How Inflation Will Change Tailgating Season

You might need to pack up the car a little differently on your way to the game this season.

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Inflation is currently affecting everything from your Doritos to your farm produce, and now, it’s becoming clear that even this year’s autumn tailgating, that most sacred pregame pastime, will not be immune to the effects of inflation, according to a recently released Wells Fargo study.

The costs of tailgating transportation, food, and drinks are all going to have to be evaluated and potentially swapped for more cost-effective alternatives. However, there’s no doubt that true sports fans will persevere no matter what in support of their team (and the chance to get a little wild before each game).

How will tailgate food be affected by inflation?

Hosting the perfect tailgate is dependent upon the curation of an excellent menu, but judging by the price increases on some typical cookout fare, you might want to get a little nontraditional this season. The Wells Fargo study indicates that some of the pregame classics like ground beef and chicken have seen steep price increases over the past year—9.7% and 17.6%, respectively.

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The only current exception here is the price of chicken wings, which reached its lowest point in years in July and August. Whether or not that will last as we head into the high demand of football season is another story. Take our advice and grab some wings while you can.

Tailgaters may also want to stock up on hot dogs and a rack of ribs, as those items only saw a 5.3% and 1.6% increase since 2021. Other tailgate staples that might hit wallets hard include pickles and relishe,s which saw a 15.8% increase; rolls and buns, which increased 13.9%; and general condiments, which went up 11.3%. Instead of a platter of meats and cheeses (which also increased 14.9%), you can opt for a fruit and vegetable board, since those items only rose 9% and 7.3%. Besides, doesn’t a pregame Honeycrisp sound refreshing?

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Save on food by... drinking more?

An even better solution to rising tailgate food costs? Less food, more drinking. Skip the outdoor buffet and focus on what you pack into those beverage coolers.

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Aside from the price of the meat and snacks themselves, Wells Fargo economists note that actually cooking these items—that is, using propane or other fuel—will contribute to the overall cost. They recommend opting for takeout if you don’t want the heftier bill associated with grilling out.

Yes, beer has seen some increases due to inflation, but it has risen only by single-digit percentages. The same goes for wine and liquor, which only increased 2.3% and 1.9%. Of course, people should always drink responsibly and stay hydrated. And since inflation will also be a blow to gas prices on into the fall, you might just be all the more incentivized to limit your beverages to offset the costs.

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Skip the game

Of course, you can go all-out with your tailgating if you just take away another major cost: entrance to the game itself. It’s a suggestion, relax. 

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As someone who skipped games and only attended tailgates in college, the thought of missing out on freezing my ass off in the stands doesn’t exactly bum me out. However, I understand that true fans will want to attend the game no matter the weather or the cost. In that case, here’s what’s up.

Gas prices are up 25% since last August, and if you’re hitting an away game, plane tickets are going to run you 28% more than last year. Consider lugging all your tailgate gear onto mass transit, since that will be the most cost effective option. As for actually attending the game, the cost for a family of four to attend an NFL game has risen every year since 2006, with the average cost sitting at $568.18 in 2021.

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But take heart, football fans, because there’s one essential that inflation hasn’t raised the price on: televisions. In fact, the cost to upgrade your TV has decreased almost 15% since July of 2021, and cable/satellite prices have only gone up a modest 3.6%.

So, while it might not be as exciting as sitting so close to the sidelines that you can smell the sweat, watching the game on a big flatscreen TV while you enjoy some discount chicken wings might be more satisfying for both your stomach and wallet. Tailgating season might not look and feel exactly the same as it once did, but not much does in a post-pandemic world. As long as you’re surrounded by good food, good company, and a strong sense of team spirit, the rest is just minor details.

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