Gene Sustrich said he's never been one to buy filet mignon.

But these days he's also finding it difficult to pay for a gallon of milk.

"I think it goes up every time I go to the store," said the 78-year-old West York resident.

A gallon of Rutter's vitamin D whole milk was $4.32 at Walmart when he made a grocery run on Oct. 10. That's 8 cents more than he paid in March.

"Those pennies and nickels add up when you're a guy like me," he said.

Sustrich is a senior living on a fixed income. He said he sometimes has to chose between the best diet for his medical conditions and the lowest grocery bill for his fixed income.

A cost comparison of items at four local grocery stores shows dairy prices are on the rise. The price of a gallon of Rutter's vitamin D milk increased 8 cents at Giant, Walmart and Weis, and 6 cents at Shurfine. Butter and ice cream prices also increased at some stores.

But it's not just dairy.

Food prices in the northeast region ticked up 1.7 percent during the past year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index.

A decline locally: The local

cost comparison reveals Shurfine prices are representative of that statistic, while Giant, Walmart and Weis are bucking the trend.

During the second week of October, it cost an average of $71.66 to buy 17 popular grocery items at Giant Food Stores in Dover Township, Shurfine in York Township, Walmart in Springettsbury Township and Weis Markets in Dover Township.

Nearly six months earlier, at the end of March, it cost an average of $72.52 to buy the same items at the same locations.

And a year ago, it cost an average of $72.46 to buy the same items at those four stores.

Much of the decrease can be attributed to lower prices on coffee and sugar.

The price of an 11.3-ounce can of Folgers Classic Roast coffee decreased 60 cents at Walmart and Weis, 50 cents at Shurfine and 40 cents at Giant.

'Out of control': But Pat Koval hasn't noticed a change.

"I'm still spending what I always have -- $100 a week," said the 64-year-old Shiloh resident.

Koval described her grocery bill as "out of control."

"One thing goes down 5 cents, and another thing jumps up 10 cents. You never get ahead," she said.

To mitigate the increases, 42-year-old York Township mom Robyn Holt clips coupons and relies on loyalty card discounts.

"I get coupons online and from newspapers, and I make a little game of it to see how much I can save," she said. "I make a list and Google every item to see if there's a coupon available. I usually save about $50 when I shop."

In 2014? Those cost-saving methods may be especially useful throughout 2014 when food prices are expected to increase.

According to a report released Sept. 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 2.5 to 3.5 percent next year, according to the agency.

The 2.5 to 3.5 percent increase would add about $1.79 to $2.51 to the average York grocery bill.

Prices on poultry are expected to increase the most, according to the report.

-- Reach Candy Wood all at cwoodall@yorkdis