The average cost at county grocery stores in March for a basket filled with 21 basic items was virtually unchanged from February.

The average price in March was $28.20, as compared with $28.21 in February. The price in January was $28.26.

The U.S. city average for the same items in March increased just 1 percent from February and was 25 cents higher than the county average.

The average for the South -- which includes Maryland -- in March decreased 1 percent from February and was $5.50 less than the county average.

Each month, the Carroll County Sun collects prices for21 items at county stores.

The prices listed in today's chart were collected on the same day in March at:

* George's IGA, with stores in Eldersburg, Finksburg and Woodbine.

* Giant Food, which has a store in Westminster.

* Martin's Food Market with stores in Westminster and Eldersburg.

* SuperFresh, with stores in Eldersburg and Westminster.

* Weis market, with stores in Hampstead, Mount Airyand Westminster.

March was the first month prices were collected at Martin's. An official from the store's parent company, Giant Food Stores Inc. in Carlisle, Pa., asked that the store be included in thesurvey.

Prices for the city average and the South are collected by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics in Philadelphia.

The bureau chooses a mixture of name brands and generics and collects prices once a month at thousands of stores across the country, regional economist Maureen McDevitt Greene said.

Prices for March were available last week.

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