Nena Svay hasn't been buying as much red meat lately.

For the 35-year-old York City mother of two, it's as much of a budget issue as it is a health choice.

"I've been cutting back on steaks and sodas. It's healthier for the kids, and it's cheaper," Svay said.

To feed her family of four, it costs $50 to $100 each week, she said.

"I've noticed the majority of what I buy all the time -- like milk, eggs and bread -- has been going up," Svay said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index, food prices in the northeast region ticked up 1.4 percent during the last year.

A cost comparison of items at four local grocery stores shows Giant and Shurfine are bucking the trend, while two are in line with the northeast average.

During the last week of March, it cost an average of $72.52 to buy 17 popular grocery items at Weis Markets in Dover Township, Giant Food Stores in Dover Township, Walmart in Springettsbury Township and Shurfine in York Township.

Nearly six months earlier, in October, it cost an average of $72.46 to buy the same items at the same locations.

And a year ago, it cost an average of $74.95 to buy the same

items at those four stores.

Going down: Much of the decrease can be attributed to lower prices on coffee, milk and toilet paper.

But it's been hard for Meredith Dell to feel much of difference.

"I pretty much buy the same thing every time and haven't noticed much of a change, up or down, either way," said the 61-year-old Dover resident.

Prices have gradually increased on some items and decreased on others, but that's not a big deal to Dell.

"That's just life. The cost of living goes up. What we need is for jobs and salaries to go up too," she said.

The unemployment rate for the York-Hanover area was 7.9 percent in January, according to the most recent statistics released from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.

And a special report in The York Dispatch earlier this year showed local wages have stagnated for the last 10 years.

Retiree Pete Yuchik doesn't earn wages anymore. But if the 79-year-old West Manchester Township resident had a little more money in his pocket, he said, he wouldn't stick to such a bare-bones shopping list.

"I'm a senior on a fixed income, so it all seems high to me. I only buy what I need," he said.

Getting by: Dallastown resident Dottie Loflin is also a senior living on a fixed income.

"I stick to the basics and throw a little treat in the cart, here and there," the 68-year-old shopper said.

On her shopping list are produce, meat, eggs, milk, frozen meals, deli meats, bread, cheese, canned soup, cereal and a few other things.

"When you get older and the kids move away, you don't cook as much for yourself anymore," she said. In an effort to further curb expenses, she clips coupons and uses loyalty card discounts at various grocery stores.

On the rise: Those cost-saving methods might come in handy this year.

According to a report released March 25 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, a food price increase is ahead.

Grocery store prices are expected to increase 3 percent to 4 percent this year, according to the agency.

The 3 to 4 percent increase would add about $2 to $3 to the average York grocery bill.

Prices on fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy and eggs are expected to increase the most, according to the report.

-- Candy Woodall can also be reached at cwoodall@yorkdispatch.com.