Costco Shopping Trip Shows No Sign of Inflation, Yet

Bottled water as far as the eye can see.
Ir this is your idea of being prepared, you need to reconsider your water needs.

As I mentioned yesterday, I came down from my mountain, drove hundreds of miles to visit an elder relative who needed my help, and ended up in a small city. It’s not a bad city, but the drone of the highway and other constant city sounds seemed loud after the quiet of the mountains. The trip was another reminder that about the only benefit of my occasional returns to society is access to shopping that isn’t available in the country.

In other words, I went to Costco for the first time in more than six months.

Other than the store layout in this distant town being sideways compared to what I am used to, it wasn’t much different. I bought Spam, spaghetti sauce, beans and other canned and dried goods for the pantry, bags of sugar for the bees, and paper towels for my wife. Unfortunately, this store did not have canned roast beef, which several bloggers and vloggers have reported on. Too bad; I was planning to buy at least a dozen cans, maybe two dozen.

The biggest disappointment is that this store did not have Deer Park bottled water. Instead, they had only Kirkland bottled water in 16.9 ounce plastic bottles with the screw-on cap. This water is a great buy: 40 bottles for $2.99. The problem is that it I like the “sport cap” on the Deer park 20 ounce bottle, and I haven’t been able to find it anywhere. Deer Park is also spring water while the Kirkland brand is filtered water.

Harbor Freight’s Ship Came In

At one point, I left the Interstate to get gas and found myself on a commercial strip that had a big sign for Harbor Freight. That was too good a coincidence to pass up.

I keep a shopping list of things I need or want (but don’t need immediately) in my phone and note the store where I plan to get them. Several items were marked Harbor Freight or just HF.

I know we are in a time of shortages with high shipping costs, but this store’s ship must have just come in. Every aisles had cardboard boxes full of product waiting to be shelved. I spotted five different employees, including the store manager, unpacking them and putting stuff on the shelves.

Harbor Freight has the best prices I’ve seen on cutting and grinding disks for angled grinders. I bought four new clamps which will be useful as I do more woodworking and picked up some additional sizes of narrow-gauge staples, a digital battery tester that was on clearance and a garden sprayer for my wife who is wearing out our old one. I looked at their solar power equipment, sighed, and didn’t buy any of it.

The only two items I bought thought were more expensive was a cutting blade for a multi-tool, and I noted that their 100 watt Thunderbolt Magnum price had jumped to $180, up $10 since I last looked at it. Everything else was at a low enough price you wanted to snatch it up.

Did I see Inflation?

The solar panel kit was the one solid example of price inflation. I thought the Spam was expensive at about $21 for an eight-pack, but looking back at the Prepper Pantry Inflation Monitor, the price hasn’t changed since our initial January report.

Instead, I noticed that clothing was inexpensive. Costco was selling polo shirts for $12 to $15. I looked for my favorite Costco socks and didn’t see them—they are wool, so I will have to hope they come back in the winter—but none of the sock and underwear prices made me wince.

Of course, Costco makes most of its profits from the membership fee and they use their volume to push down prices. Because I did not have a cooler with me, I didn’t buy meat or fresh food, which is where much of inflation has been hitting. Plus, Costco is known as a low-cost place to shop, as is Harbor Freight, so perhaps I wasn’t shopping at the best place to find inflation. After all, Costco hasn’t raised their price on the $1.50 hotdog since they introduced it in 1985. And yes, I bought one.

We have heard that they will raise prices in certain categories, including meat and plastic. You may have between now and July 1 to save. Alternatively, perhaps we have a window to stock up before it kicks in and prices rise.

Dining Out and COVID-19 on the Road

We went to a high-end Chinese restaurant that I had been to twice before several years ago. Their main dining room still had half the seats removed. They had a complex to-go-scheme next to the cashier, and I asked if their carryout volume was still higher than pre-COVID. “Oh yes,” they told me. Half the parking lot has numbered spaces so you can tell them where to deliver your food.

Throughout the trip, I saw very few people with face masks. Now that masks have largely disappeared, it’s jarring now to see one, like a reminder of an ugly time we don’t want to see again. Most of the stores had signs parroting the new CDC rules and allow those who were “fully vaccinated” to enter without masks. No one was checking or asking for proof.

Ammo Prices Appear to be Dropping

This ZeroHedge article from Thursday shows Ammo prices are now dropping after peaking in April although they are still significantly above their pre-pandemic values. Does this mean ammo price increases are transitory?

Like commodities, ammunition pricing does rise and fall.  I’ve seen several peaks and valleys in 5.56 and .22LR ammo over the past three decades. Prices for 5.56 two years ago were probably the lowest ever after adjusting for inflation.

I think the impact of the Remington bankruptcy and losing Remington production for a limited time is an underappreciated data point related to the recent surge in ammo prices. Yes, guns sales shot up. Yes, Biden is a threat to our Second Amendment Rights, but with Remington back up and producing again, prices are dropping.