(Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
(Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Standing in the dairy aisle, Jody McGuire loads more items into her shopping cart.

The cart is packed. She says she normally does one big grocery run each month, with smaller outings the rest of the month for specific products.

Recently, she's noticed a spike in the prices of meat and produce, which has her concerned.

"I get to thinking about it and I'm pretty sure I still have enough for everything," she said.

While picking up some ground beef at Pride Family Market in Hanover, Bill Irwin said he and his wife are on a fixed income, which has made grocery shopping difficult.

"Food prices are tough, but the gas prices are the real problem," Irwin said. "They just went up 50 cents. Gas companies gouge us and drive up the cost of everything else. It's getting tougher and tougher."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a study of food prices from May 2013 to May 2014. The study found that many dietary staples are on the rise. The price for a pound of ground chuck rose 11.7 percent in a year in the Midwest. Bacon rose 7.8 percent a pound; milk went up 5.3 percent a gallon; strawberries rose 12.3 percent per pint; potatoes increased 19.4 percent per pound, and eggs rose 16.2 percent per dozen.

Overall, food prices have risen 1.7 percent since March 2013, according to the BLS.

But, the report also has some food prices falling more recently. Ground chuck fell 2.9 percent after its 11.7 percent hike. Eggs fell back down 10.7 and the price of milk also fell 2.1 percent.

With food prices not yet returned to normal, the increase means shoppers are having to be more selective and price conscious.

McGuire says she uses an app on her phone that alerts her to deals.

Eva Poling, who usually does her shopping at Walmart, says she's using more coupons when she makes her weekly run to the grocery store.

Poling does the shopping for a family of four. She has a teenager and a pre-teen, so her family can quickly move through a fully stocked refrigerator, she said.

"I think everyone's noticed," she said of rising food prices. "I just try to get on the deals whenever I can."

Droughts in 2012 and 2013 thinned supplies for farmers, partially causing the increase in prices, along with increased shipping costs, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

The current drought in California, the USDA wrote on its website, could also have a negative affect on produce for years to come.

"Because California is a major producer in the fruit, vegetable, tree nut and dairy sectors, the drought has potential implications for U.S. supplies and prices of affected products in 2014 and beyond," the website said.