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    Sometimes, it is easy to drown out the constant talk about the economy from politicians, economists and pundits. That’s especially so if, despite having to deal with some hardship, you’re one of the lucky Americans still living in relative economic comfort. But a disturbing economic factor expected to emerge in 2013 is going to have a noticeable impact on every American: Food prices are going up.

    Because of harsh weather conditions in 2012 and a multitude of other economic variables, Americans are going to notice considerably higher prices on everything from animal products to baked goods in coming months, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

    Despite severe drought throughout the Midwest last year, supermarket prices on most food items remained flat throughout 2012. According to the USDA report, the food-at-home Consumer Price Index increased by only about 0.5 percent from January to December. But because of the time it takes commodity price changes to affect retail prices, consumers are going to bear the brunt of the drought effects in 2013.

    The USDA calculates that the CPI on all foods will increase by about 3 to 4 percent in 2013, well above the historical average for food inflation. The highest price hikes in the early part of the year will affect animal-based foodstuffs.

    Here are a few tips that could help you offset the coming food inflation and improve your health in the process:

    Buy local and seasonal food items.

    In most areas, a viable alternative to the supermarket is the farmer’s market. By supporting local produce growers and buying fruits and vegetable that are in season, you can not only make healthier food choices but also save money buying foods whose prices aren’t affected by added shipping costs.

    With a little effort, you may also find a local butcher shop or meat processor in your community. Commonly, meat is sold at lower prices at these outlets and sometimes is of higher quality than meat products sold at mega supermarket chains.

    Grow your own.

    Even if you don’t have a green thumb, learning to maintain a vegetable garden can be a rewarding and relaxing experience. Check with your local nursery to find out which items grow best during different seasons in your area.

    Forget about processed foods.

    A bane of health in modern society, processed foods are unnecessary, and they are killing you. You can save big money and enjoy a healthier and better tasting diet by replacing store-bought with handmade. And though the art of baking bread and making pasta may be lost for many people, the Internet can offer age-old recipes to replace just about any processed foodstuff. If time is an issue, enjoy a diet of fresh fruit, vegetables and meat on the days when a cooking adventure is not an option.

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