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As the Fourth of July approaches, surging gas prices and soaring food costs have many of us clutching our wallets. The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts that food prices for 2008 will increase 4.5% to 5.5%. Shoppers have been “trading down to store brand and private label in some cases,” says Brian Todd, president of The Food Institute, a nonprofit information and reporting association in Elmwood Park, New Jersey. The reality is that food prices aren’t expected to decline anytime soon, so as you prepare to celebrate this holiday weekend, here are simple ways to ease the financial pangs of planning a barbecue.
Try potluck. Ask friends and family to contribute a food item or two. This can slash a big part of your grocery bill.
Substitute meats. Meat is usually the most expensive item on a grocery list, so think about cutting down. Also, consider serving more burgers and hot dogs, rather than steaks and ribs. According to the USDA, beef prices are expected to rise 2% to 3% this year, with poultry prices expected to increase 2.5% to 3.5%.
Take inventory. Scan the kitchen, pantry, and cabinets before you head to the supermarket. How many times have you purchased items that you later found tucked away in the refrigerator?
Pay less for overhead. Buy your fruits and vegetables from roadside stands instead of supermarkets. The fruit stand vendors usually “buy stuff that’s ripe today,” making it less expensive than supermarkets, says Allison Karpyn, director of The Food Trust in Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization that works to increase access to affordable and nutritious food to low-income communities including establishing supermarkets.
Use coupons. It may be too late to clip coupons from the Sunday circular, but CouponMom.com offers coupons and deals on groceries by state. Peruse the site before making that last-minute trip to the supermarket.
Change venue. Take a break from providing all the entertainment–fireworks and all. Bring your BBQ to the local park and let the greenery be your backdrop. Check your local newspaper listings for free outdoor fireworks shows in your area.