While you enjoy your Thanksgiving fare today, keep this in mind:

Now, with the price of grains and other commodities plunging, it may seem logical that grocery prices will follow. But while some grocery items like milk and fresh produce are dropping, the prices of most packaged items and meat are holding firm or even increasing. Experts warn that consumers should not expect lower prices anytime soon on most items at the grocery story or in restaurants. 

Government and industry economists project that the overall cost of food will continue to climb in 2009, led by increases for meat and poultry. A big reason, they say, is that food companies still have not caught up with the prolonged run-up in commodity prices, which remain above historical averages despite coming down from their highs early this year.

The Agriculture Department is forecasting that food prices will increase 3.5 to 4.5 percent in 2009, compared with an estimated 5 to 6 percent increase by the end of this year.

Some economists project even steeper increases next year. For instance, Bill Lapp, principal at Advanced Economic Solutions in Omaha, said he expected food prices to jump 7 to 9 percent next year.

“For the last 21 months, food manufacturers, restaurants and livestock producers have been absorbing significant costs that in my view are likely to be passed on to consumers in 2009 and beyond,” said Mr. Lapp, a former chief economist at ConAgra Foods.

My advice? Ask Santa for a basic cookbook. Eat more whole foods — fruits, veggies, whole grains and beans you cook yourself. Not so much with the packaged stuff — prices are going to keep going up there for a while. Although if you catch a great sale on something healthy, stock up. 

Think of this as your better budget, healthier for me in the long run plan.  In the meantime, here are last Saturday’s recipe links. Just in case. And the Butterball hotline: 1-800-288-8372.

Happiest of Thansgivings, to one and all…