Seattle grocery stores among most expensive in America

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SEATTLE — As if the skyrocketing rents and housing costs weren’t enough, it turns out Seattle grocery stores are among the most expensive in the nation.

According to an analysis by Coupon Follow, an online coupon index, Seattle is second when it comes to the most expensive grocery stores in America. The city ranks between stores in New York's Manhattan (no. 1) and Brooklyn (no. 3). Oakland and San Francisco round out the top five most expensive cities for buying groceries.

Seattle does make it to the number one spot when it comes to two items on the shelf: cooking oil and sugar.

The city doesn't make it onto any list for cheapest items at the store. Wichita Falls, Texas has the cheapest food in the country. However, the most expensive beer is in Harlington, Texas, and the most expensive coffee is in Columbus, Ohio.  Find more on where groceries are most and least expensive at Coupon Follow.

Price tags at Seattle grocery stores are yet another challenge for residents. Half of people living in Seattle earn less than $50,000 a year, while the cost of living soars. It is estimated that it takes $89,248 annually to live comfortably in town.

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It is likely that the cost of food at Seattle grocery stores will go even higher — and the city could knock Manhattan out of its top rank. The city recently imposed a tax on sugary drinks, which nearly doubled the cost of sodas at some stores. But that was just for starters.

Seattle grocery stores

The Seattle City Council recently passed a head tax on large employers, which many grocery stores would qualify as. During an April 17, 2018 finance committee meeting for the city council, it was explained that the stores will be raising prices.

“The profit margin for groceries is very, very small, so any additional expense is typically passed on to (the customers),” said Sara Osborne with Safeway and Albertsons. “….We are kind of backed up against the wall and there will be no place for us to absorb further expense unless it is passed on. And we are really close to other retailers and I would predict that is the same for them as well.”

The head tax had not yet been passed by the city council when Osborne spoke to officials.

Safeway opted to absorb the cost of Seattle’s higher $15 minimum wage, Osborne explained. The profit margin for the stores in Seattle is, therefore, half what it is outside the city. Still, Safeway donates about 2 million pounds of food each year to hungry residents and about $1 million in grants for food.

“In our foundation work and our community work, our biggest focus is hunger, for obvious reasons,” Osborne said. “There is a huge food insecurity issue in this state, especially in this city as things have gotten more expensive …. the cost of living is so high that people have much less money for food …”

On the other side of the issue is Councilmember Kshama Sawant. She argued at the same meeting that Albertsons (which owns Safeway) made $60 billion in revenue last year.

“They are not a struggling business, OK, let’s be clear,” Sawant said.

There is currently an effort by Seattle residents to repeal the council's head tax.

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