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Winter storm not expected to affect food prices

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Reported by: Ian Silver
Updated: 2/26/2013 9:40 am Published: 2/25/2013 6:39 pm

As the a winter storm rolled into the Tulsa area, Tulsa residents were storming area grocery stores to stock up, expecting to be homebound for a few days.

But most were finding their grocery bills a bit higher than they expected, prompting questions about whether the winter weather was the cause. 

Prices have been rising for several weeks and months on various produce items like lettuce, cauliflower, bell peppers, and even milk and meat products. 

While weather can be blamed for the price increases, Tulsa's winter storm cannot. 

With three growing kids at home, Mia Iden headed into Reasor's in Bixby to be prepared in case schools were closed after the winter storm. 

"Milk and bread, and then get some meat and things like that, peanut butter for the kids, and cookies and stuff like that," Iden said. 

"Produce seems to be not as good as it has been lately."

Not as good and not as cheap. It has been a frustrating and costly trend. 

"[There are] five of us," Iden said. "and sometimes, all of the sudden, what you spent for a week is gone in four days and you have to go back to the grocery store, especially when you have high schoolers that continue to eat and eat and eat."

Iden isn't the only one whose wallet felt a little lighter Monday. 

"I have noticed [food prices going up], but I wasn't sure why," Deborah Siler said. 

Anthony Fulfaro manages the Reasor's store in Bixby, and said the biggest reason for the price increase is the drought that has affected most of the country. Produce crops were the worst-affected. 

"We're seeing a reprieve in that, and some of the prices are starting to come down," Fulfaro said. "But it's a supply and demand issue."

And it's not just affecting produce. 

"I've noticed milk, especially that," Iden said. "And then the meat a little bit."

The drought vastly reduced grain crops over the past several months, making cattle feed more expensive. That forced ranchers to cut back their herds, pushing milk and meat prices higher. 

"We're at the mercy of Mother Nature when it comes down to it," Fulfaro said. 

And so are shoppers like Iden. 

But gas prices are also playing a role in the increase in food prices. When shipping costs go up, grocers are forced to pass the increased costs onto consumers.

While she's not worried about her family getting through the winter storm, she is worried where food prices will go moving forward. 

"A little bit," she said. "I always do. You never know what's going to happen."

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