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December 19, 2002   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
December 19, 2002

"MONTGOMERY, Ala." A seasonal increase in the price of fresh produce, coupled with slightly higher prices for red meats, pushed Alabama food prices three-tenths of 1 percent higher in December, according to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey. Reports collected by volunteers at supermarkets throughout the state Dec. 1-6 showed the cost of 20 basic market basket items was $38.17, up 10 cents from November and up 76 cents from a year ago.

Tomatoes saw the biggest price jump this month as cooler weather brought an end to the fall harvest in much of the nation. On average, tomatoes were $1.60 a pound, up 22 cents from November. Red potatoes were also slightly higher at 73 cents a pound, up 2 cents, while sweet potatoes were a nickel cheaper at 62 cents a pound. Lettuce also was down 2 cents at 94 cents a head.

At the butcher's counter, prices were mixed, but smart shoppers could still find bargains for their holiday meals. Bacon was 10 cents higher at $2.82 a pound, while Boston butts were still a good buy at $1.36 a pound, down 3 cents. Pork chops were basically unchanged at $2.94 a pound. Beef prices were up 1.2 percent due in large part to a 15-cent jump in the price of chuck roasts. Meanwhile, T-bone steaks were a penny cheaper at $6.30 a pound, and ground beef dropped 2 cents to $1.58 a pound.

Families willing to break with tradition this holiday season could save money on their Christmas entrée as chicken breasts were a dime cheaper at $1.64 a pound. Whole fryers, however, were up 9 cents to 92 cents a pound. Eggs also were more expensive at $1 a dozen, up 9 cents.

In the dairy case, holiday bakers could save money this month on a key ingredient for Santa's cookies. Butter was down 12 cents to $2.22 a pound, while milk was unchanged at $1.78 for a half-gallon. Regional reports collected around the state showed the market basket averaged $35.52 in northwest Alabama, $37.98 in the central counties, $38.91 in the northeast corner of the state and $40.77 in south Alabama.

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