How Much Does Thanksgiving Dinner Cost


The retail cost of menu items for a clas­sic Thanks­giv­ing din­ner includ­ing turkey, stuff­ing, cran­ber­ries, pump­kin pie and all the basic trim­mings increased less than 1 per­cent this year, accord­ing to the Amer­i­can Farm Bureau Federation.

AFBF’s 27th annual infor­mal price sur­vey of clas­sic items found on the Thanks­giv­ing Day din­ner table indi­cates the aver­age cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.48, a 28-cent price increase from last year’s aver­age of $49.20.

At just under $5 per per­son, the cost of this year’s meal remains a bar­gain,” said AFBF Pres­i­dent Bob Stall­man, a rice and cat­tle pro­ducer from Texas. “Our diverse farm and ranch fam­i­lies are hon­ored to pro­duce the food from our nation’s land for fam­ily Thanks­giv­ing cel­e­bra­tions. Dur­ing this hol­i­day sea­son, I am encour­ag­ing farm­ers and ranch­ers to reach out to con­sumers in-person or through social media, to answer ques­tions about the food that they grow or the live­stock and poul­try they raise.”

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 $22.23 this year. That was roughly $1.39 per pound, an increase of about 4 cents per pound, or a total of 66 cents per whole turkey, com­pared to 2011. The whole bird was the biggest con­trib­u­tor to the final total, show­ing the largest price increase com­pared to last year.

Thanks­giv­ing Din­ner is a spe­cial meal that peo­ple look for­ward to all year,” 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. A slight increase in demand for turkey is respon­si­ble for the mod­er­ate price increase our shop­pers reported for the bird,” he said.

Savvy shop­pers may pay even less for frozen tom turkey com­pared to AFBF’s 155 vol­un­teer shop­pers who checked prices at gro­cery stores in 35 states.

Turkeys may still be fea­tured in spe­cial sales and pro­mo­tions close to Thanks­giv­ing,” Ander­son explained. “Any­one with the patience to wait until the last minute to buy a turkey for Thanks­giv­ing could be rewarded with an excep­tional bar­gain,” he said.

In addi­tion to the turkey, a com­bined group of mis­cel­la­neous items, includ­ing cof­fee and ingre­di­ents nec­es­sary to pre­pare the meal (onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evap­o­rated milk and but­ter) increased in price, to $3.18. A dozen brown-n-serve rolls also increased slightly this year, up 3 cents to $2.33.

Items that showed a price decrease from last year were: a half pint of whip­ping cream, $1.83, down 13 cents; a 14-ounce pack­age of cubed bread stuff­ing, $2.77, down 11 cents; three pounds of sweet pota­toes, $3.15, down 11 cents; one gal­lon of whole milk, $3.59, down 7 cents; fresh cran­ber­ries, $2.45, down 3 cents; one pound of green peas, $1.66, down 2 cents; a 30-ounce can of pump­kin pie mix and two nine-inch pie shells, $5.53, down 2 cents.

A one-pound rel­ish tray of car­rots and cel­ery remained the same at 76 cents. Ander­son noted that despite retail price increases dur­ing the last year or so, Amer­i­can con­sumers have enjoyed rel­a­tively sta­ble food costs over the years, par­tic­u­larly when adjusted for inflation.

The slight per­cent­age increase in the national aver­age cost reported this year by Farm Bureau for a clas­sic Thanks­giv­ing din­ner tracks closely with the organization’s 2012 quar­terly mar­ket­bas­ket sur­veys and the government’s Con­sumer Price Index for food (avail­able online at http://data.bls.gov/).

Farm Bureau vol­un­teer shop­pers are asked to look for the best pos­si­ble prices, with­out tak­ing advan­tage of spe­cial pro­mo­tional coupons or pur­chase deals, such as spend­ing $50 and receiv­ing a free turkey. Shop­pers with an eye for bar­gains in all areas of the coun­try should be able to pur­chase indi­vid­ual menu items at prices com­pa­ra­ble to the Farm Bureau sur­vey aver­ages. Another option for busy fam­i­lies with­out a lot of time to cook is ready-to-eat Thanks­giv­ing meals for up to 10 peo­ple, with all the trim­mings, which are avail­able at many super­mar­kets and take-out restau­rants for around $50 to $75.

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.

Yearly Aver­ages
1986 – $28.74
1987 – $24.51
1988 – $26.61
1989 – $24.70
1990 – $28.85
1991 – $25.95
1992 – $26.39
1993 – $27.49
1994 – $28.40
1995 – $29.64
1996 – $31.66
1997 – $31.75
1998 – $33.09
1999 – $33.83
2000 – $32.37
2001 – $35.04
2002 – $34.56
2003 – $36.28
2004 – $35.68
2005 – $36.78
2006 – $38.10
2007 – $42.26
2008 – $44.61
2009 – $42.91
2010 – $43.47
2011 – $49.20
2012 – $49.48


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