MILWAUKEE - Sales of Spam -- that much-maligned meat -- are rising as consumers are turning more to lunch meats and other lower-cost foods to extend their already stretched food budgets.

What was once cheeky, silly and the subject of a musical (Monty Python mocked the meat in a can), now is back on the table as people turn to the sometimes-snubbed meat as costs rise, analysts said.

Food prices are increasing the fastest since 1990 -- 4 percent in the United States last year, according to the Agriculture Department. Many staples are rising even faster, with white bread up 13 percent last year, bacon up 7 percent and peanut butter up 9 percent.

Food inflation reached an annualized rate of 6.1 percent as of April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The price of Spam is up too, with the average 12 oz. can about $2.62. That's an increase of nearly 7 percent from the same time last year. But the pork meat in a can seems like a good alternative to consumers.

Kimberly Quan, a stay-at-home mom of three who lives in Pleasanton, Calif., near San Francisco, has been feeding her family more Spam in the last six months as she tries to make her food budget go further.

She cooks meals such as Spam fried rice and Spam sandwiches two or three times a month. Pulling Spam from the shelf prevents last-minute grocery store trips and overspending, said Quan, 38.

"It's canned meat and it's in the cupboard and if everything else is gone from the fridge, it's there," she said.

Spam's maker, Hormel Foods Corp. of Austin, Minn., reported last week that it strong sales of Spam in the second quarter, helped push up its profits 14 percent.