Not Even $5 and Still a Bargain

Among things to be thankful for: next week’s turkey dinner costs, on average, a mere 1% more than it did last year.

For 27 years, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has conducted an informal price survey of Thanksgiving Day dinner table classics: 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, in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10. There is also plenty for leftovers.

This year’s feast for 10 carries an average cost of $49.48, just 28 cents more than last year’s average of $49.20. The star of the show, a 16-pound turkey, came in at $22.23—roughly $1.39 per pound, an increase of about 4 cents per pound, or a total of 66 cents for the whole bird, compared with 2011. The turkey was the biggest contributor to the final total, showing the largest price increase compared with last year.

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

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, up 3 cents, to $2.33.

Some menu items actually took a price dip: 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.

Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without using promotional coupons or special-purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey. Shoppers with an eye for bargains throughout 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: 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.