NORTH NAPLES — Maria Hernandez’s refrigerator isn’t as full of food as before.
Her four children just have to deal with a limited choice of what there is to eat because of rising food prices. The Immokalee resident said she’s noticed a significant increase in food prices across Southwest Florida in the past five months.
Hernandez, 37, said in Spanish that she is limiting the items that she buys for her family. On a recent visit to the Target store on Immokalee Road, she stayed away from buying meat because of high prices.
Since gas is also rising, Hernandez said she only goes grocery shopping when she is running errands. She hopes prices will decrease soon.
Food prices that consumers feared would rise because of severe weather damage to crops this past summer started creeping up three months ago across Southwest Florida. Some prices are about the same as they were in mid-December.
To gauge the extent of what nature has done to food prices, the Daily News began documenting the price changes at several stores in mid-September and reporting on the cost of 11 food items that might be affected by severe weather damage to crops.
Dog food remained at higher prices on March 13 for the fourth consecutive month at several supermarkets, but other items were about the same as they were in mid-September.
Ground-chuck hamburger increased at two of the supermarkets checked and dropped at two others. Center-cut pork chops dipped in price at two supermarkets, increased at one grocery store and remained the same at others.
Top sirloin steak prices remained the same at three supermarkets and dropped at one grocery store.
Meanwhile, diesel prices continued to increase for the second month in a row. Fuel costs also could affect food prices; diesel is used by many delivery trucks. The average diesel price in Naples was $4.17 per gallon this past week, an increase from $4.08 per gallon on Sept. 12, according to gasbuddy.com.
When it comes to groceries, Pat Dooley only buys what she needs.
The North Naples resident didn’t stay away from buying meat products because of higher prices during a recent visit to Wal-Mart on U.S. 41.
“You just really have to think when you shop,” said Dooley, who bought ground chuck for about $3.48 per pound. “You don’t want to buy anything that you don’t need.”
Dooley, 78, said she has noticed a significant increase in food prices across Southwest Florida. She is spending about $30 more on groceries for the past four months. She said the biggest hike in prices for her has been for fish.
Although Dooley doesn’t deprive herself of what she wants, she said she is freezing food more often.
“I’m very frugal,” she said.
Dooley, who shops at two different supermarkets for her groceries, said Wal-Mart has meat and frozen food cheaper than other stores.
Here are some examples of food prices that have gone up since Sept. 12, when the Daily News began documenting the price changes:
■ The Publix brand of honey-cured spiral sliced ham increased to $3.99 per pound, compared to $2.99 in mid-September.
■ Ground-chuck hamburger — 80 percent lean/20 percent fat — was $3.99 per pound compared to $3.79 in mid-September at the Sweetbay on U.S. 41 in Bonita Springs. Ground-chuck hamburger was $3.99 per pound for the second month in a row, compared to $3.69 in mid-September, at the Target on Immokalee Road.
■ Hormel-brand pork chops were $4.49 for the fourth month in the row at Target, compared to $4.29 back then.
■ A one-pound bag of frozen Target brand whole kernel corn at the store on Immokalee Road was $1.14 for the fifth month in a row, compared to $1.02 in mid-September.
■ A box of Old El Paso brand crunchy 12 hard taco shells was $1.39 for the fifth month in a row compared to $1.27 in the prior month at the Target on Immokalee Road.
■ A 40-ounce bottle of Mazola brand corn oil rose to $3.75 from $3.48 back then at Wal-Mart on U.S. 41.
■ An 8-pound bag of Purina One smart blend dog food was $14.69 for the fifth month in a row, compared to $13.89 in mid-September at the Publix near U.S. 41 and West Terry Street in Bonita Springs.
Here are examples of prices that have decreased since Sept. 12:
■ Ground-chuck hamburger — 80 percent lean/20 percent fat — decreased to $3.49 per pound, compared to $4.09 in mid-September at the Publix store near U.S. 41 and West Terry Street in Bonita Springs. Ground-chuck hamburger was $3.48 per pound, compared to $3.68 in mid-September, at the Wal-Mart on U.S. 41 near Immokalee Road.
■ At Wal-Mart, top sirloin steak dropped to $5.98 per pound, compared to $6.18 in mid-September at the store on Immokalee Road. Wal-Mart brand spiral ham dropped to $1.98 per pound for the second month in a row from $2.68 back then.
■ A one-pound bag of frozen Wal-Mart brand whole kernel corn decreased to 98 cents for the third month in a row, compared to $1.08 in mid-September at the store near U.S. 41 and Immokalee Road.
■ A 15.25-ounce can of Green Giant brand whole-kernel corn/sweet corn dropped from $1.19 cents to 99 cents for the fifth month in a row at the Sweetbay. At Wal-Mart, a can of Green Giant brand whole kernel corn/sweet corn was 75 cents, compared to 86 cents back then.
■ A 40-ounce bottle of Mazola corn oil was $3.24 for the forth month in a row compared to $3.84 back then at the Target store on Immokalee Road.