Fighting Food Inflation: A WAFF 48 News Special Report - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Fighting Food Inflation: A WAFF 48 News Special Report

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HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

You're in the checkout line at the supermarket. You're buying the same foods you do every week, but your grocery bill is growing.  

No, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. The culprit is food inflation.

George Torres is the single father who works a full time job, a part-time job and is also a part-time student. He is also the primary caregiver of his 9-year-old daughter. He said putting food on the table has become a challenge.

"Seeing prices seems like they increase every week, every month and you have to pickpocket yourself," Torres said.

Those creeping prices are thanks to inflation.

Ricky Volpe, research economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said you can expect your grocery basket to cost 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent more over the course of this year.

"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," said Volpe.

Inflation is especially hard to swallow for meat and fish. Volpe said 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 bankrate.com 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," she said.

Other categories hit hard by inflation include fats and oils, cereal, bakery products, and packaged foods. To save money, 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.

The silver lining is dairy, eggs, and fresh fruits and vegetables, where Volpe expects to see smaller increases over 2012.

"Vegetables across the board are down. Lettuce is down about 21%. Tomatoes are down about 29%," said Volpe.

"The tomatoes started out at about $2 a pound and have dropped to a dollar and a half and have been there for about five years, even though the costs of fuel and fertilizer for farmers have gone up. Another example is corn. It's been anywhere from $4 to $5 for the last couple of years," said Volpe.

Andrea Dye is the director of the Madison County Farmer's Market. She said buying local produce not only supports the state's economy, it can save you money as well.

"The produce has not gone up as much as other foods. The farmers have taken a hit, but as far as consumers, it will not be as much of a burden to consumers as it is in other places," Dye said.

Boost your bottom line even more by grabbing what's in season.

Finally, don't knock tried and true savings strategies.

"Buying in bulk, buying when things are on sale, looking at the local circulars, clipping coupons; they all really help to add up."

George Torres said it also pays to be creative.

"Try to get food you can have for the next week if you are able to. Kind of penny pinch that money," he said.

Here's one more tip: Swing by the bakery on your way to the checkout line. You could find day-old rolls, muffins, and breads at a discount.

Copyright 2012 WAFF. All rights reserved.

  • Online Poll

  • How do you fight food inflation?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    I clip coupons
    26%
    16 votes
    I buy store brand when possible
    23%
    14 votes
    I make a list before hitting the store
    20%
    12 votes
    I check sales before I leave the house
    13%
    8 votes
    I grow my own food when possible
    13%
    8 votes
    None of these
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