By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TVBy Paula Ebben

BOSTON (CBS) – For the average family, grocery bills are expected to rise as much as 3.5% in the coming year as the cost of food increases.

Suzanne Wheeler-Klein is mom to three hungry boys who typically spends $300 a week on groceries.

Recently she’s noticed that some of her family’s favorite foods are eating away at her budget like cookies, crackers, and cereal.

She’s not alone.

Ricky Volpe tracks the grocery prices for the US Department of Agriculture.

“The reason why consumers are experiencing sticker shock is mostly because food prices are already high. We know that they rose a lot in 2011 and we’re not expecting them to come down,” Volpe said.

He says meat and fish prices are up across the board, particularly beef and veal.

“The inventory of cattle and hogs in the US was reduced quite a bit and now we have strong and growing demand for these foods and that’s a recipe for high prices. And there’s no end in sight,” explains Volpe.

But there is a silver lining: dairy, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables are down in prices.

Prices are also higher for cereal, baked products, and packaged foods. One way to save money is to skip out on the pre-portioned goodies and bag your own snacks.

Jessica Patel with says shoppers can spot savings just by looking up and down the aisle.

“A lot of time if you’re in a rush you’ll just grab it and go. You can look above or below that eye level and a lot of time find bargains and deals,” said Patel.

Also, boost your bottom line even more by grabbing what’s in season. and don’t knock tried and true savings strategies.

“Buying in bulk when things are on sale. Looking at the local circulars. Clipping coupons they all really  help to add up,” Patel said.

Suzanne just tries to make sure her family finishes everything in the fridge before they head back to the grocery store.


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