Some lower food prices greet shoppers

Published 11:32 am Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas is a time to reflect on the year’s blessings and celebrate the joy of being with family and friends.

As evident from this month’s holiday market basket survey conducted by the Alabama Farmers Federation Dec. 1-10, it’s also the time to celebrate lower prices on ingredients for that much-anticipated Christmas dinner.

More affordable this holiday season were pecan halves, sweet potatoes, apples and oranges. Compared to last December, pecan halves were down 59 cents to $6.29 a pound, sweet potatoes were down 3 cents to 76 cents a pound, and apples were down 23 cents a pound to $1.16.

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To add a bit of color to their holiday tables, shoppers could take advantage of oranges, down 6 cents to 86 cents a pound. The main dishes at the table will cost shoppers more this holiday season, however. Whole turkeys averaged $1.24 a pound, up 5 cents from last December, and smoked hams were up 7 cents to $1.91 a pound. Cranberry sauce increased 6 cents a can to $1.20, and pre-packaged stuffing saw an increase of 5 cents to $2.62 a pound.

While stocking up on Christmas ingredients will be cheaper overall, shoppers can also find savings on a few staples along the grocery aisles. According to the Federation’s monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items decreased from November’s average. Alabama shoppers paid a penny less this month for the surveyed items, which had a total average cost of $51.59.

The savings didn’t extend to most items in the meat case, however, where shoppers noticed slightly higher prices from November’s savings. Pork chops were up a penny to $3.14 a pound; Boston butts were up 4 cents to $1.61 a pound; and ground beef was up 2 cents to $2.26 a pound. Bacon and chicken breasts also saw an increase this month. Bacon was up 7 cents to $4.08 a pound, while chicken breasts increased 2 cents to $2.03 a pound.

Whole fryers stayed the same at $1.19 a pound. While most meats were higher in price this month, the savings on steaks and chuck roasts more than made up for the increase. T-bone steaks were down 68 cents a pound to $7.56, while chuck roasts were down 20 cents a pound to $3.11. Eggs were up this month to $1.66 a dozen, an increase of 13 cents from November.

News on the produce aisle was mixed this month, as prices increased on average 9 cents. Tomatoes were up 41 cents to $2.09 a pound and lettuce was up 8 cents to $1.59 a head.

Sweet potatoes and red potatoes were more affordable, however. Sweet potatoes were down 8 cents this month to 76 cents a pound and red potatoes were down 3 cents a pound to 89 cents.

In the dairy case, shoppers looking for milk, ice cream and cottage cheese found an increase in prices, while those after butter noticed savings.

Milk was up 10 cents this month to $2.94 a half-gallon, ice cream increased 10 cents to $3.99 a half-gallon, and cottage cheese increased 17 cents to $2.64 a pound. Butter dropped 6 cents to $3.36 a pound.

Regional reports collected by volunteer shoppers throughout the state Dec. 1-10 showed the market basket averaged $50.41 in northwest Alabama, $51.47 in northeast Alabama, $51.75 in central Alabama and $53.19 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.