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Searing hot inflation could shift Canada Day BBQs to ‘hotdogs instead of steaks’

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The Canada Day long weekend is the perfect time for burgers on the grill, cold drinks and time with family and friends.

Yet a backyard barbecue comes with a bigger price tag this year.

Food prices soared 9.7 per cent in May compared with a year ago as inflation hit its highest level in nearly 40 years.

Prices for many barbecue favourites like steaks and veggies have increased even more, which will make entertaining with family and friends this weekend costlier.

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Using prices gathered by Statistics Canada, the cost of hosting a Canada Day barbecue with eight adults and eight children today would cost $302.04 — more than 17 per cent higher than in 2021, when the bill came to $257.27.

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The higher prices could prompt a shift in shopping and consumption habits as people look to save money at the grocery store.

“Prices are going up much faster than we’ve been accustomed to for the past four decades,” said Sal Guatieri, a senior economist at BMO Financial Group.

“People may start to switch to cheaper items, especially when it comes to food. They may substitute chicken for steak to save money, for example.”

Travelling over the long weekend will take an even bigger bite out of budgets. The cost of filling up one tank of gas and spending a night in a hotel room has risen to about $317 from about $220 a year ago — nearly 44 per cent higher.

Still, higher costs are not expected to deter Canadians from gathering and celebrating this Canada Day.

“The pent up demand to socialize and get out and have barbecues this summer will outweigh the higher costs,” Guatieri said.

“But once households have exhausted some of their savings and the pent up demand has waned, we could start to see a bigger change in behaviour.”

Despite skyrocketing costs, Canadians are better off this year compared to last year, University of Toronto economics professor Angelo Melino said.

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“More Canadians are working and they’re working more hours,” he said. “The nation’s GDP, the amount of goods and services that we’re producing, has gone up and consumption has gone up pretty dramatically.”

While some higher costs could encourage Canadians to buy cheaper alternatives at the grocery, the prices for some backyard barbecue staples have remained stable.

“Alcohol and recreational cannabis are not up as much as other things so maybe beer is a cheap first of July beverage … but maybe (people will buy) hotdogs instead of steaks.”

Here is a look at the costs for items on a typical Canada Day barbecue menu.

(Food group percentages are the average price increase in May compared with one year ago, based on Statistics Canada inflation data. Additional details of a specific item’s price are average estimates from April 2021 and April 2022, the most recent month for which the price breakdown is available, and are not statistically comparable. Costs are the estimated cost of grocery shopping for a barbecue with 16 people.)

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Beef: 11.2 per cent

The cost of a kilogram of striploin steak was $22.87 in April 2021. For a barbecue with eight adults, each consuming a roughly half-kilogram steak, the cost would be $91.48. A year later, the cost was $28.80 per kilogram for a total bill of $115.20.

Chicken: 7.9 per cent

In April 2021, chicken breasts cost $12.58 per kilogram. Two kilograms to share at the barbecue would cost $25.16. Today, with a price of $15.32 per kilogram, the cost would be $30.64.

Hotdogs, sausages: 9.9 per cent

In April 2021, about 400 grams of wieners cost $3.76, or about $7.52 for 800 grams (about two packages). In April 2022, the cost increased to $4.09 for 400 grams, or $8.18 for 800 grams.

Bread, rolls and buns: 11.1 per cent

White bread increased to $3.37 for 675 grams in April 2022 compared with $3.03 in April 2021.

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Vegetables: 10.2 per cent, fresh fruit: 11.3 per cent

A kilogram of tomatoes increased to $4.21 from $3.70, a kilogram of potatoes went down to $4.18 from $4.22,a kilogram of onions rose to $5.28 from $4.14 and romaine lettuce rose to $3.58 from $2.63. The price of a cantaloupe rose to $3.28 in April from $2.82 a year before. The cost of one avocado rose to $2.35 in April from $1.76 a year before.

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Ice cream: 4.1 per cent

A litre of ice cream that cost about $4.50 in 2021, or $9 for two litres, would now cost about $4.70 or $9.40 for two litres.

Edible fats, oils: 30 per cent, Condiments, spices and vinegars: 20.6 per cent

A litre of ketchup rose to $4.07 from $3.32, mayonnaise rose to $5.93 from $4.55 and vegetable oil increased to $10.83 for three litres, up from $6.48 a year before.

Beer: 4.8 per cent

A 24-pack of beer that cost $47.50 a year ago would cost about $49.50 today.

Wine: 4.7 per cent

A $20 bottle of wine a year ago would cost a little under $21 today, or $40 for two bottles compared with $42 today.

The total cost of hosting a Canada Day barbecue in 2021 would have been about $257.31. Today the same barbecue would cost $302.00 — more than 17 per cent higher.

For those travelling this Canada Day weekend, inflation will hit even harder.

Traveller accommodation: 40.2 per cent

Hotel rooms have gone up from about $141 a year ago to about $200 in May.

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Gasoline: 48 per cent

Gasoline prices in Canada in May 2021 were $1.32 a litre. In May 2022, prices across Canada hit an average $1.95 a litre. The cost to fill up a 60 litre gas tank rose from $79.20 each in 2021 to $117 each in 2021.

For a family travelling this Canada Day and filling up one tank of gas and spending one night in a hotel room, the cost has risen from about $220.20 to $317 — nearly 44 per cent higher.

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