Wings, shrimp and booze: Super Bowl parties are budget-conscious this year


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CNN

The Super Bowl is no joke to Todd Steward. For the past 14 years she has hosted a viewing party in her downtown Seattle condo. It has become a tradition for him and his circle of friends.

Aside from the game, it's his steaks that get the loudest cheers on game day.

“The only time I use my grill that's out on my deck is for my Super Bowl party,” Stewart told CNN in an interview. And shoots because he knows I haven't used it all year.

Steaks, a party favorite, are prepared with his own seasoning blend. After a good rub, he puts the meat in the refrigerator overnight and on the grill while the game is on.

The steward still hasn't bought his steaks. He's been carefully monitoring store prices for meat at his local QFC supermarket and may have to make a decision two days before the Super Bowl on Feb. 11.

“I haven't told my callers yet because they expect my steaks,” he said. “But because of the high price, I'm really thinking about getting hamburger meat, hot dogs, and some chicken breasts, even though that's expensive, too.”

Courtesy Todd Stewart

Todd Stewart with his grill.

There's another reason Stewart is tightening her food budget for this year's party. He was fired from his technical post on January 19.

“I don't want to be a Debbie Downer, but the truth is the truth,” he said. “The price of beef is high. I can afford more hot dogs and buns and I'm sure I won't lose a few friends. At least I hope not.

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While shoppers are still paying more for their groceries amid stubborn food inflation, the good news is that the pace of those price increases at the grocery store has moderated over the past year.

As of December, Grocery prices increased by 1.3%. In the previous 12 months, but down from the 11.8% increase for 2022.

Some big-ticket game-day meals cost less than they did a year ago, but many popular snack items and drinks for viewing day festivities are more expensive, a new Wells Fargo Super Bowl food cost report said Thursday.

“There are some bargains, like chicken wings and shrimp, that will provide some price relief for their spread,” Michael Swanson, chief agricultural economist at Wells Fargo, told CNN in an interview.

According to the report, a pound of fresh chicken wings fell 5% to an average of $3.26 in January 2024. A pound of frozen wings averaged $3.17 in January, or down 11% from a year ago.

“The price of chicken wings went through the roof Two years ago. We're now seeing a pullback in those prices,” Swanson said, noting that the cost of feed, transportation and other supply chain inputs has fallen.

But watch out for other meats. Beef and beef prices are higher than last year. Sirloin steak was up 2.3%, while ground beef was up nearly 12% in January from a year ago.

“Beef is in its own cycle right now,” Swanson said, adding that industry-related issues such as record low cattle numbers are driving up beef prices at the store.

The report says the shrimp is a cause for celebration. Average store prices fell 6.4% per pound from last January, the report said, citing strong global supply.

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Brand-name chips and ready-made dips are more expensive, Swanson said. Price of tortilla chips That's up 6% from a year ago, while potato chips are up 5% from a year ago (in December).

And in beverages, canned soft drinks outnumber bottled versions. The price of soft drinks in a 12-ounce can rose 4.8% year-on-year, driven by higher aluminum prices among other factors, while the same soft drink in a 2-liter bottle fell 0.8% from a year ago (based on December data).

This year marks the 26th year San Francisco resident Amy Larsen and her husband have hosted a Super Bowl party.

“Every year the Super Bowl is my excuse to make him food, especially hot wings,” she said. “I can't stand them, so one day a year I make them for him.”

His game-day meal includes vegetarian cauliflower hot wings, chili, and barbecue Pulled pork sliders, seven-layer dip with tortilla chips (including a vegetarian version), freshly baked desserts, “and many libations,” he told CNN in an interview.

Over the years, Larson has done a few tricks to manage her Super Bowl food budget.

Amy Larson

Amy Larson's Super Bowl spread last year.

“I comparison shop a week or two before I start. I buy things from the international aisle (sometimes cheaper), and I make things from scratch as much as possible,” he said.

Pulled pork sliders are another staple on his buffet. “The cost of meat and pork here in the Bay Area is very high,” he said.

Larson bought a small freezer for her condo during the pandemic. “Throughout the year if I see a good deal on something, say a pork loin that's perfect for pulled pork, I grab it and put it in the freezer,” Larson said. “So when something like the Super Bowl comes up, I have a bacon butty ready, and it's cheap because I bought it on sale.”

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While he's waiting to order his steaks, Stewart said he's already bought all the sides he'll be serving, including chips, salsa, sour cream and potatoes for his baked potatoes. He also recommends that guests bring an appetizer if they wish, and he has a BYOB policy.

“I usually buy spirits and other drinks, but I'm not sure about that because of the high cost,” Stewart said. “Normally I spend $300 to $500 on food and drinks. This year it will be less. I really don't want to go over $250.

– CNN's Alicia Wallace contributed to this story

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