Fourth of July parties will cost more this year but you can save with a bit of math

Inflation is causing prices to rise for staple Fourth of July foods.
Inflation is causing prices to rise for staple Fourth of July foods.
Alex Brandon/AP

David Branch is making some changes to his Fourth of July celebration menu this year.

"I'm not doing ribs. I'm not doing beef brisket and other things that probably I would normally do," Branch said.

He's not alone. Rising inflation means that it's gotten more expensive to stock a party with the holiday's classic foods — about 11 percent more expensive than last year, to be exact. That's according to a new study that Branch co-authored, which calculated how much prices have risen for certain Fourth of July foods for a 10-person party. He's a food and agribusiness adviser for Wells Fargo, which means he follows industry price trends.

Fourth of July food costs more this year: Hot dogs: +6.3% since last year. Produce: +7%. Shrimp: +8.2%. Buns: +10%. Ground beef: +11.8%. Soda: +13%. Chicken breast: +24%. Beer: +25%. Wings: +38%.
LA Johnson/NPR

The costs of red meat and chicken are hitting wallets hard this year. Branch recommends being creative with other proteins, like shrimp or pork butt. The study, which uses data from May, shows that shrimp is 8.2 percent more expensive than it was in July 2021, and the price of pork has grown by 3.1 percent.

Sure, that's painful. But these increases pale in comparison to chicken breasts, which are a whopping 24 percent more expensive than they were in July last year.

Even though chicken or ground beef may still be less expensive per pound than, say, shrimp, Branch said it's important to factor in how many people you're feeding and how much protein you need for each serving. For example, you might need two pounds of ground beef for burgers but only one pound of shrimp for tacos, making burgers more expensive per person (and that's not even counting condiments or other toppings).

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His advice? Do some research and calculate the costs per meal. You may find a certain kind of meat has much more bang for its buck, or that you're better off going vegetarian. Branch is having shrimp tacos this year after scoring frozen bags that were buy one, get one free.

There are many reasons why food prices have shot up. The pandemic has disrupted global supply chains. The costs of corn and soybeans, which are used in animal feed, have skyrocketed. In recent months, U.S. poultry farmers have culled millions of chickens as a bout of bird flu swept through flocks.

At the same time, the war in Ukraine is affecting wheat prices. Ukraine is one of the world's top wheat exporters, and Russian blockades have stopped millions of tons of grain from leaving the country.

With inflation at its highest rate since 1994, looking for sales and being creative with menus are good ways to lessen the economic sting this holiday weekend. And while the economic roller coaster continues, Branch recommends being flexible.

"It's just a difficult time," Branch said. "You can look for opportunities out there and still have a fun gathering with family and friends to celebrate the Fourth of July and not break the bank."

After all, enjoying a fireworks display doesn't cost a thing.

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