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Your guide to a pocket-friendly Super Bowl tailgate

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

More than a hundred million people in the United States are expected to watch the Super Bowl tomorrow. Some will watch for the football, some for the commercials, some for the halftime show, some to look for Taylor Swift in the stands. Hint, look for BJ Leiderman, who does our theme music. She's probably sitting next to him. It is a safe bet everyone will reach for chips and dips or something. So here's NPR's chief economics correspondent Scott Horsley with this year's food tab.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: When it comes to Super Bowl snacking, there is a definite home-field advantage. Grocery prices have risen much more slowly than restaurant prices over the last year, so it's no wonder most people will watch the game at home or maybe a friend's house. A lot of them will still order takeout, though, and much of the time that means pizza and possibly a side order of chicken wings.

MARC SCHECHTER: That is far and away our biggest sales day of the year every single year.

HORSLEY: Marc Schechter is the owner of Square Pie Guys pizza in San Francisco, home of the 49ers. He expects to go through a couple thousand pounds of mozzarella cheese this weekend and a whole lot of chicken wings. He and his crew started battering wings on Thursday, but their planning began months earlier.

SCHECHTER: We start talking to our meat vendor kind of over the summer, and ask them to freeze pallets of wings, or at least pre-purchase for us at a certain agreed-upon price. We were trying very early on to lock in a lower price.

HORSLEY: Luckily for Schechter, and other chicken fans, wings are plentiful, and prices are down for the second year in a row. Beef prices, on the other hand, are still climbing, so Chiefs fans may have to pay more for a Kansas City strip or barbecued brisket. Nevertheless, Gates Bar-B-Q in Kansas City expects to do nearly double its normal takeout business this weekend.

ARZELIA GATES: 'Cause there's so many people that are coming in from out of town for friends and family. They watch the game. The ones that we capture are the ones that having those big-screen TV and throwing all the parties, so we're very much a part of that.

HORSLEY: Arzelia Gates' family has been serving hickory-smoked barbecue in Kansas City for almost eight decades.

GATES: We use three stages, so it gives you the tenderness of the meat. It gives you the juiciness from the grease that falls from one stage to the next. And then we get that smoky flavor throughout.

HORSLEY: Whether ordering in or cooking at home, the average Super Bowl fan is expected to spend about $43 on food and drinks this Sunday. That's 23% more than last year. Joan Driggs, who's with the market research firm Circana, says the Super Bowl is one of those occasions when you want to leave it all on the field, or at least on the dinner table.

JOAN DRIGGS: You're not going to hold back. It's a celebration. You're going to do what you want to do. Maybe it's your tradition. Maybe you're adding a little something to the mix to spice it up. But people are going to go all-in.

HORSLEY: And while grocery prices are still high, they haven't gone up much in the last year, just 1.3% overall. Some foods have actually gotten cheaper. Economist Michael Swanson, who's with Wells Fargo, says shrimp, like chicken wings, is a relative bargain this year.

MICHAEL SWANSON: Some people are getting lucky this year. The people that love shrimp are lucky. And the guys just have to have that burger, they're going to pay a little bit more.

HORSLEY: Guacamole and beer prices have stayed pretty flat over the last year. This is one case where flat and beer is actually a good thing. But prices are still climbing for things like chips and dip - the kind of packaged goods you find in the center of the supermarket. Swanson says, since the beginning of the pandemic, soda pop has seen some of the biggest price increases, which is partly the result of costly aluminum cans.

SWANSON: If you want to have the convenience of a 12-ounce aluminum can, you're going to pay a real premium for it. You might want to think about those two-liter bottles with some ice and some cups. They really save you a lot of money.

HORSLEY: While savvy shoppers may try to save on some items, Swanson expects a lot of people to splurge this Super Bowl. They've got money in their pockets since wages have risen faster than food prices this past year, and there are 2.9 million more jobs.

SWANSON: For all the issues that we have - and they're real issues - people have to appreciate the fact that it's going to be a blowout Super Bowl because more people employed, more money than ever had before. And most people, when they have a job, they're going to spend money.

HORSLEY: So whether you're serving up pizza and wings like Marc Schechter, ribs and brisket like Arzelia Gates, or just ripping open a bag of chips in front of the television, you might think of this as a super opportunity to eat, drink and celebrate, no matter which team you're rooting for.

SCHECHTER: Everyone have fun, basically. And go Niners.

GATES: Go Chiefs and be a prosperous weekend for us all.

HORSLEY: Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.