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I don’t want to sound alarmist, but it may be time to start bulking up your food reserves at home.  It looks like a bad year ahead.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects food prices to rise 4% by the end of next year. Yet, according to, experts anticipate that number will really be closer to 5 percent.

There are multiple factors at play here but the price increase is mostly being blamed, like most problems these days, on the recession. Sadly, as the economy stumbles toward recovery, more money gets taken out of our wallets. According to one economist quoted in the piece, "Commodity costs are coming up because traders are speculating that the recovery is coming."

Five percent may seem negligible, but if you and your family spend $100 or more each week, the amount adds up to several much-needed paychecks per year. Plus, food prices are already significantly more expensive now than in recent years. DailyFinance notes that consumers are paying 45% more for food this year than they did two years ago.

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Some products will get pricier than others. According to one source in the article, "The challenge for next year will be the fact that pork, beef, chicken and dairy producers are all losing significant amounts of money. As they reduce supplies, that will cause prices to rise. In 2008, cereal grains led food costs higher. In 2010, it will be meat and dairy."

So unless you plan on becoming a vegan, now may be a good time to start shopping around at different super markets to see which offer the most competitive prices. Target and Trader Joe’s are two of the cheapest. (Read Mainstreet's coverage of cheap places to buy groceries here.)

And as DailyFinance recommends, keep track of gas prices. They are a great indicator of food prices. When gas gets more expensive, so does the cost of producing and delivering food. As soon as you notice this increase, start stocking up on necessities like eggs. As a recent article on Mainstreet explained, it’s OK to buy eggs and save them for a while. They don’t ever really expire.

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