The Cookout Cost Check

We’re in the middle of one of the great cookout weekends of the American summer season. The three-day Fourth of July weekend is traditionally a time for families to gather together, for the kids to frolic in the yard, and for Dad to fire up the charcoal and then produce hot dogs that are so burned they resemble black tubes of carbon and grossly undercooked cheeseburgers for all to enjoy.

That’s why it’s also been traditional for the American Farm Bureau Federation to conduct a market survey of the cost of items that might be part of a traditional Independence Day cookout as an illustration of food prices. The Farm Bureau Federation July Fourth menu includes classic items like cheeseburgers, pork chops, chicken breasts, chips, lemonade, potato salad, and ice cream with strawberries for a group of ten people. And this year, the news on the cost front is not good. After a 16-cent reduction in costs last year, the price of the cookout has shot up 17 percent in 2022, making the hypothetical feast more than $10 more expensive than last year.

The cookout cost check is a good illustration of how inflation is rippling through the economy, and won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been to a grocery store lately. And of course that test doesn’t tell the entire inflationary story. Because the focus is just on the food, the Farm Bureau Federation doesn’t account, for example, for the cost of gas that would be needed to drive to the cookout.

People on budgets can’t simply accept 17 percent increases in food costs and the spike in gas prices that we’ve experienced this year; they’ve got to make adjustments to deal with the cost increases. One way to do that is to modify the cookout menu. This year, we may be seeing fewer pork chops and chicken breasts on the grill, and more hot dogs instead.

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