People who got an early jump on their Memorial Day barbecue shopping may have noticed something alarming: Prices are up. Way up.
Sticker shock is everywhere, from burgers to buns, from ketchup to mustard. The good news is there’s some price relief at stores now.
In the four weeks through May 15, the price per package of ground beef rose 14.7% compared to the previous year, according to the market research firm IRI, which tracked total US multi-outlet retail sales at US supermarkets, big-box retailers, convenience stores and other locations.
Ground beef wasn’t the only item that became more expensive in that time period.
The price of frozen meat packages, not including poultry, popped 15.7% while frozen sausages prices jumped 24.4%. Hot dogs got 14.5% pricier. Packaged hamburger and hot dog buns got 11.2% more expensive. Ketchup spiked 15.8%, mustard popped 10.4% and carbonated beverage prices increased 13.9%.
Fresh lettuce prices went up 13.8%, and fresh tomatoes got 4.8% more expensive.
Still, the increase shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, as grocery prices have been surging this year.
Food prices were 9.4% higher in April 2022 than in April 2021, the largest annual increase in 41 years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said earlier in May. Grocery prices jumped 10.8% for the year, not adjusting for seasonal swings, according to the BLS report.
A variety of factors have sparked the increase in food prices recently, ranging from bad weather, which has lowered crop yields, and Russia’s invasion, which has increased wheat and other prices.
Even people who are visiting friends and family to mark the holiday will pay more than last year, as the average gas price per gallon hits $4.60, an all-time high. The price of gas has surged by 30% since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February. The $4.60-a-gallon price is roughly 50% higher than last Memorial Day weekend.
One silver lining: Those who haven’t done their Memorial Day shopping yet can expect a discount compared to prices in late April and early May.
In the days leading up to the holiday, retailers are likely going to offer deals on classic barbecue food, like hot dogs and buns, said Jonna Parker, principal of IRI Fresh.
They’re “going to really want to drive that foot traffic,” she explained. “And so they might take a margin hit or even a loss on one of the key Memorial Day items in order to try to get other items in the [shopping] basket.”
But don’t get too excited. Even with those discounts, prices are likely to be higher than last year.
“I think we’re still going to see a year-over-year increase,” Parker said. “I’m guessing it will still be anywhere from five to 10% higher than Memorial Day last year.”
Stew Leonard Jr., president and CEO of the small grocery chain Stew Leonard’s, has this advice for shoppers looking to keep their grocery bills down: “Shop the specials.” He also said shoppers should consider buying store brand products.
Leonard noted that suppliers have been charging more as their costs go up, and that his stores have passed about half of those increases onto customers.
“It’s tough out there. It’s a tough environment. I feel it for our customers,” he said, adding that Stew Leonard’s is “trying to offer the best value we can for Memorial Day.”
Or, you could just go for a $4.99 rotisserie chicken.
-— CNN’s Matt Egan contributed to this report.