ALBANY, Ga. -- A recently released report from the Conference Board says the nation's Consumer Conference Index, dragged down by increases in gasoline and other household prices, fell more than expected, ending five straight months of improvement.
Just two weeks ago, the Labor Department reported rising energy and food costs pushed up consumer prices in America by 0.5 percent in February to an annualized rate of 5 percent over the past three months.
Charlotte Vanzant, shopping Tuesday at Winn-Dixie in Lee County, didn't need any report to tell her the economy has hit a speed bump on the way to recovery; she already knew it.
"These prices are getting to be ridiculous," Vanzant, 68, said. "It's really hard on us older people. I'm on Social Security, and we haven't had a cost-of-living increase in the past three years. We have to make do with what we have; we're not entitled to food stamps."
Vanzant is angry.
"If I had a house full of kids with no daddy, I'd be taken care of," she said. "Social Security is not an entitlement for some people, it's not just given to me. I worked two jobs for 45 years and put my money into it.
"I don't have to back up to anybody when I get my check."
And that check, she added, doesn't stretch as far as it used to.
"I've cut back on groceries, mostly meat," Vanzant said. "I plan my trips more carefully now because of gas prices. I make a list and plan my stops."
Samantha Hutto of Lee County is also feeling the pinch.
"I only buy stuff that is on sale," Hutto said. "I'm trying not to spend as much as I used to, and I always try to stock up on things that are on sale. And I've cut out all travel because of rising prices."
Terri Joiner of Americus was cruising the aisles of Publix looking for bargains Tuesday. She was in Albany for a doctor's appointment and stopped by the store on her way home.
"I love Publix; it's my favorite grocery store," Joiner said. "I have definitely noticed an increase in prices, especially in produce. Bread, orange juice, everything is going up."
Have rising prices changed her shopping habits?
"I don't work, so we rely on my husband's income, and I am shopping more conservatively than in the past," Joiner said. "I also try to cost compare more as I shop."
Melva Jones of Albany said the rising costs have forced her to be more creative.
"The prices have really affected my meat buying," Jones said. "I can't afford chicken wings anymore, so I buy substitutes or the whole chicken because it's cheaper.
"What bothers me is that I'm spending the same amount of money and coming out of the store with a whole lost less. So I come in, get exactly what I need and stick to the basics."
Brett Rey of Leesburg said eating healthier just got a whole lot more expensive.
"Oh, yeah, I've noticed the prices going up," Rey said. "Cereal has gone through the roof, and the boxes seem smaller. It's especially more expensive if you are trying to eat healthy. That's where they get you.
"I'm trying to save as much money as I can by using coupons more and looking for sales more often."