Photo of $72 Coles bag shows worrying trend: 'Only get worse'

A Coles shopper’s “expensive” haul has highlighted the huge toll soaring inflation is continuing to take on Aussies already struggling to make ends meet.

The stunned supermarket customer from Melbourne posted a photo of their grocery items and receipt online after returning home. “Just put $72 of shopping into one bag. No item of $7. Sh**s getting expensive,” they wrote, admitting they fear “it will only get worse”.

The receipt reveals the shopper purchased 18 items including muffins, Cadbury chocolate, chips, bread, butter, alfoil, milk, chicken, ham, tea tree oil and Twisties. Hundreds of others have inundated the Reddit post with their own similar stories, showing just how much people are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living.

The coles bag filled with items and the receipt.
A receipt reveals the Coles shopper purchased 18 items for $72. Source: Reddit

“Two bags of shopping cost me $180 today. Use to fill the trolley for that,” one person wrote. “The days of filling a trolley are over for me, especially this year. Now it’s fill a basket for the same price,” another responded.

“We’ve been bulk buying rice and making almost every meal out of it. If it’s not rice, then it’s cheap noodles with frozen veg (sic). That’s the only way we’re making it,” someone else said. “Groceries, utilities, fuel, interest rates, insurance…day care. It never ends. We have had to stop the kids’ extra curricular activities to make ends meet. Can’t remember the last time we ate out,” another wrote.

Grocery prices jump yet again

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Consumer Price Index rose another 1.8 per cent in the September quarter, with fruits and vegetables increasing by an additional 4.5 per cent and meat and seafoods by 1.5 per cent.

The cost of dairy and related products increased a whopping 6.8 per cent “due to higher milk prices", the ABS said. Bread and cereal products also rose by 3.4 per cent and other food products by 3.9 per cent.

“Strong price rises were seen across all food and non-food grocery products in the September quarter. These increases reflected a range of price pressures including supply chain disruptions, weather-related events, such as flooding, and increased transport and input costs,” the ABS said.

A graph showing the increase in grocery products for the September quarter.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, fruits and vegetables increased by an additional 4.5 per cent and meat and seafoods by 1.5 per cent in the September quarter. Source: ABS

'No relief on the horizon'

The number of Aussies reporting financial stress about groceries is at an all-time high, according to Finder’s Consumer Sentiment Tracker. But with flooding continuing to plague Queensland, NSW and Victoria and a dispute between maritime unions and the country’s main tug boat operator threatening to disrupt supply chains — there are fears the situation will only get worse.

“Finder research is showing a significant increase in the number of households indicating housing, groceries and petrol as causes of financial stress. This stress is being driven by massively increased costs across the board — meat up 15 per cent, veg up 10 per cent, bread up 8 per cent over the last year,” Graham Cooke, head of consumer research at Finder, told Yahoo News Australia.

“Petrol prices have doubled in the last two years, and could double again in 2023. The factors causing these price increases are likely to hang around for many months, meaning no relief on the horizon for households.”

Members of the public shop for fresh produce in Sydney, Wednesday, October 26, 2022. Source: AAP
Experts have warned there is 'no relief on the horizon' for struggling shoppers. Source: AAP

Inflation 'really starting to hit shelf prices'

In the first financial quarter of 2022, Woolworths announced food price inflation was at 7.3 per cent, with Coles reporting a price increase of 7.1 per cent, indicating inflation “is really starting to hit shelf prices,” retail expert and Queensland University of Technology Professor Gary Mortimer told Yahoo News Australia.

“Across the board, shoppers should expect to see varying levels of price inflation. Fruit and vegetables prices have been impacted by inclement weather and flooding in Queensland and NSW,” he said. “Inflation in red meat driven by higher commodity prices and drought, and dairy products driven by higher milk farm gate prices. In dry groceries, inflation is mainly driven by higher supplier cost price increases due to industry-wide input cost pressure, increasing fuel and utilities costs.”

The impact of price changes on Christmas

For the short term, Mr Mortimer said he expects to see inflation continue to impact retail prices at the supermarket, with fuel prices not predicted to fall until weather conditions improve. However, there is some good news as Aussies gear up for Christmas.

“Supermarkets are certainly implementing price consistency measures across their business. One way we are seeing this is a ‘lock-down’ program – so holding prices down for longer period of time. In some cases, several months until early 2023. For many, this will mean the cost of Christmas lunch this year, should be about the same as last year,” Mr Mortimer said.

Last week, Woolworths announced Christmas favourites like bon bons, half leg ham, tiger prawns and cheeses will remain at the same price or less than they were at Christmas last year. The price of another 150 items popular over the holiday will be dropped.

Yahoo News Australia has contacted Coles for comment.

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