Inflation affecting food prices at grocery stores


Suzanne Wheeler Klein is mom to three hungry boys, and it shows on her grocery bill.

"I typically spend $300 a week," she said.

Recently, she's noticed that some of her favorite foods are eating away at her budget.

"Cookies, in the cookie aisle, crackers, those can be pricey. Cereal is also very expensive," said Wheeler Klein.

Those creeping prices are thanks to inflation. Ricky Volpe, Research Economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, says you can expect your grocery basket to cost 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent more over the course of this year. And while that inflation rate is considered normal.

"The reason why consumers are experiencing sticker shock is mostly because food prices are already high. We know that they rose a lot in 2011, and we're not expecting them to come down," Volpe said.

Inflation is especially hard to swallow for meat and fish. Volpe says prices are up across the board, particularly for beef and veal.

"The inventory of cattle and hogs in the U.S. was reduced quite a bit, and now we have strong and growing demand for these foods, and that's a recipe for high prices. And there's no end in sight," he said.

But there are ways to fight back. Jessica Patel with suggests trying a less expensive cut of beef or substituting poultry.

"You can get canned chicken now and canned fish and things like that, and even frozen fish and frozen meats, that can wind up saving you more," Patel said.

Other categories hit hard by inflation include fats and oils, cereal, bakery products, and packaged foods. To save dough, skip pre-portioned goodies and bag your own snacks. Also, look beyond what's at eye level.

"A lot of times if you're in a rush, you'll just grab it and go. You can look above or below that eye level and a lot of times find bargains and deals," said Patel.

Another way to save money at the grocery store is to buy in bulk. If you're a member of Costco or Sam's Club, you already know how much this can save you. But if you do that, you also need to focus on the 'unit' prices. Comparing the price per ounce or pound versus other brands is the best way to determine if you really are saving money.

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