Beat inflation: navigate the supermarket specials

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As expected, inflation rose last month due to higher energy prices. Diesel costs, in particular, are sending food prices soaring, and everyone is feeling the pinch. Which is the really bitter part of this quasi-recession: We've already resigned ourselves to stay away from new watches, cars and other luxury items, but now the essentials (food and gas) are turning on us.

According to the Labor Department, food prices rose 0.2 percent in March and 4.4 percent over the past year. Some food staples have really surged: Over the last year, bread has risen 14.7 percent and milk 13.3 percent. French toast, anyone?

Right now the best approach, aside from watching the mail for those stimulus checks, is to shop smart at the grocery store. If you buy cheap, you'll get cheap. However, the expensive brands don't always deliver great value. Consumer Reports, which is subscription-only, has teamed up with AOL Money & Finance to present a free, whopping-long list of supermarket products that combine high quality with great value. Testing a wide range of products, including BBQ sauce, hot dogs and olive oil--not to mention storage containers, insect repellent and sunscreen--the gallery will not only help you make the best purchase decision, it may also introduce you to wonderful new products. Like, Black Magic "Wet Shine" Liquid Car Wax.

Just because you can't afford to fill it up doesn't mean you can't make it look good.

B. Brandon Barker also writes for Political Machine.
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