USDA says food prices may double normal inflation rate in 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The climbing cost of food is one of the painful effects from the drought that's gripped most of the Midwest. Already, consumers are seeing a difference on their grocery bills.

U.S. Department of Agriculture economist Ricky Volpe said meat, milk and eggs have already become more costly, and he expects the prices to rise even more in early 2013. Volpe predicts the prices of more processed foods to increase later in the year.

"We're looking at food price inflation of overall in 2013 at 3 to 4 percent," Volpe said.

He said food prices generally jump 2 to 3 percent ever year, so the effect of the drought alone may not be so painful.

"Consumers have seen worse and they've seen worse in recent history," Volpe said.

According to USDA data, in 2011 beef prices skyrocketed 10.2 percent, and eggs went up 9.2 percent.

"We do not expect food price inflation in 2013 to match what we saw in '07, in '08 or in 2011," Volpe said.

The problem is, prices have never come down from those highs.

Shatomi Luster works as a family financial education specialist for the University of Missouri Extension. It's her job to find ways to save money, and the free "Grocery IQ" app is a recent discovery. It's basically a running tally, adding up prices as consumers shop.

"If there's a coupon associated with it, that will also show the coupon as well," Luster said.

The app can also be helpful after a trip to the store.

"You can really start managing your money and really truly understand, okay, where is my money going and how can I budget for next time I go to the store," Luster explained.

The USDA said prices will continue to climb as long as the drought persists, so any advice for savings should come in handy.

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