Disclaimer: Memorial Day commemorates the lives lost by members of the military in service to the United States. While it’s often observed as the unofficial kickoff to summer, and while this article will be a fun look at the data behind costs for a picnic, it’s important that we acknowledge this upfront, and thank all those that have served. It’s because of their sacrifices that the rest of us are free and safe to enjoy spending time with friends and families this weekend.
This Monday, people across the country will be gathering to kick off their summers with friends, family, and neighbors they pretend to like. With inflation showing no sign of slowing down, this Memorial Day is shaping up to be the most expensive of all time. While costs for just about everything are up, I decided to take a hard look at some of the holiday’s most essential items to see how their prices stack up when compared to previous years. I looked at the cost of gas, hamburgers, and ice-cold beer. Spoiler alert: they’re all super expensive now.
Gas, Because You’ve Got to Get There
For Memorial Day this year, AAA estimates that 39.2 million people will travel, up significantly from 36.2 million in 2021. Among those traveling, the majority will drive 50 miles or more from their home. It’s no big secret that gas prices are at record highs and keep climbing. At the time of writing, the national average was $4.59 per gallon, but let’s be frank—you’re reading this in the future, and the price is probably even higher now.
So what does this mean for your cost to get to some of Aunt Betty’s strawberry pretzel salad? The average fuel economy of American-owned vehicles varies annually, but in general hovers around 25 miles per gallon. If we assume a 100-mile round trip, that’s 4 gallons of gas, which comes out to $18.36 just to get where you’re going. In comparison, at this time last year, gas was just $3.00 per gallon, or $12.00 for the same trip.
Find more statistics at Statista
Total cost increase: $6.36
Hamburger, Because You’ve Got to Eat
Are you grilling for guests? Or perhaps bringing your own meat to the barbecue because no one can afford to feed a full crowd anymore? Well, it’s going to cost you.
Prices for meat have surged during the pandemic, largely due to bottlenecks at major meat packing plants. According to the USDA and BLS, the average price for beef in April 2022 was $4.92 per pound, up between 16% to 20% from a year prior. For the average family of four, assuming two burgers each for Mom and Dad and one each for the kiddos, that 2 pounds of beef will run you $9.84. And that’s not to mention the price increases on everything else that makes a burger great; check out this awesome interactive graphic from Politico for a deep dive on burger inflation.
Total cost increase (beef only): $1.60
Beer, Because I Like It
Okay, is beer really essential to a great picnic? Of course not. But for me, there are few better indulgences than an ice cold Yuengling on a hot sunny day. The beer industry is one of the hardest hit by inflation, but not just for pandemic-related supply chain disruptions. The cost of brewing beer has sharply increased as a result of the current geopolitical situation. Ukraine is one of the top 5 producers of barley in the world, a grain essential for brewing the golden nectar.
Coupled with inflationary pressure from transport costs and shortages of aluminum cans, the CPI for beer increased by 3.7% in the first 3 months of 2022. In April alone the CPI for beer jumped by 5%, resulting in a per-case increase of $1.21, bringing the national average for a case of suds to over $28.00.
Determining the exact price increase for this one is tough, as alcohol prices vary widely from state to state depending on several factors like availability and tax structure. Using questionably scientific methods (calling the 5 beer distributors closest to my house in Pittsburgh), I found that the average cost for a 24 pack of Yuengling cans was just north of $26.00. Yuengling is a beer I buy frequently, and the price I typically have paid for the same case prior to recent price hikes was $24.00. Maybe it’s time to switch back to Natty Light.
Total cost increase: $2.00
Don’t Let Inflation Rain on Your Picnic
At the end of the day, for just these 3 picnic essentials, we’re looking at an additional $9.96 over last year’s Memorial Day picnic costs. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg; there are soft drinks, paper products, and so much more that also will be more expensive this year. The picnic will inevitably burn a hole in your pocket.
It’s certainly not ideal, but perhaps the additional costs will help us slow down and appreciate everything just a little bit more. Savor the burger. Sip the beer. Enjoy the company. With time and a little effort, inflation will pass. Don’t let life pass you by in the meantime.