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July Fourth Food Report: Grilling Burgers is 3x Cheaper than Dining Out

july fourth grilling

Grillers rejoice. Hosting a July Fourth cookout could cost less than it did in 2023 (provided consumers sidestep convenience and prep more staples at home).

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Food at Home rose by 1% in mid-June 2024 compared to 5.9% last year. In contrast, CPI for Food Away from Home rose by 4%.

In a new report, Wells Fargo’s Agri-Food Institute unpacks the cost of popular Independence Day menu items, highlighting which products are more affordable this year and which ones have a higher price tag.

Grilling Burgers is 3x Cheaper than Take Out

The current cost of ingredients to prepare a quarter pound hamburger with cheese, tomato, and lettuce at home is $2.15. In contrast, a sample of five popular QSRs including McDonald’s, Five Guys, and Smash Burger shows the average price of a quarter-pound burger is $6.95.

That means for a party of 10, the home chef will save nearly $50 on burgers by firing up the grill and experimenting with this season’s top cookout trends.

“Without question, the greatest savings this year will be realized by those who build burgers and fixings at home,” said Dr. Michael Swanson, report author and Chief Agricultural Economist at Wells Fargo Agri-Food Institute. “That said, there is hope for the consumer who needs to capitalize on convenience, since a number of the most popular fast-food restaurants are rolling out ‘value deals’ as restaurants fight for consumer dollars.”

Savings on the Side

Potato salad is a budget-friendly side dish this year, particularly for hosts who are willing to prepare it at home.

Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, white potatoes can be found across the nation for $0.96 per pound — a 4.4% price decrease year-over-year (YOY). Supermarket prices for potato salad are also down 0.7% from a year ago for those who need a more convenient option.

Comparatively, the price of potato chips increased 2.7% YOY. In the dip department, salsa prices are up 2.5% while guacamole is down by 1.1%.

“Given the total cost of a bag of chips, they are still a good buy for appetizers and a side for burgers,” said Swanson. “Tortilla chips and guacamole will also be a smart snack choice for this year’s celebration.”

Most Beverage Prices are Fizzing

Ready-to-drink bottled iced tea prices have risen 2.4%, which is in line with the beverage category as a whole.

Beer prices are still rising at a 1.2% rate and wine posted a 3.4% increase from a year ago.

In the soft drink category, the cost of 12-ounce cans are up 4.8% due to the inflated price of aluminum. Two-liter bottles of soda are down 6.5%.

As Swanson notes, thrifty cookout hosts can prepare iced tea at home and stock up on 2-liter bottles of soda and cups to save money.

Sweet Treats are Extra

Ice cream prices will be more expensive this year due to a 3.3% YOY price increase.

The cost of grab-and-go bakery is also inflated with cakes up 1.6% and cupcakes climbing a strong 5.6%.

“This reflects the increasing wage rates that bakeries and supermarkets continue to face,” Swanson concluded. “Even though cake mixes are up 6.6%, there’s still opportunity to give your wallet some relief by employing your baking skills since most other ingredients are already in your pantry and refrigerator.”


The Food Institute Podcast’s “Foodservice Gamechangers” Series

Get to know the men and women behind the scenes of foodservice distribution in a new, limited series from The Food Institute Podcast called “Foodservice Gamechangers.” Recently, Pat Mulhern, advisor to The Food Institute, sat down for brief conversations with seven of the most influential foodservice merchandising and distribution leaders. Highlighting their food career journeys and management styles, the conversations feature insightful thoughts on what may lie ahead for manufacturers, distributors, and operators in foodservice.