STATEN ISLAND, NY – It’s supposed to be the most carefree time of year, filled with large glasses of lemonade and lots of burgers and dogs fresh from the grill. But food inflation has recently hit those summer staples hard, pushing traditional BBQ costs way higher than they were in 2021.
“Hosting a party of 10 could cost about 11% more than last year,” noted Karol Aure-Flynn, an agricultural technology analyst for Wells Fargo, citing data compiled through Urner Barry, USDA, Nielsen and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, who used a menu of cheeseburgers, chicken, pork, shrimp and more to tally up the increase.
According to Wells Fargo’s breakdown, proteins like burgers, hot dogs and chicken breasts are still leading pain points for the bargain-minded shopper mainly thanks to higher feed costs for animals. Prices for fresh ground beef are up by 11.8%, the financial services company noted, and the retail price for hot dogs has increased by 12%. Chicken costs are soaring too with prices for wings and breasts up 38% and 24% respectively.
So how can you still enjoy a somewhat affordable summertime menu? Aure-Flynn recommends sticking to “simpler choices” and relying on a little bit of reinvention.
“Shrimp and pork are relatively good buys, along with tomatoes, and all serve well in tacos,” the expert said, suggesting a more festive BBQ theme in lieu of the traditional American staples. “Average prices for pork are up 3.1% from last year, versus 12-15% for other proteins, making it a relative bargain. Shrimp is in the same boat. Current prices are still below the five-year average of $4.21. Tomatoes will make great taco-toppers, up only about 1% this year. BBQ pork ribs are a traditional favorite and great alternative – or addition – to tacos.”
She also suggests picking up popsicles instead of ice cream – which has spiked by 6% — and shopping for frozen pre-formed beef patties which are not currently in demand and have more “advantageous pricing.”
But don’t look for relief from food inflation with hamburger and hot dog buns.
“This year’s prices are up over 10%, versus the steady 2% from the last two years,” Aure-Flynn notes. “This is likely a ripple effect from war in Ukraine, and commodity price surge creating competition for grain production. Perishable products like breads are difficult to buy ahead.”
The expert’s main advice? Shop with an open mind.
“Look out for specials,” she said. “Retailers are utilizing data analytics to keep products moving off the shelves…Plan ahead to seek longer shelf-life items (frozen patties, for example) that can relieve some of the sticker shock. Book last-minute shopping trips for perishable fruits and vegetables.”