Inflation has hit the Thanksgiving turkey, and most of the trimmings, too.
The average cost of Thanksgiving dinner is up 14 percent this year, to $53.31, which is $6.41 more than it cost in 2020, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). The AFBF's data sets the table for 10, and includes leftovers. The average cost per person is less than $6.
Leading the price hikes this year: a 16-pound turkey, which costs an average of $23.99, or $1.50 per pound, a 24 percent increase from last year. The AFBF, whose survey was conducted Oct. 26 through Nov. 8, notes that you may be able to get turkey cheaper now, pointing out that grocery stores started advertising lower prices later than usual this year.
“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,” the AFBF said. “Consumers who have not yet purchased a turkey should be able to find one at a lower cost than the Farm Bureau average.”
The Consumer Price Index, the government’s main measure of inflation, has risen 6.2 percent in the past 12 months. “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 AFBF senior economist Veronica Nigh.
Don’t forget the trimmings
Side prices have risen, too, though not quite all of them (the cost of stuffing fell). The AFBF’s dinner includes enough to serve a family of 10, with plenty for leftovers. (Beer and wine were not included.) Here’s the dinner, with all the trimmings (and the price increases).
- 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 7percent)
- 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)
The AFBF also creates an expanded menu, which includes ham, russet potatoes and frozen green beans. That, too, has risen 14 percent from 2020, to $68.72. Happily for those who imbibe, the price of wine has risen just 0.2 percent in the past 12 months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Beer and ale is up 2 percent, and distilled spirits are up 3.5 percent.
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Another unusual Thanksgiving
The AFBF said that the higher price of a Thanksgiving dinner is the result of supply chain issues and other economic disruptions from the pandemic, as well as an increase in the global demand for meat. “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,” says Nigh.
The AFBF uses 218 surveys with pricing data from all 50 states and Puerto Rico, and has been conducting its annual Thanksgiving survey since 1986. It has used the same meal and ingredients since then. The AFBF also has separate surveys for Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
John Waggoner covers all things financial for AARP, from budgeting and taxes to retirement planning and Social Security. Previously he was a reporter for Kiplinger's Personal Finance and USA Today and has written books on investing and the 2008 financial crisis. Waggoner's USA Today investing column ran in dozens of newspapers for 25 years.