DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Some restaurant owners in the Miami Valley are doing what they can to avoid passing higher food costs onto their customers, but families are struggling to keep costs down.

“For us, actually pretty rough,” Rachel Ross from Dayton said. “What used to set us up for two weeks is now only like a week.”

Rachel Ross is a mother of two. She said she used to spend $250 dollars every other week on groceries, now her spending has more than doubled.

“My grocery shopping hasn’t changed at all, the things that I need hasn’t changed at all, and you’re looking at like $375 for like a week,” Ross said.

However, some in the Miami Valley are finding they’re saving money, and time, by eating at their favorite restaurants instead.

“Sometimes it is cheaper just to pick up something to take home rather than go home and make it, especially by the time you spend the time doing it,” Rob Leonard from Kettering said.

The inflationary gap between dining out and cooking at home is the widest it’s been since the 1970s.

Grocery prices increased 13.1% year-over-year in July, according to Consumer Price Index data through the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In comparison, restaurant prices are only up 7.6% since last July.

That’s happening even though restaurant owners are reporting record food costs.

“Items like cheese, dairy, eggs, they’ve doubled in prices in some cases,” Wheat Penny and Meadowlark chef and partner Liz Valenti said. Valenti also serves on the board of the Ohio Restaurant Association.

Valenti said restaurant owners are getting creative, a lesson they learned to stay afloat during the pandemic.

“It’s hard in Italian restaurant not to have tomatoes and cheese, but what we have done is we’ve we’re making as much cheese as we can in house,” Valenti said. “So we’re making our mozzarella, we’re making our ricotta. The other thing is we’ve started to look at other suppliers.”

Valenti said they’ve been raising menu prices incrementally, but customers have been understanding.

“I can’t expect to go to the same restaurant and pay the same thing I was paying three years ago,” Leonard said.

The National Restaurant Association reports that restaurants sales overall are up from a year ago, but, if adjusted for inflation, real sales have declined in both June and July.