Rising food prices hit Thanksgiving

Prices for oil, corn and wheat have been dropping for months, but food prices in the supermarket are still climbing.

Food inflation slowed in October, according to federal figures released Wednesday, but grocery prices are still up 7.5 percent over last year.

Combined with the bad economy, the higher cost of eating is changing the way we shop for food – from choosing store labels over national brands to using more coupons to switching to cheaper cuts of meat.

"If you used to look for New York steak, you cut that to top round," said Les Allen, a retired Navy pilot who lives in Plumas Lake, as he loaded groceries into his trunk last week outside a Safeway in Natomas.

With key commodities down 50 percent or more from their midyear highs, economists project food inflation will continue to slow – but only so much.

"It's certainly not going to go negative," said Michael Swanson, the lead agricultural economist at Wells Fargo & Co. in Minneapolis.

Grain prices are still higher than they've been for most of the last 15 years, said Swanson and others, and many businesses along the food chain are recouping losses from the summer.

The American Farm Bureau conducts an annual survey of the cost of the ingredients for a basic Thanksgiving dinner for 10. This year it's $44.61, up 5.6 percent from last year, but still just $4.46 per person.

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