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Thanksgiving meals expected to be cheaper this year

If you're cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, we have good news: Prices for holiday staples are actually less than this time a year ago.
Thanksgiving meals expected to be cheaper this year
Posted at 7:53 AM, Nov 15, 2023

The estimated cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people will be 4.5% lower than a year ago, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The AFBF’s analysis looks at the cost of Thanksgiving staples, such as turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk.

The AFBF said providing enough food for 10 people with plenty of leftovers would cost $61.17 this year, down from $64.05 last year, but up from $53.31 in 2021.

Many Thanksgiving staples are less expensive than a year ago. The largest decrease was for the price of whipping cream, which saw a 22.8% drop. After the cost of turkey rose 21% between 2021 and 2022, turkey prices have declined 5.6% in the last year. 

Other staples, such as stuffing mix, pie crusts, frozen peas and milk, are also cheaper. 

Americans should also have an easier time affording Thanksgiving meals, as average weekly earnings are up 3.2% in the last year, as of October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

But economists seem divided on the topic.

“We have recovered very nicely from the pandemic shock. I think more people are getting jobs, the labor market is doing well,” said Kishore Kulkarni, a professor of economics at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

“It seems like every day you hear about consumers commenting about how the prices in the grocery stores are higher, there’s fewer goods, and it really doesn’t look better than it did last year,” said Maclyn Clouse, a professor of finance at the University of Denver. “Consumers will remember last year, just how much of a big increase last year was. If things are close to last year, they’re still going to consider it to be very high-priced.”

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“Traditionally, the turkey is the most expensive item on the Thanksgiving dinner table,” said AFBF senior economist Veronica Nigh. “Turkey prices have fallen thanks to a sharp reduction in cases of avian influenza, which have allowed production to increase in time for the holiday.”

Here are the average prices of items, according to the Farm Bureau:

- 16-pound turkey: $27.35 or $1.71 per pound (down 5.6%)

- 14 ounces of cubed stuffing mix: $3.77 (down 2.8%) 

- 2 frozen pie crusts: $3.50 (down 4.9%)

- Half pint of whipping cream: $1.73 (down 22.8%)

- 1 pound of frozen peas: $1.88 (down 1.1%)

- 1 dozen dinner rolls: $3.84 (up 2.9%)

- Misc. ingredients to prepare the meal: $3.95 (down 4.4%)

- 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix: $4.44 (up 3.7%)

- 1 gallon of whole milk: $3.74 (down 2.6%)

- 3 pounds of sweet potatoes: $3.97 (up .3%)

- 1-pound veggie tray (carrots and celery): $0.90 (up 2.3%)

- 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries: $2.10 (down 18.3%)

The AFBF uses data from volunteer shoppers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

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The data found those in the Northeast and West will pay more than families in the South and Midwest for the same 10-person meal.

Here is a year-by-year breakdown of how much the same Thanksgiving meal has cost since 2015 in the U.S.:

2015: $50.11

2016: $49.87

2017: $49.12

2018: $48.90

2019: $48.91

2020: $46.90

2021: $53.31

2022: $64.05

2023: $61.17

Grocery stores vowing to lower prices

In recent weeks, many top grocery chains have said they plan to reduce the cost of Thanksgiving staples. 

For instance, Kroger, the United States' largest grocery chain, was offering coupons on its website that promise to keep a Thanksgiving meal for 10 under $50. 

Last month, Aldi said seasonal favorites like gravy, potatoes, green beans, cranberries and pumpkin pie would be up to 50% cheaper during the holiday season. 

The stores acknowledged that inflation is still a concern for customers. 

But after a year of sky-high inflation on food at the grocery store in 2022, price increases have cooled to near-normal levels. Food meant to be consumed at home has gone up 2.1% in the last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Tuesday.

So how can you save?

Experts say shop store brands rather than name brands, and make sure to compare prices between stores.

“As we get closer to Thanksgiving, retailers are all trying to get shoppers into their stores. So they’re offering specials, so keep an eye on those weekly ads,” Nigh said.

But don’t wait too long.

“There are also shortages, sometimes you just don't find the right things in the grocery because they are all gone,” Kulkarni said.

@scrippsnews Good news, your #Thanksgiving dinner should cost less this year. A new analysis from the American Farm Bureau Federation says it will cost $61.17 on average for a Thanksgiving dinner of 10 people, down 4.5% from last year. #foodprices ♬ original sound - Scripps News

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