Costly cookouts

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A recent study by the Food Marketing Institute found that about a third more shoppers are limiting themselves to frozen or boxed foods instead of fresh items this year, while nearly half said they bought fewer foods overall.

But 55-year-old Cherise Tilly, who lives with her mother in Cincinnati, said she still buys more-expensive items like steak, ribs or chicken for grilling along with relatively cheaper meats like hamburgers and hot dogs.

“My mother keeps worrying and says we need to cut back more, but getting together with friends to eat is one of the pleasures in life,” Ms. Tilly said while shopping at a suburban Cincinnati Kroger store.

Other shoppers may be more reluctant to indulge, and those paying close attention to prices in the aisles may worry they are being gouged by grocers, said National Retail Federation spokesman Scott Krugman.

“Consumers don’t care why prices are increasing, they just want something to be done about it,” Mr. Krugman said. “What they don’t realize is how razor-thin profit margins are in terms of price increases on grocers as well.”

While beef prices have been high, chicken and pork prices are expected to rise as producers are feeling the brunt of higher costs for feed and fuel.

Scott Faber, a lobbyist for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which has been pushing Congress to increase ethanol research funding, said prices for meat will continue to rise in the next couple of years. Newly enacted federal ethanol mandates will drive the cost of corn higher, he said.

“We are just in the beginning of a period of significantly higher prices, and American families will continue to feel that impact as the cost for basic staples like milk, meat and eggs will grow dramatically,” Mr. Faber said. “This holiday weekend surely reflects that.”

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