Van Houten and Ellison said they don’t vote.
“The government is going to do whatever they want anyway,” Van Houten said.
Kathy, also of Lakewood, who didn’t want to give her last name, was more sympathetic toward those facing hard times going into Thanksgiving. She had just loaded a cart full of groceries into her car outside of the Giant Eagle.
Although she has seen at least a 20-percent increase in her grocery bill from 2020, she said her family won’t have to cut back.
“We’ve been lucky. We’ve been blessed and have been able to work and stay comfortable through all of this,” Kathy told The Epoch Times.
Although she said she’s happy with Biden, since she “didn’t like Donald Trump,” she noted that she feels as though the president could be doing more to help ease the situation.
“I’m not happy with everything Joe Biden has done,” Kathy said. “The U.S. is not tapping into its resources, and we’re having to rely on foreign countries too much for certain goods.
“I don’t want to have to pay more for everything. Our salaries are not commensurate with inflation. With all the high prices, it does make me and my husband want to give more to charity to help others who are struggling.”
In Florida, two large grocery chains—Publix and Winn-Dixie—are limiting certain holiday foods during Thanksgiving week.
Publix Director of Communications Maria Brous released a statement saying that “caps” are being placed on certain food items because of “supply chain issues” and increased demand. Last week, the Lakeland company, which has 1,280 stores across the southeastern United States, placed the restrictions in anticipation of the demand and supply chain crisis, according to Brous.
Another grocery outlet, Winn-Dixie, has placed a cap of one turkey per customer. Southeastern Grocers, a Jacksonville, Florida, company, owns Winn-Dixie, as well as Fresco y Mas and Harveys Supermarket.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis weighed in on the rising cost of food and said he’s concerned about “inflationary pressures,” for which he blames the Biden administration.
“Inflation that you’re seeing—the White House said it wasn’t real. It’s real,” DeSantis said on Nov. 22. “This is going to be the most expensive Thanksgiving we’ve seen in quite some time. Prices have increased by 20 percent from last year.”
Since 1986, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has conducted a Thanksgiving meal survey. The 2021 survey found that a meal for 10 people was expected to cost $53.31–up 14 percent from the 2020 average.
The federation checked prices between Oct. 26 and Nov. 8 and noted that stores began selling whole frozen turkeys at a lower price two weeks later. As the meat protein most associated with Thanksgiving, the turkey is going to cost consumers 24 percent more than it did in 2020. The AFBF estimates that a 16-pound turkey will cost $23.99, or roughly $1.50 per pound more than 2020.
The survey also found that the costs of other holiday goods were up as well, including dinner rolls—a 15 percent increase—while a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix is up by 7 percent.
“Several factors contributed to the increase in average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner,” senior economist Veronica Nigh said in a statement on the AFBF website. “These include dramatic disruptions to the U.S. economy and supply chains over the last 20 months; inflationary pressure throughout the economy; difficulty in predicting demand during the COVID-19 pandemic and high global demand for food, particularly meat.
“The trend of consumers cooking and eating at home more often, due to the pandemic, led to increased supermarket demand and higher retail food prices in 2020 and 2021, compared to pre-pandemic prices in 2019.”
Outside of the Winn-Dixie in Punta Gorda, Florida, Diane Crowi said food prices are definitely going up.
“Our kids are all grown up, and they live out of the area, so we don’t celebrate like we used to. But, yes, things are more expensive this year than last year,” Crowi said. “We’re retired—I mean, we have Thanksgiving, just on a smaller scale. You just have to absorb the costs.”
Along with increasing food costs, the price of gasoline has significantly risen as well, she said.
“Gas prices are ridiculous,” Crowi said. “We just have to shift things around to afford what we have on our fixed income. We just cut down on our trips. We don’t drive as much to save fuel.
“If I have to blame anyone, it would be our president—but I’m a Trump fan, so …”
Winn-Dixie shopper Crystal Hunsicker of Punta Gorda said Thanksgiving is “definitely more expensive this year than last year.”
“It affects us, but what are you going to do?” Hunsicker said. “You just deal with it.
“Yes, gas is expensive, and we were energy independent before Biden took office. It takes $100 just to fill up my tank. There’s nothing I can do to save any money on fuel. I have to work, so I have to have gas.”
Hunsicker said she voted for Trump in 2020 and identifies as a Republican.
“I blame Biden for all of this. Trump’s policies were working, and [Biden] gets into office and destroys everything Trump put into place.”
Charnita West, a single mom, looked cold in the parking lot of the Food City grocery store in Rossville, Georgia, on Nov. 23. In 2021, feeding her three children a Thanksgiving dinner has been more expensive than usual, she said.
Her shopping wasn’t over with, either. The previous night, she had spent three hours at Walmart looking for some items, but couldn’t find everything that she needed.
“I can’t even find ham. It took a lot of digging to find ham,” West told The Epoch Times.
For West, spending $80 on groceries is a lot, and rising gas and food prices have hurt her family, she said.
West said she’s heard that food inflation was caused by the Biden administration, but she admitted that she knows little about politics. She’s currently working on getting her high school diploma.
“I don’t pay much attention to presidential stuff,” she said. “I’m just trying to do better or get my daughters a better life.”
Another Thanksgiving shopper, Don Weathers, said that prices on everything have risen.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said. “The beef has gone up. Turkeys and ham, pork, and everything else.”
Weathers said the situation has affected his family little because his children are adults, but he feels concerned about others.
“I fear for the other people,” he told The Epoch Times. “They’ve got children and are trying to raise them.”
Weathers, a Republican who voted for Trump in 2020, said he didn’t want to say whether Trump or Biden was responsible for the inflation. Once a Democrat, he said he left the party because it offered handouts in an irresponsible way.
“The Democratic Party is not what it was 20 years ago,” he said.
Political independent Edward Garrett agreed with Weathers and West about the rising prices that were changing his budget.
“Everything impacts the budget,” he said. “You just got to make it happen. You got to do what you got to do. Just squeeze and tighten what you can.”
Garrett blamed the Trump administration for the inflation issues. He said the effects of a president’s policies usually hit months after the person leaves office.
“It is what it is,” he told The Epoch Times. “You’ve got to take the bitter with the sweet.”
Long-time grocer Jeff Durecka, who owns a couple of supermarkets known as Jeff’s Marketplace in the “Thumb Area” of Michigan, said the supply chain issues aren’t affecting him much.
“If we are short on a certain brand, we have substitutes,” Durecka, a Democrat and a strong supporter of Joe Biden in 2020. “It’s not affecting us much. As you can see, we are pretty well stocked for Thanksgiving.
“Wholesale prices are going up because of the cost of fuel. It takes fuel to get product to the warehouses and then to the stores. There’s really nothing we can do about it.”
Durecka speculated that the rise in food and fuel prices may have something to do with the different administration in Washington.
Shopper Dean Rydock of Port Sanilac, Michigan, had no doubt that Biden was to blame.
“Everything Trump did made our living easier and better,” he said. “Biden is acting like Trump’s policies are the cause of all this and is doing whatever he can to counteract them. Food and gas prices are way up. It looks to me like decisions are being made to deliberately bring our economy down, so we will all eventually look to the government for help.”
Rydock, a conservative Republican, “most definitely voted for the non-politician Trump and his pro-American agenda.”
“I’m driving 100 miles to have Thanksgiving with my daughter,” he said. “The high price of gasoline is starting to pinch. And we really have to mind our heating expenses with propane going up. I’m starting to burn wood, and even that is getting costly.”
Shopper Susie Lentz, a retired resident living in the village of Lexington, Michigan, is a regular customer at Jeff’s.
“Food is definitely more expensive than last year,” she said. “I suppose the pandemic has a lot to do with it. Less stuff being shipped. But I am finding everything I want for Thanksgiving.”
Lentz, a self-described independent voter, said that if she were still working and having to drive more, the high gas prices would be “putting a dent” in her budget.
“I think the current political policies are affecting the economy in a negative way,” she told The Epoch Times.
When asked whether Jeff’s Marketplace had enough meat and turkeys for the Thanksgiving holiday, butcher Jed Matthews said: “The only thing that has been hard to get is turkey gizzards sold separately. People love to add them to their stuffing.”
The Epoch Times also spoke with a number of shoppers at Local Market in the South Shore neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. The neighborhood is predominately African American and has a median household income that is almost half of the city average.
Ruth Shannon said that she used to help local nonprofit New Life Center give away turkeys during the Thanksgiving holiday every year, but not this time. The center decided to cancel the giveaway in 2021 because of the high prices, she said.
Shannon said she used to spend less than $100 on gas every month. Now, as prices rise, she spends around $200.
“I know where I go. I’m more strategic with how I travel for sure,” she told The Epoch Times.
Shannon said she thinks that inflation is the unintended consequence of massive government spending during the pandemic.
“It was a lot of money over a fairly short period of time. They could have stretched it out,” she said. “Lawmakers have to be more intentional about the policies they create.”
A lot of people in her neighborhood received stimulus checks during the pandemic, but they didn’t know how to spend the money in the right way, according to Shannon.
“It is one thing to have money. It’s a whole other thing to know what to do with it,” she said. “Everybody was happy when they got the stimulus checks. Now, the money’s gone and prices are up. What do they do?”
Shannon hasn’t voted for most of her life. Her community has remained the same whether a Democrat or Republican was in office, she said. “I do whatever I can to volunteer in the community,” she said. “That is my voting.”
Beverly, who declined to give her last name, was another shopper at Local Market. She said the rising food prices have further limited her grocery shopping because she lives on fixed government aid. She lost her daycare job at the start of the pandemic. She has since gone on food stamps and unemployment aid.
Because the gas prices are much higher in Illinois, she drives to Indiana whenever she needs to fill up. A few other shoppers told The Epoch Times that they, too, drive to Indiana for gas. And across the United States, gas and diesel prices continue to be on the rise.
According to the Energy Information Administration, the cost of a gallon of regular gasoline on the East Coast was $3.39 on Nov. 22—up by about $1.29 from the same time in 2020.
In the Midwest, the average cost of gas at the pumps was $3.19, an increase of $1.28. On the West Coast, however, gas is currently at $4.19, an increase of $1.42 compared to 2020.