Enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends is a priority for many Americans, but paying attention to how the meal will impact the budget is also important.
Arkansas Farm Bureau’s 36th annual survey indicates the average cost of this year’s classic Thanksgiving feast for 10 is $53.31 or less than $6 per person. This is a $6.41 or 14 percent increase from last year’s average of $46.90.
The centerpiece on most Thanksgiving tables – the turkey – costs more than last year, at $23.99 for a 16-pound bird. That’s roughly $1.50 per pound, up 24 percent from last year, but there are several mitigating factors.
Farm Bureau “volunteer shoppers” checked prices Oct. 26 to Nov. 8, about two weeks before most grocery store chains began featuring whole frozen turkeys at sharply lower prices. Although the survey timeline is consistent with past AFBF Thanksgiving surveys, 2021 brought some unique differences. According to USDA Agricultural Marketing Service data, grocery stores began advertising lower feature prices later than usual this year. Also, the average per-pound feature price for whole frozen turkeys was $1.07 the week of Nov. 5-11 and 88 cents the week of Nov. 12-18, a decline of 18 percent in just one week. This means consumers who have not yet purchased a turkey should be able to find one at a lower cost than the Farm Bureau average.
“Several factors contributed to the increase in average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner,” said AFBF Senior Economist Veronica Nigh. “These include dramatic disruptions to the U.S. economy and supply chains over the last 20 months; inflationary pressure throughout the economy; difficulty in predicting demand during the COVID-19 pandemic and high global demand for food, particularly meat,” she explained. Further, “The trend of consumers cooking and eating at home more often due to the pandemic led to increased supermarket demand and higher retail food prices in 2020 and 2021, compared to pre-pandemic prices in 2019.”
The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.
“Taking turkey out of the basket of foods reveals a 6.6 percent price increase compared to last year, which tracks closely with the Consumer Price Index for food and general inflation across the economy,” said Nigh.
In recognition of changes in Thanksgiving dinner traditions, the Farm Bureau price survey also includes ham, Russet potatoes and frozen green beans, in an expanded holiday menu. Adding these foods to the classic Thanksgiving menu increased the overall cost by $15.41, to $68.72. This updated basket of foods also increased in price (up 14 percent) compared to 2020.
This year’s national average cost was calculated using 218 surveys completed with pricing data from all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers checked prices in person and online using grocery store apps and websites. They looked for the best possible prices without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals.
16-pound turkey: $23.99 or approximately $1.50 per pound (up 24 percent)
2 frozen pie crusts: $2.91 (up 20 percent)
30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix: $3.64 (up 7 percent)
Half pint of whipping cream: $1.78 (up 2 percent)
1 dozen dinner rolls: $3.05 (up 15 percent)
12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries: $2.98 (up 11 percent)
1 gallon of whole milk: $3.30 (up 7 percent)
1 pound of frozen peas: $1.54 (up 6 percent)
3 pounds of sweet potatoes: $3.56 (up 4 percent)
1-pound veggie tray (carrots & celery): 82 cents (up 12 percent)
Misc. ingredients to prepare the meal: $3.45 (up 12 percent)
14-ounce bag of cubed stuffing mix: $2.29 (down 19 percent)