For cash-strapped consumers already beset by higher gasoline prices and escalating mortgage rates, the hits just keep on coming. This time, it’s food. The sharp rise in food prices seen in 2007 is expected to be followed by another higher-than-normal jump next year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said last week. And 2008’s punch will be to the breadbasket. Items made with wheat (breads and crackers) and soybean oil (cooking oil and fried foods) are expected to rise so much next year that they’ll boost the cost of cooking at home by up to 4.5 percent — half a percentage point more than predicted just a month ago.

Business & Technology | ’08 forecasts: food at least 3% higher; gas up 10.7%