With just days left until the end of 2011 the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that food prices this year went up about 3.5 percent. Ag Department Economist, Ricky Volpe, says prices for foods eaten at restaurants went up about 2 percent while foods bought at the grocery store shot up much more.

"The overall value for food-at-home-inflation for 2011 is gonna be 4.5  to 4.6 percent.  Which is high, but it's considerably lower than what we saw in 2008."

Prices went up nearly 6.5 percent that year.  In October and November of this year those grocery store prices actually started to decline slightly.

Volpe says in the new year expect prices to continue to rise, but not nearly as quickly. He says, however, there are variables to keep an eye on.

"If we have great weather, if we have higher than expected supplies, if our exports cool off a little bit, then we may very well see some deflation for some food categories, but on the whole we have no reason to expect that right now."

This year's food price increases, Volpe says, were propelled by steep hikes of between 7 and 9 percent on eggs, meat and oils.

Projections for vegetables in the new year are for a downward trend in prices.