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Stable spring: prices stay flat in the Salt Lake Valley

By Laura Marostica

Deseret News

Published: Saturday, May 5 2012 10:46 p.m. MDT

David Goldman, File, Associated Press

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For the second month in a row, the price of groceries in popular supermarkets throughout the Salt Lake valley stayed mostly stable. The total cost of a cart full of common grocery items, a full tank of gasoline, and a jovial night out increased by 61 cents.

Many supermarket staples, including bread, hamburger, eggs and frozen vegetables, were more expensive this month. The festive sales surrounding the 100th birthday of the Oreo were mostly over, so the cost of everyone's favorite chocolate sandwich cookie jumped by more than 10 percent.

Price cuts on a number of other items helped to mostly balance the increases. The United States Department of Agriculture predicted early this year that the cost of dairy products for consumers would be lower in 2012 than in 2011. The projection appears to be proving accurate, at least this month — milk and ice cream were both slightly less expensive. The Department of Agriculture said the likely price drop may result from American cows producing more milk than last year, despite a smaller "herd size," an impressive bovine feat.

The cost of a tank of gasoline also dropped this month. At the beginning of March, a gallon of gas was more than seven percent more expensive than in February. The trend continued more starkly in early April, when the price had jumped almost twelve percent since the last Deseret News outing.

But as spring progresses, the tide has turned. According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, gasoline prices at the pump fell 23 out of the 30 days in April. The cost of gas is now less expensive than it was both one month ago and one year ago, a rare occurrence.

However, gas prices are still significantly higher than they were less than three years ago, when the Deseret News first embarked on its fantasy shopping spree. The overall cost of the cart's contents, plus the fuel to get around, has increased by more than 14 percent since September 2009.

At the beginning of every month, the Deseret News travels across the Salt Lake Valley to compare the cost of grocery staples at five different popular supermarkets. Prices are averaged so Wasatch Front residents can determine how their own store of choice measures up. No one grocer, however, has a monopoly on highest or lowest expenses. To acknowledge that even the thriftiest Utahns like to let their hair down occasionally, the cart includes a trip to the movies and a takeout pizza.

EMAIL: lmarostica@desnews.com

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