"PORK, POULTRY OFFER BEST VALUE FOR SHOPPERS"
"Montgomery, Ala." Higher produce and beef prices offset savings on poultry and dairy products this month as Alabama food prices edged seven-tenths of 1 percent higher. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $37.67, up 26 cents from December but down 15 cents from the same time last year.
Beef prices rebounded in January following a sharp decline last month. T-bone steaks averaged $6.36 a pound, up 58 cents, and ground beef was 9 cents higher at $1.66 a pound. Overall, beef prices climbed 7.5 percent fueled by strong consumer demand. Pork prices, however, were down 2.1 percent this month with bacon averaging $2.59 a pound--a savings of 13 cents. Boston butts were a nickel cheaper at $1.44 a pound, while pork chops were slightly higher at $3.06 a pound.
Poultry also was a good buy this month as the price of chicken breasts fell 16 cents to $1.65 a pound. Fryers were a nickel cheaper at 87 cents a pound, while eggs averaged 80 cents a dozen, down 2 cents.
On the produce aisle, lettuce prices bounced back after dipping unusually low in December, resulting in an overall increase of 7.3 percent for fresh fruits and vegetables. Lettuce was $1.21 a head, up 32 cents, while red potatoes and sweet potatoes were 5 cents higher at 60 and 65 cents a pound, respectively. Tomatoes were the best deal at $1.07 a pound, down 20 cents.
Dairy products continued to be a bright spot for frugal shoppers in January as average prices fell for the third straight month. Butter was $2.56 a pound, down 17 cents, while cottage cheese was $1.75 a pound, down 19 cents. Milk prices were steady at $1.85 for a half-gallon.
Regional reports collected at supermarkets around the state Jan. 2-8 showed the market basket averaged $35.68 in northwest Alabama, $37.15 in the central counties, $38.80 in the northeast corner of the state, and $39.17 in south Alabama.
For 2002, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts a moderate increase in the price of basic food items of 2.5 -- 3 percent. Meanwhile, economists expect the slowing economy to result in consumers eating at home more often as they substitute staple foods for more expensive convenience foods.