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3 On Your Side: Climbing Food Prices

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jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — You’re buying the same foods at the supermarket each week, but have you noticed that your grocery bill is growing? Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, the culprit is food inflation. 3 On Your Side consumer reporter Jim Donovan has more on what’s rising, what’s falling, and how to take a bite out of your bill.

Those creeping prices are thanks to inflation. You can expect your grocery basket to cost 2.5% to 3.5% more over the course of this year. But the prices on some items are rising more quickly than others.

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

“I typically spend $300 a week,” said Wheeler-Klein.

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.

Inflation is especially hard to swallow for meat and fish. Right now, 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,” said Ricky Volpe, with the USDA.

But there are ways to fight back. Try a less expensive cut of beef, or substituting poultry. Or shop beyond the fresh meat section.

“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,” said Jessica Patel with Bankrate.com.

The silver lining is dairy, eggs, and fresh fruits and vegetables, where you’ll likely see smaller increases over 2012.

The good news? Compared to this time last year…

“Vegetables across the board are down. Lettuce is down about 21 percent. Tomatoes are down about 29 percent,” said Volpe.

So make yourself a salad! 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. And above all, buy what’s in season.

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