About 61 million Americans plan to attend a Super Bowl party this weekend to watch the New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams.
Hosting one of these parties can be expensive: Last year, LendEDU found that people spent, on average, just over $200. The National Retail Federation estimates this year American adults will spend an average of $81.30 per person on the Super Bowl, though that figure does not break out how much people will spend strictly on food.
Still, that felt like a lot, so I set out to determine whether I could buy food and drinks for 12 people for $50.
Because the grocery stores around me do not sell alcohol, I've omitted beer from my calculations. If you are springing for beer at your party, make sure to budget about $20 for a case.
Once I finalized the menu — Buffalo chicken wings, guacamole, salsa, tortilla chips, pretzels, pigs in a blanket and pop [Editor's note: She means soda] — I took my shopping list to three popular national grocery chains: Aldi, Trader Joe's and Walmart. For the purposes of my test, I assumed that I would already have on hand pantry staples like flour and oil, along with spices such as salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.
Even in an expensive metro area like New York City, I found I was indeed able to score my snacks and stay roughly on budget. At one place, I even had some money left over for beer.
Below, I've ranked my shopping experiences in order from the most to the least expensive grocery bill.
It might not be the cheapest place to shop but I'm constantly impressed at all the specialty items Trader Joe's offers. The store sells a 16-fluid-ounce bottle of organic sriracha ranch dressing for just $2.99, for example, according to local New York City-area prices analyzed by CNBC using Basket.
Trader Joe's sells fresh, unseasoned chicken wings for $2.99 per pound, according to a local store contacted by CNBC. Experts recommend planning for about four to six wings per person so, for 12 people, that's roughly 72 wings. Trader Joe's also has a 32-ounce package of frozen organic chicken wings for $6.99, but the fresh option was cheaper.
If you're shopping at Trader Joe's for your Super Bowl party, you will also have plenty of options when it comes to flavors, so this might be your pick if you want to prioritize quality and taste. If you are trying to keep costs low, though, you might want to look elsewhere.
Aldi has a lot of game day staples on sale this week, so make you sure check out your local store's weekly ad. For example, a package of mini cocktail sausages (for the Pigs in a Blanket) are on sale for $2.49 and celery is just $1.15 each. Both prices beat those of Walmart.
The store really shines when it comes to the main ingredient in guacamole: avocados. Experts say to budget about half an avocado per person but, since it's the Super Bowl and people will be snacking for several hours, I opted for eight avocados total. Aldi's avocados are on sale this week for 49 cents each, which is roughly half the cost at Walmart (88 cents). That's an amazing buy!
If you are planning to serve guacamole at your party, know that making it from scratch is usually much cheaper — about half the cost, in fact. I crunched the numbers and the cost comes out to only 15 cents per ounce at Aldi, so that's a real money-saver if you're serving a crowd.
Aldi's offers a kind of middle ground where you can generally find quality stuff at low prices. Keep in mind that you may be able to save more even more if you check out the store's weekly sale prices before you go shopping.
Note: Aldi U.S. and Trader Joe's are independently operated companies with distinct but once-related corporate parents. It could be said that Aldi and Trader Joe's are "estranged cousins."
The main price differential between Aldi and Walmart comes down to the chicken wings. Walmart sells a 4-pound bag of frozen wing sections for $5. Aldi can't beat that, though it does have a family pack of fresh chicken wings, averaging about 4.5 pounds each, on sale for $1.99 per pound.
Walmart's Great Value brand also offers a lot of bang for your buck, with tortilla chips and pretzels selling for 92 cents and 60 cents, respectively. The brand's buttermilk ranch dressing (for dipping carrots and celery) beat out Trader Joe's and Aldi at just 92 cents for a 16-ounce bottle.
And Walmart had name brand items on sale, including a 12-pack of Pepsi for $3.48.
Overall, I think Walmart is a real option for anyone on a tight budget. Being able to spend less than $4 per person for a wide range of game day snacks is a great value.
This chart breaks down the prices I found for all of the items in my Super Bowl snack recipes at the three different stores I tried.
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