ALABAMA GROCERY SHOPPERS GET EARLY CHRISTMAS PRESENT
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama shoppers got an early Christmas present in December as the average cost of 20 basic market basket items fell for the second month in a row. Although the cost of some holiday staples was up substantially over this time last year, the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey showed the December market basket averaged $57.63, down 57 cents or about 1 percent from last month.
Savings on meat and poultry led the decline in grocery costs. Bacon was down 36 cents a pound to $5.23, Boston butts were down 8 cents to $2 a pound, and pork chops were down 6 cents to $3.53. Beef eaters enjoyed a 29-cent-per-pound break on T-bone steaks, which averaged $7.61 a pound. Ground beef was up 9 cents to $2.89 a pound, and chuck roasts were up 4 cents to $3.90 a pound.
Chicken breasts were the best buy in the poultry case, with prices falling 22 cents to $1.92 a pound. Whole fryers were down 8 cents to $1.19 a pound. Eggs were a nickel cheaper at $1.80 a dozen.
On the produce aisle, prices were mixed. Lettuce was up a dime to $1.47 a head, and tomatoes were slightly more expensive at $1.64 a pound, up 3 cents. Red potatoes were down 2 cents to 84 cents a pound, and the holiday favorite, sweet potatoes, were on sale for 74 cents a pound, down 8 cents.
In the dairy case, prices were up slightly across the board. A half-gallon of milk averaged $3.54, up 2 cents. Ice cream was up 6 cents a half-gallon to $4.44, cottage cheese averaged $2.85 a pound, up 4 cents, and butter was also up 4 cents to $4.31 a pound.
Regional reports filed by volunteer shoppers across the state Dec. 1-10 showed the market basket averaged $55.31 in northwest Alabama, $55.55 in northeast Alabama, $58.31 in the central counties and $61.06 in south Alabama.
Meanwhile, an annual survey of holiday ingredients indicated that turkey is a more economical choice for the centerpiece of the dinner table this year. Whole turkeys averaged $1.16 a pound, down 8 cents, while smoked hams were up 21 cents to $2.12 a pound.
The most noticeable change on the Christmas grocery list this year was pecan halves. Skyrocketing demand for the Southern specialty in China, coupled with persistent drought in Texas, caused prices to jump more than 33 percent. According to the Federation's annual survey, pecan halves averaged $8.47 a pound this year, up $2.18.
Other notable differences in holiday food costs included cranberry sauce, up 17 cents to $1.37 for a 16-ounce can; apples up 37 cents to $1.53 a pound, and oranges, down a penny to 85 cents a pound.
The Alabama Farmers Federation, a member of American Farm Bureau Federation, is the state's largest farm organization. Its county members conduct the monthly market basket survey as a tool to reflect retail food price trends.