Cost of Thanksgiving dinner drops slightly

Published 8:54am Friday, November 15, 2013

With Thanksgiving now less than two weeks away, area families will be heading to the grocery stores in the coming days to stock up on items needed for a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner.

And, when they head to the grocery store, they might be surprised to find many of the required items for the meal are a little less expensive than last year.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 28th annual informal price survey of classic items the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.04, a 44-cent price decrease from last year’s average of $49.48.

“The cost of this year’s meal, at less than $5 per serving, remains an excellent value for consumers,” AFBF President Bob Stallman, a rice and cattle producer from Texas, said.

The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10. There is also plenty for leftovers.

The big ticket item — a 16-pound turkey — came in at $21.76 this year. That was roughly $1.36 per pound, a decrease of about 3 cents per pound, or a total of 47 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2012. The whole bird was the biggest contributor to the final total, showing the largest price decrease compared to last year.

“This year we can be thankful that Thanksgiving Dinner, a special meal many of us look forward to all year, will not take a bigger bite out of our wallets,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist. “Most Americans will pay about the same as last year at the grocery store for a turkey and all the trimmings. Slightly higher turkey production for much of the year coupled with an increase in birds in cold storage may be responsible for the moderate price decrease our shoppers reported,” he said.

Strategic shoppers may pay even less for frozen tom turkey compared to AFBF’s 167 volunteer shoppers who checked prices at grocery stores in 34 states.

“Special sales and promotions on turkey and other holiday food items will continue right up to Thanksgiving,” Anderson said. “If you have the patience to wait until the last minute to buy a turkey you might come home with an exceptional bargain,” he said.

In addition to the turkey, other items that declined in price included a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, $2.18; one pound of green peas, $1.54; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.67; fresh cranberries, $2.42; a half pint of whipping cream, $1.85; and two nine-inch pie shells, $2.49.

Items that showed a moderate price increase from last year included three pounds of sweet potatoes, $3.36; one gallon of whole milk, $3.66; and a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $3.10.

In addition, a combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk and butter) increased to $3.20. A one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery increased to 81 cents.

The average cost of the dinner has remained around $49 since 2011. Further, Anderson noted that despite retail price increases during the last year or so, American consumers have enjoyed relatively stable food costs in general over the years, particularly when adjusted for inflation.

The AFBF survey was first conducted in 1986. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation. Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.

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