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Food Prices Follow Fuel Through The Roof

If you think you've been leaving the supermarket with less left in your wallet than you're used to, you're right!

What's being called the worst food inflation in nearly 20 years is affecting everything from soup to nuts, according to Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen

She noted Tuesday that high gas and diesel fuel prices are hiking the cost of everything from growing food to transporting it, and consumers are paying the price.

What's more, the Department of Agriculture predicts food prices will rise another four-to-five-percent this year.

The USDA says the price of whole milk has increased nearly 19 percent over the last year, cheddar cheese has climbed by 15 percent, and eggs are up a whopping 25 percent.

Jennifer Strauss, who does the shopping for her family of five, calls the higher prices "kind of scary," saying, "Every time you go to the store, even when you run in for one thing, you spend $50-to-$100 on a few items."

Some of the biggest jumps have been in wheat products. Over the last year, white bread is up 11 percent and pasta 13 percent.

"Wheat commodity prices have almost doubled in the last six months," says USDA economist Ephraim Leibtag, "and there's been a big push for those products across the globe." Such demand pushes prices up.

But economists say there's some good news in the produce aisle, where tomatoes are only up four percent and potatoes six percent.

"We've had better weather this year for most fruits and vegetables, and so prices aren't up that much as compared to last year at this time," Leibtag explains.

Some consumers, says Koeppen, are adjusting to the higher prices by shopping at warehouse stores that offer better values; others are cutting back on luxury food items.

She says people should "shop the sales" and use coupons, which could save families as much as $1,000 a year. The best coupons, she continues, are in the Sunday newspaper. But some companies don't offer coupons unless you ask for them, by calling the 800 numbers on their labels.