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I-Team: Exploring how inflation is costing consumers more

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Posted at 1:29 PM, Jan 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-28 13:06:02-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If everything seems like it's costing more these days, it's not your imagination.

But what's the cause? Experts say, it's complicated.

So, the KSHB 41 I-Team is committed to breaking down this complex issue, to better explain how inflation is impacting you.

As part of our efforts, we're tracking the cost of basic goods at five locations around the metro each week.

Every Wednesday, the I-Team is bringing you prices from a Northland Hy-Vee in Kansas City, MO, a Walmart in Olathe, an Aldi in Waldo (KCMO,) a Sun Fresh in Westport (KCMO,) and a Price Chopper in Leawood.

Among the items we're monitoring for you, milk, bread, cereal, ground beef, diapers, and eggs.

While this does offer you somewhat of a price comparison between stores, keep in mind the sizes and brands can vary. Instead, our intent is to track inflation locally from week to week.

So, first, we went to an economics professor at UMKC to clarify what inflation is.

"A lot of times what people are referring to the typical measure we use is the consumer price index," University of Missouri - Kansas City supply chain professor Larry Wigger said.

He says you can think of the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, as a basket of goods, maybe what you'd typically put in your shopping cart each week. The Federal Bureau of Labor tracks what those goods are for most people, and monitors the prices for those items (much like what the KSHB 41 I-Team is doing,) and tracks what people are paying for those goods.

While you might occasionally catch a good sale, overall, it's reasonable to expect prices to mostly increase over time.

"When we say inflation is going down, that doesn’t mean prices are going down. That just means that the rate at which prices are increasing is slowing," Wigger said.

With that in mind, here's our starting base from the week of 1/17/21 we are using to track inflation locally:

Hy-Vee, 8301 N. St. Clair. Ave, Kansas City, MO:
1 gallon 2% milk, $4.39
Loaf white bread, $2.99
Cereal, $2.99
1 lb. ground beef, $6.39
1 dozen eggs $2.39

Walmart, 936 N. K-7 Hwy, Olathe, KS
1 gallon 2% milk, $3.00
Loaf white bread, $2.14
Cereal, $3.98
1 lb. ground beef, $5.97
1 dozen eggs $1.81

Aldi, 7511 Wornall Rd., Kansas City, MO
1 gallon 2% milk, $2.96
Loaf white bread, $0.79
Cereal, $1.19
1 lb. ground beef, $4.69
1 dozen eggs $1.25

Sun Fresh, 4401 Mill St., Kansas City, MO
1 gallon 2% milk, $4.79
Loaf white bread, $3.19
Cereal, $5.15
1 lb. ground beef, $4.99
1 dozen eggs $1.75

Price Chopper, 13351 Mission Rd., Leawood, KS
1 gallon 2% milk, $4.65
Loaf white bread, $1.49
Cereal, $4.69
1 lb. ground beef, $6.89
1 dozen eggs $1.65

Unfortunately, the effects of inflation go well beyond the grocery store, impacting everything from what you'll pay to buy a house, a vehicle, as well as gas.

Speaking of gas prices, the I-Team is monitoring fuel prices, locally, as well.

Earlier in the week, prices for unleaded were consistent at $2.00/gallon at the Hy-Vee gas station in the Northland, a Casey's in Lenexa, and a Phillip's 66 in Westport.

You'll recall, President Joe Biden took action to lower prices back in November when he ordered the largest-ever release of emergency crude reserves.

But, that only lasted so long.

Now, as prices are creeping back up, the White House has signaled it's watching this closely and looking at options to once again take action.

However, experts note presidents really do have limited power when it comes to actually lowering gas prices, as well as lowering inflation, at least when it comes to taking immediate action.

Professor Wigger explains the issues of inflation is the product of a number of factors that have been escalating for years. And that's something we're hearing from other experts across the country.

"Everything is creeping up in price partly because of the labor shortage. Because, if I don't have enough people to work, the people that are available to work, I might have to hire them at a higher cost," explains Erika Marsillac, a Professor at Old Dominion University.

"Grocery production is a fairly labor-intensive occupation. Whether it is growing food through farms or preparing meats, you have to transport those meats and then you have to stock shelves in the super market," adds Financial Analyst Steven Budin.

So, to paraphrase, experts say we have fewer people in the workforce making those goods, fewer people in the transportation industry to ship those goods, and we are seeing a backlog in items that saw a freeze in production caused by the pandemic.

"One of the challenges that we have seen are these higher prices, in large part because of the ongoing challenges of the global pandemic. You know, the United States is not the only country seeing high prices, our economic competitors are also seeing inflation. But here's the thing, they haven't been seeing the kind of growth or sharp drops in unemployment that the United States has," Heather Boushey, a member of President Biden's Council of Economic Advisers adds.

Still, the President's critics say he can and should do more.

That includes U.S. Senator Josh Hawley.

"Fix the supply chain crisis. We are too dependent on China. It’s just a fact we are too dependent on many foreign adversary nations who make way too much stuff. And just like now, you know, we can’t get the materials from China or overseas, we can’t get them into our ports in a timely fashion. We have got to fix our supply chain problems," Senator Hawley exclaims

Stay tuned to KSHB 41 on air and online, each week, as we continue to monitor local prices and inflation in Metro.