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Inflation hits cookouts this Labor Day Weekend, how experts say you can save

Some Milwaukee grocery shoppers were going a little smaller with the Labor Day weekend purchases this year.
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Posted at 3:17 PM, Sep 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 19:15:42-04

MILWAUKEE — The Labor Day holiday weekend is here and for many, it means grilling out or hosting a backyard barbecue. But it can also be a hit to your wallet depending on what you are buying, experts say.

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Roberta Slaaen shops for a small gathering at her home at El Rey.

Some Milwaukee grocery shoppers were going a little smaller with the Labor Day weekend purchases this year.

"Just chicken and tortillas,” said shopper Roberta Slaaen.

"Rice, meat and corn,” said Daniele Ortega, who planned to only have a small number of people at her house.

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Nelson Lang, the store manager at El Rey Family Market on Oklahoma Avenue, stocks a shelf while a shopper and her grandson walk by.

The store manager at El Rey Family Market on Oklahoma Avenue, Nelson Lang, says some food prices are still on the rise, but he is seeing good signs.

"I do feel like things have stabilized, especially in meat prices. We haven't seen an increase in five or six months,” said Lang.

Although overall, the price you pay for meat is higher than what it was a year ago, according to the latest Consumer Price Index report. But some meats cost less than others. For example, pork prices saw the smallest increase, up 7.6 percent. Meat, poultry and fish are up around 10 percent. And processed meats like Wisconsin favorites the bratwurst and lunch meats saw the biggest jump, up 15 percent.

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The produce department at El Rey Family Market.

Milwaukee Area Technical College supply chain expert Dean Le Blanc says those pale in comparison to the price increases of processed or prepared foods.

"With processed foods, because it goes through several steps. Each company is taking additional profits along the way, and so when it gets to the consumer, hence we have a 40 percent price increase,” said Le Blanc.

But he says the pandemic is not the main cause of this inflation.

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Roberta Slaaen walks an aisle looking to items at El Rey.

"We've seen a lot of variables that have really contributed to the high inflation in terms of food prices. First and foremost, the weather. A lot of people don't know, but that the south and the west of the U.S. have actually experienced drought conditions, and this is certainly having an impact on our commodity prices,” said Le Blanc.

Le Blanc also says costs are up because the labor shortage is hitting food processing plants and the war in Ukraine. That is still greatly impacting food because Ukraine supplies a third of the world's wheat products.

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Le Blanc says people who want to save at the grocery store, especially this Labor Day weekend, should forego any brand loyalty. They can save between 30 to 40 percent on their grocery bill by buying generic. But shopper Roberta Slaaen says she needs certain items so she just has to pay.

“Just learn to stretch your dollar out I guess,” said Slaaen. “Just watch for the sales.”

Some other money-saving tips according to La Blanc: consider buying in bulk which can even mean joining a warehouse store; check out your local restaurants, if you are buying prepackaged foods it might be cheaper to buy a meal from a restaurant instead; and utilize the cash back option on your credit cards just pay that off every month.

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