Wings/shrimp/booze: 2024 Super Bowl party hosts budget carefully

Parija Kavilanz, CNN | 2/1/2024, 9:49 a.m.
Super Bowl is no joke for Tod Steward. He’s hosted a viewing party at his downtown Seattle condo for the …
Amy Larson's Super bowl spread last year. Mandatory Credit: Amy Larson

Super Bowl is no joke for Tod Steward. He’s hosted a viewing party at his downtown Seattle condo for the past 14 years. It’s become a tradition for him and his circle of friends.

Other than the game itself, it’s his steaks that get the loudest cheers on game day.

“The only time I use my grill that’s outside on my deck is for my Super Bowl party,” said Steward, in an interview with CNN. “My grill is done for the year after the party. My friends always tease me about it. One of them usually is the first one to arrive at the party. He cleans it and fires it up because he knows I haven’t used it the whole year.”

The steaks, which have become a party favorite, are prepped with a seasoning mix that he’s concocted. After a good rub, he puts the meat in the refrigerator overnight and on the grill when the game gets going.

Steward hasn’t bought his steaks, yet. He’s carefully tracking store prices for the meat at his local QFC supermarket and might have to make a decision two days before the Super Bowl on February 11.

“I haven’t told my invitees yet because they expect my steaks,” he said. “But because of the higher prices, I’m really thinking about getting hamburger meat, hot dogs and some chicken breasts instead, although that’s also expensive.”

There’s another reason Steward is tightening his food budget for this year’s party. He was just laid off from his tech job on January 19.

“I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but reality is reality,” he said. “Steak prices are high. I can much more afford hot dogs and buns, and I’m pretty sure I won’t lose some friends over it. At least I hope I don’t.”

What it’ll cost to throw a Super Bowl party

While shoppers are still paying more for their groceries amid stubborn food price 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 were up 1.3% over the previous 12 months, but down from the much steeper 11.8% increase for all of 2022.

For some big ticket game day dishes, it costs less to buy the ingredients than it did a year ago, but several other popular snack items and drinks for viewing day festivities are pricier, according to a new Wells Fargo Super Bowl Food Spending Report Thursday.

“There are some bargains, like chicken wings and shrimp that will give party hosts some price relief on 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 is down 5%, averaging $3.26 in January 2024 versus the same time a year ago. A pound of frozen wings is averaging $3.17, or down 11%, in January versus a year ago.

“Chicken wings prices went through the roof two years ago. we’re now seeing a stepping back down of those prices,” said Swanson, as cost of feed, transportation and other supply chain inputs have come down.

But watch out for other meats. Both steak and beef prices are up from last year. Sirloin steak is up 2.3%, while ground beef is up nearly 12% in January compared to a year ago.

“Beef is kind of on its own cycle right now,” Swanson said, adding that industry-specific issues such as record low cattle numbers are triggering elevated beef prices at the store.

Shrimp is a cause for celebration, according to the report. Store prices on average are down 6.4% per pound from last January, the report said, citing robust global supply.

Swanson said brand-name chips and ready-made dips are costing more. Tortilla chips prices are up 6% versus a year ago, while potato chips are up 5% from a year ago (in December).

And in beverages, canned soft drinks will cost more than the bottled versions. The report said the price for soft drinks in a 12-ounce can is up 4.8% from year, driven by higher aluminum prices among other factors, while the same soft drink in a 2-liter bottle is down 0.8% from a year ago (based on December data).

Tricks to manage the cost

This year is the 26th year that San Francisco resident Amy Larson and her husband are throwing their Super Bowl party.

“Super Bowl every year is my excuse to make him tailgating food, in particular hot wings,” she said. “I can’t stand them, so it’s the one day in the year that I make them for him.”

Her game day feast has also included vegan cauliflower hot wings, chili, barbecue pulled pork sliders, seven layer dip (including a vegan version) with tortilla chips, freshly baked desserts, “and many libations,” she said in an interview with CNN.

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

“I comparison shop starting a week or two in advance. I also buy items from the international aisle (which can sometimes be less expensive), and I make items from scratch as much as possible,” she said.

Pulled pork sliders are another staple in her buffet. “The cost of meat and pork is so high here in the Bay Area,” she said.

Larson bought a small freezer during the pandemic for her condo. “Throughout the year if I see a really good deal on something, say a pork butt which is perfect for pulled pork, I grab it and put it in the freezer,” Larson said. “So when something like the Super Bowl comes around, I have a pork butt ready to go and it’s affordable because I bought it on sale.”

While he waits to buy his steaks, Steward said he’s already purchased all the sides he’s serving, including chips, salsa, sour cream and potatoes for his baked potatoes. He also suggests that guests bring an appetizer if they want to, and he has a BYOB policy.

“I also usually buy spirits and other drinks but I’m not sure about that either because of the higher prices,” Steward said. “Usually I’d spend between $300 to $500 on food and drinks. This year it will be lower. I really don’t want to go over $250.”