SALT LAKE CITY — Grocery prices snuck upwards for the second month in a row here in the Salt Lake Valley. The average cost of a shopping cart of grocery staples, a weekend outing and a tank of gas to make the trips totaled nearly $5 more than an identical list did last month, according to the Deseret News' fantasy shopping spree.
February's prices exceeded January's this year, but only by a dollar and a quarter, due to a number of sales on popular choices. But this month, only three of 12 items declined in price; eight were more expensive. The cost of bananas remained helpfully stable.
According the United States Department of Agriculture, the price of "food-at-home," or groceries, is projected to rise 2.5 to 3.5 percent overall this year. This month, the cost of staples like milk, bread and pizza all increased. Hamburger, which had been on sale at several stores last month, climbed nearly 17 percent. The total cost of the cart has risen more than 13 percent since its first outing in September 2009.
The outlook for gasoline prices is even less rosy. The cost of a full tank increased in the valley by more than 7 percent since Feb. 1. According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, the price of gas had increased for 32 days in a row on Feb. 27 and showed little sign of stopping, even though demand for gasoline has been sluggish.
Wasatch Front residents, however, are among the luckier drivers in the nation — while prices have risen everywhere, the Mountain West region has actually seen the smallest hike, according the Fuel Gauge Report. Since the new year, the area's gas prices had climbed only 16 cents on Feb. 27, while the Pacific Coast region's prices rose 54 cents over the same amount of time.
California, Alaska, and Hawaii are paying global prices for their gasoline, explained the report, while states farther inland — like Utah — have access to refineries which use cheaper crude products. However, according the Deseret News shopping spree, gas prices in the valley have increased by almost 25 percent since the inaugural trip two and a half years ago.
Utah shoppers can rejoice at the gift of temporarily lower Oreo prices. The chocolate sandwich cookies were on sale at nearly all of the five stores the Deseret News visited this week, in honor of a special occasion. According to the Nabisco website, nabiscoworld.com, the Oreo cookie turns 100 on March 6.
Nabisco has issued a "birthday cake" Oreo in honor of the centennial, joining the ranks of the many seasonal versions of the cookie now available.
The Deseret News takes a monthly shopping trip to five different popular supermarkets throughout the Salt Lake Valley in order to determine average prices of common grocery items. No store has a monopoly on best or worst prices. The cost of a large takeout, a movie ticket and concessions is also included to acknowledge Wasatch Front residents' need to occasionally kick back.