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Average Thanksgiving dinner cost drops to $61 thanks to cheaper turkeys and cranberries

By Nicole Lyn Pesce

Most traditional Thanksgiving-dinner ingredients are cheaper than last year as the rate of inflation slows down, the Farm Bureau reports, although pumpkin-pie mix and sweet potatoes are pricier.

Here's something to be thankful for: Turkeys are gobbling up much less of the Thanksgiving budget this year, so the cost of hosting your family and friends is 4.5% less than it was a year ago.

That's according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation survey released on Wednesday, which put the average price of a traditional Thanksgiving feast for 10 people in 2023 at $61.17, or less than $6.20 per person, largely thanks to turkey prices being down 5.6% compared with last year. Whipping cream and cranberries have dropped even more -- down 22.8% and 18.3% year over year, respectively.

So how did the Farm Bureau tally up the total Thanksgiving price tag?

It sends volunteer shoppers to visit supermarkets and check food prices in stores across all 50 states and Puerto Rico every year, as well as online using grocery-store apps and websites, in the weeks leading up to the November holiday. Then the survey itemizes the prices of the foods traditionally served at Thanksgiving dinner, like turkey, stuffing and cranberries, to add up the average cost of the Turkey Day feast. In full, the Farm Bureau's shopping list includes enough turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a vegetable tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee and milk to feed a family of 10 -- with plenty of leftovers. And the good news is, the cost comes out to just over $6 per person this year, or just about $61 to feed 10.

To be sure, that's still 25% higher than it was in 2019, highlighting the impact that high supply costs and inflation have had on food prices since before the pandemic. But it's a drop from last year's record-high average of $64.05, when every single item on the Farm Bureau's Thanksgiving shopping list -- except for the fresh cranberries -- cost more than it did the year before.

This year, most of the ingredients on the list (eight, in fact) ring up cheaper than they did in 2022, with the exception of the dinner rolls and some of the produce.

Here's a look at the individual prices on the Farm Bureau's Thanksgiving shopping list for 2023:

16-pound turkey: $27.35, or $1.71 per pound (down 5.6% from last year)14-ounce bag 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%)Miscellaneous 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 0.3%)1-pound veggie tray (carrots & celery): 90 cents (up 2.3%) 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries: $2.10 (down 18.3%)

Adding boneless ham, Russet potatoes and frozen green beans to the menu will push up the overall cost another $23.58, for a grand total of $84.75 on average.

The poultry pièce de résistance -- the turkey -- makes up most of the Thanksgiving tab each year. But Americans can be grateful that turkey prices have been dropping in 2023, so the bird isn't gobbling up as much as the budget as it has in the past.

The Farm Bureau put a $27.35 price tag on a 16-pound gobbler this year, which is $1.71 a pound, or 5.6% less than this time last year.

It should be noted that the Farm Bureau's shoppers checked ingredient prices in early November (between Nov. 1 and Nov. 6), just before most grocery stores began promoting deep discounts on whole or frozen birds for Thanksgiving. So shoppers should be able to bag a bird for even less than the Farm Bureau's roughly $27 price tag.

Plus, some grocery chains like Walmart (WMT), Target (TGT)and Aldi have been rolling back prices on Thanksgiving staples. And several supermarkets like ShopRite (SRGHY) and BJ's Wholesale Club (BJ) are giving away free birds to their rewards members who spend a certain amount of money in their stores.

Read more: Free Thanksgiving turkeys and other deals from ShopRite, Lidl and more

"Traditionally, the turkey is the most expensive item on the Thanksgiving dinner table," said AFBF senior economist Veronica Nigh in a statement. "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."

But some other staples have increased in price, including crudités ingredients carrots and celery (up 2.3%), pumpkin-pie mix (up 3.7%) and a dozen dinner rolls (up 2.9%). Ingredients are certainly more expensive in some places than others, as well. The Farm Bureau's regional analysis found that Thanksgiving will be most expensive in the Northeast, ringing up at $64.38 on average (or $88.43 when adding in the ham, taters and green beans), while it was cheapest in the Midwest at $58.66 for the classic meal, and $81.83 for the expanded menu.

"While shoppers will see a slight improvement in the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner, high inflation continues to hammer families across the country, including the nation's farmers," said AFBF President Zippy Duvall in a statement. "Growing the food families rely on is a constant challenge for farmers because of high fuel, seed, fertilizer and transportation costs, just to name a few."

Yet the October consumer price index (CPI) report that hit Tuesday showed some relief, finding that the cost of living was unchanged in October as cheaper gasoline took the edge off U.S. inflation. Indeed, the rate of inflation over the past 12 months slowed to 3.2% from 3.7%. Still, it should be noted that the cost of food rose 0.3% last month, and grocery prices have risen 5% in the past year, following big increases in both 2021 and 2022. So, many families may still be feeling the pinch at the supermarket.

Economic Report: Inflation flat in October thanks to cheaper gas, CPI shows. U.S. prices not rising as fast.

"While high food prices are a concern for every family, America still has one of the most affordable food supplies in the world," noted AFBF president Duvall.

Of course, the Farm Bureau's Turkey Day tally doesn't include drinks, including alcohol and soft drinks, which can quickly run up that Thanksgiving tab. Some other surveys suggest people are spending more on the holiday meal than the $61 that the Farm Bureau is advertising. A recent Lending Tree survey of over 2,000 U.S. consumers, for example, found hosts expect to spend $361 on food, drink and decor on average. A third of those surveyed (34%) said that hosting Thanksgiving will be a financial strain, with 60% noting that inflation is impacting their Thanksgiving plans or budget in some way.

-Nicole Lyn Pesce

This content was created by MarketWatch, which is operated by Dow Jones & Co. MarketWatch is published independently from Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal.


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11-20-23 1214ET

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