Holiday cookout could cost more

By Sarah Meyer, PNT Staff Writer

The overall price of groceries is up, but careful shoppers can still find bargains for that Memorial Day weekend barbecue.

The Associated Press reports that the price of an average barbecue could cost 6 percent more than last year.

Tim Russell, the manager of Russell’s Super Save, estimates that grocery prices have gone up 6 to 8 percent in the last eight months. The cost depends on the category, however, and some things haven’t gone up.

Meat hasn’t gone up all that much, according to Brian Martin, meat market manager at Super Save.

He said it’s gone up 10 to 20 cents per pound across the board.

“A lot of items are the same price as last year,” Martin said.

Many traditional picnic items are on sale for Memorial Day, said Russell.

Enough food for a small gathering, complete with hamburgers, hot dogs, buns, soft drinks, baked beans, chips, pickles and condiments can be purchased for about $35 at Super Save.

Russell said price increases haven’t affected business too much.

“People have to eat,” he said.

Martin predicts that price increases are in store with the price of fuel rising, which increases the cost of transportation and in turn increases the cost of grain to feed livestock.

The final ingredient for many parties, beer, hasn’t gone up much locally, either, said Starr Brockman, a manager at Goober McCool’s. A 12-pack of name brand beer costs just more than $12, and is up just a few cents from last year, she said.

According to the Associated Press, the consumer price index for food rose 4 percent last year, compared with an average 2.5 percent annual rise for the last 15 years. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture raised its forecast for next year by half a percentage point, to a range of 4.5 to 5.5 percent.

Basic economics account for most of the increase: Bad weather has hurt crops, economic prosperity has driven up demand in developing countries, and surging fuel prices have raised transportation costs.

Economists and food scientists have argued that biofuel production is also a major factor in rising food costs, particularly corn, and that it should be scaled back. Meat and poultry executives have come out against federal ethanol mandates, which they say is driving the cost of corn higher.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.