Food prices + gas prices = Stressed consumers

By Jackie DeAngelis, CNBC reporter, and Max Gorden, special to CNBC

It's official—summer is here. But as Americans hit the road and fire up their grills, they've noticed that they're paying more for almost everything this year. And it's making some change their spending habits.

Diego Levy | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"I try to do all my local errands in one day and go up to the mall," said Helon Rapfogel of New Jersey. "I used to go maybe twice or three times a week, and now I just go one day a week, if that much. And I try to consolidate things."

Rapfogel said that higher costs for food and gas are hitting her overall budget.

"You sacrifice things. Like not doing an ice cream run during the week with the kids. [That could] hurt the local retailers, and we don't want to do that ... but we may have to," she said.

At the grocery store, meat, dairy and fruit prices are all up substantially. People are even paying more for lattes at their local coffee shops. And it's not just food—gas prices have jumped sharply on geopolitical unrest, and at the moment there's no relief in sight.

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As demand for beef, poultry and pork increases globally, prices have risen nearly 4 percent since February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The futures market has reflected the strong demand, as live cattle futures are up more than 11 percent in the last month alone, while lean hogs have seen a 10 percent spike in the same time period.

Beef and pork supplies—the latter especially—have been hit by disease, and alternatives have been unable to fill the gap.

"Beef production this year has run 5 percent under last year," said Rich Nelson of research firm Allendale. "Pork and chicken production, though they have incentive to increase due to lower grain prices, have not been able to fill the beef production loss."

Nelson expects the rise in retail meat prices to continue into August.

Meanwhile, fruit and dairy prices have proven equally unforgiving. The USDA just upped its forecasts for price increases on both segments this year, with fruit projected to jump 5-6 percent, and dairy to increase 3-4 percent.

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It's even trickling down the filter to that cup of morning Joe. Starbucks raised its prices on coffee drinks this week by between 5 and 20 cents, while prices of its packaged coffee at the grocery store will increase by $1. The fast-coffee chain passed on its higher costs to consumers after coffee futures spiked more than 60 percent year-to-date.

If it's not tough enough at the grocery store, there's also plenty of pain at the pump. The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline is now up to $3.68, according to AAA. That's up 14 cents from the same time a year ago, a jump of roughly 4 percent.

Retail gas prices are rising as crude oil prices rise due to tensions in global hot spots like Russia, Ukraine and Iraq. , the international benchmark, has risen almost 6 percent in the last three months, while West Texas Intermediate, the domestic product, is up about 5 percent in the same period.

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Traders are cautiously reading the headlines out of the Middle East, and crude prices have dipped slightly the last few days, but the real concern is that a supply disruption out of Iraq will send prices sharply higher.

"If that were to happen, we could see another 10-15 cent hike in prices at the pump," said Anthony Grisanti of GRZ Energy.

What's moving oil prices
What's moving oil prices

But in a struggling economy, every penny counts. Deutsche Bank says that every 1 cent increase in retail gas prices represents an additional $1 billion in energy consumption. The fear is that at a certain point, consumers will not be able to absorb the additional cost, and will spend less elsewhere in the economy.

To make matters worse, there is a link between fuel prices and food.

"If gas prices continue to rise, expect food prices to rise more," said Grisanti. "When suppliers are paying more for gas and transportation costs, they pass those on to the consumer."

So far, Nelson says it doesn't appear that consumers are changing their habits.

Read More5 ways to save gas money this summer

"The U.S. consumer's strain at the pump can theoretically impact food spending ... [but ] [t]hey have accepted these record meat prices," Nelson said. "What the U.S. consumer is doing right now, accepting these higher energy and food prices, is impressive."

Still, some consumers tell a different story.

Francisca Oberbeck, who lives in New Jersey, said the increase in gas is probably not going to keep her from hitting the road this summer.

Read MoreHow the collapse of Iraq could actually save oil

"Well, you're adding another $50 to your trip. That's not going to kill you ... you might buy less snacks on the way ... or conserve in another way. But you're not going to not go because of the gas prices," she said.

Still, Oberbeck said that as far as her day-to-day habits go, she's trying something new.

"I have a gas guzzler, a Cherokee Jeep, and it takes a lot of gas, so I ride my bicycle for errands. Otherwise," she said, "it's too expensive."

—By Jackie DeAngelis, CNBC reporter, and Max Gorden, special to CNBC.