By Ariel Zilbe
Residents of Southern California have been crossing the border into Mexico to go grocery shopping as record levels of inflation have taken a big bite out of Americans’ budgets.
David McCarty, a resident of Chula Vista, which is just south of San Diego, routinely makes the 20-minute journey to the US-Mexico border crossing at San Ysidro.
McCarty and his wife, Maria, park their cars and walk across the international frontier to nearby Tijuana, where they buy their produce, munch on delicious street tacos, and take their pet for a checkup at the vet.
“If you are on a budget, you gotta take care of yourself,” McCarty told NewsNation.
Inflation soared by 8.5% in July, which is near record levels not seen in 40 years. Food costs posted their highest 12-month increase since 1979 while shelter costs also rose by 0.5% month-over-month and 5.7% year-over-year.
Overall, prices were flat compared to June.
Locals in Tijuana said they have noticed a surge in the number of Americans who have crossed into their town to do food shopping.
Store owners in Tijuana said there has been a 20% to 30% increase in US tourists during normal weekdays.
Southern California residents are drawn to Tijuana thanks to their cheaper produce. A gallon of milk can be had in Tijuana for 50% cheaper than in the US, while a four-pack of toilet paper costs some $4 less.
Some Californians travel to the border from further distances. Gibran Jimenez told NewsNation that he, his pregnant wife, and their two kids got into their car and drove for almost two hours to get to Tijuana.
With another baby due next month, Jimenez said that he can ill-afford to spend beyond his means.
“I gotta save as much as I can; every penny counts,” Jimenez said.
While food has gotten considerably more expensive, gas prices have fallen in recent weeks — though they are still significantly higher compared to a year ago.
California is home to the some of the nation’s highest gas prices. According to the latest figures from AAA, a gallon of regular unleaded fuel in California costs an average of $5.38.
“Gas prices are going up like crazy and that’s what kills us, you know, the middle class,” said Jimenez.
Grocery prices that have already hit their highest-level in decades stand to get even more expensive in the weeks ahead.
The price paid to US producers for finished consumer foods jumped by 15.8% in July compared to the same one year ago, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Thursday.
The cost of eggs surged by more than 44% from June to July, while beef and veal prices jumped nearly 10%.
The steeper producer prices suggest that American shoppers will soon face higher costs in the checkout aisle at grocery stores.