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March 22, 2011   Email to Friend 

Melissa Martin
March 22, 2011

With temperatures, gasoline and grocery prices on the rise, one fun and affordable activity families can participate in are picnics.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. ---- Warmer temperatures, blooming tulip trees and pollen-covered vehicles allude to one thing in the south: spring is officially in season. While many shoppers are balancing their vacation plans and budgets with the rising prices of gasoline, it seems they'll also have to factor in a few extra dollars this month for groceries. According to the latest results from the Federation's monthly food price survey, Alabama shoppers noticed an increase of 3.8 percent, or $2.10, this month for 20 basic market items, which had a total average cost of $57.41.

A portion of the increase can be attributed to a few items in the meat case. Boston butts were up 31 cents to $2.11 a pound; T-bone steaks were up 25 cents to $7.86 a pound; and chicken breasts were up 8 cents to $2.22 a pound. Meanwhile, bacon was down 21 cents to $4.85 a pound; pork chops were down a nickel to $3.45 a pound; ground beef was down 4 cents to $2.80 a pound; chuck roasts were down a penny to $3.71 a pound; and whole fryers were also down a penny to $1.23 a pound. Eggs were down for the second consecutive month, averaging 3 cents less at $1.63 a dozen.

Prices along the produce aisle were also a little harder to swallow this month. Tomatoes were up 59 cents to $2.31 a pound; lettuce was up 52 cents to $2.15 a head; and sweet potatoes were up 2 cents 93 cents a pound. Red potatoes were a little more affordable, down 2 cents to 83 cents a pound.

Items in the dairy case weren't exempt from the price increases this month either. Butter was up 33 cents to $4.61 a pound; ice cream was up 19 cents to $4.13 a half-gallon; cottage cheese was up 10 cents to $2.56 a pound; and milk was up 4 cents to $3.30 a half-gallon.

While prices along grocery aisles are increasing faster than most paychecks, there are a few simple things shoppers can do to stretch that dollar a little further.

Planning ahead is the most important step to getting more bang for your buck at the grocery store, says Katherine Tallmadge, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

"Take inventory of what you have on hand so you don't overbuy, create a detailed shopping list based on your needs and weekly menu plan, and take into account how you plan on using leftovers," she says.

Before you plan your weekly menu, check the ads to see what's on sale and use coupons to take advantage of sales and money-saving coupons. You can even sign up online to receive coupons and email alerts from your favorite grocers.

Regional reports collected by volunteer shoppers throughout the state March 1-10 showed the market basket averaged $54.28 in northwest Alabama, $55.91 in northeast Alabama, $59.47 in central Alabama and $60.82 in south Alabama.

Alabama Farmers Federation, a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, is the state's largest farm organization. Its county members conduct the informal monthly market basket survey as a tool to reflect retail food price trends.

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