Leftover-Free Labor Day

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Leftover-Free Labor Day
Labor Day is the perfect holiday to throw a barbecue bash, but stocking up on food can quickly eat up your budget. Luckily, there are a few ways you can throw a barbecue without your savings going up in smoke.

First, it's important to make sure you know how many people are coming. Counting your RSVPs will help make sure you don't waste money on food that won't be eaten.

Once you know who's coming, think about which foods will be more popular, but don't feel pressured to buy everything. Just stick to the rule of two, like hotdogs and hamburgers for proteins or chips and pasta for sides.

A good rule of thumb is to provide about 1 pound of food per person. That works out to roughly 6 ounces of meat, 6 ounces of sides and 4 ounces of dessert. Measuring out serving sizes will help tighten the belt on your expenses.

Finally, if you need a little extra help with your cookout calculations, go online to BBQPlanner.com. Simply enter how many adults and children are coming, and what their favorite foods are. You'll immediately get a menu and budget tailored just for you.

As you get ready for your Labor Day cookout, remember these tips. You'll find that with a little preparation, you can throw a great party without grilling your budget.

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Groceries: Where is your food budget seeing the biggest hit?
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Leftover-Free Labor Day -- Savings Experiment
We'll look at some of our list of 14 of the biggest grocery price increases this year, using average prices throughout the U.S., between December 2006 and December 2007. What's up the most? Click along and see.
Ground beef has stayed cheap (though some critics would say, at a terrible price, given the recent videos of tortured cows that have shocked the nation). Up only 3.7% nationwide, it's still what's for dinner.
My kids love bananas, and many have called bananas the perfect food. They'd be a little more perfect if they were less expensive; up 5.2% this year.
Strawberries are feeling the weight of the many miles they must travel during the winter; prices are up 5.9%, on average, in the U.S. this year.
Bacon may make everything taste better, but it's not going to leave a good taste in your mouth when you pay 6.7% more than you did, this time, last year.
Perhaps due to the continued upswing in local wineries, table wine hasn't gone up in price much this year compared to many other groceries. But still, at 8%, it's higher than most American's raises. Will it be the thing to leave off *your* list?
That American apple pie will be quite a bit more pricey this year, and apples for the teacher will put your kids back 9% more -- will you give them a raise in their allowance, to match?
Beef may be America's traditional meat choice, but chicken is far more ubiquitous on lunch trays everywhere I eat. The favorite white meat of my children is 10% more expensive this year, than last.
Paradoxically, bread is only up about 13%, whereas flour has increased nearly twice that much. Could it be that flour has decreased as a percentage of the makeup of bread, or is it just random market forces? Either way, consumers are encouraged to buy their bread in already-baked form this year, though it will set you back 12% more than in late 2006.
George Bush the elder may not have liked it much, but it's extremely good for your body, that broccoli. Not so good for your wallet, with prices going up 13.4% between 2006 and 2007.
You may not see coffee as a vital part of your grocery shopping experience, but *I* do, and my budget has taken quite a hit this year. Coffee prices are up 18% between December 2006 and December 2007.
If anything is the stuff of life in my house, it's flour. And this year, flour costs quite a bit more than it did last year, up 25%.
Milk is a commodity whose price changes almost as much as gas, riding up and down based on a complicated calculation made by the USDA Federal Milk Marketing Office. You learn something new every day! And today, you should also know that milk's expensive, up nearly 29% year-over-year.
Tomatoes, which in winter must be shipped long distances to the average U.S. market, were up big between December 2006 and December 2007; the average tomato this winter is about $1.00.
In the past 12 months, eggs have gone up 36% in price, on average, throughout the U.S.; a dozen eggs in a local market here in Portland is usually over $2.00 today.
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