As families finalize their plans for Thanksgiving, next comes the task of purchasing all the necessary supplies for dinner and dessert. It’s no surprise that food prices have been on the rise — we’ve all felt it with our grocery bills — and Thanksgiving won’t be an exception to the rule. New data shows that, unsurprisingly, this year’s dinner is far more expensive than the same meal last year. Here’s what’s driving up costs, and what you can do to save some money.
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) released its 37th annual survey, a report that tracks the average costs of foods, including a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The AFBF provides a snapshot of what the average costs are for a Thanksgiving feast for 10 people. This year’s Thanksgiving dinner will be 20% more expensive than last year’s.
The national average costs of Thanksgiving meal were calculated using 224 surveys that contained 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 note. “They looked for the best possible prices without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals.”
According to the survey results, this year’s Thanksgiving will cost an average $64.05, which is up $10.74 (20%) from last year’s average of $53.31. The cost is up even higher when compared to the average Thanksgiving dinner cost in 2020, which was $46.90, a historic low.
The biggest chunk of the budget came from the centerpiece on most Thanksgiving tables. “The turkey costs more than last year, at $28.96 for a 16-pound bird,” AFBF notes. “That’s $1.81 per pound, up 21% from last year, due to several factors beyond general inflation.”
But although that big bird is going to be the most expensive food on the table — and its 21% price raise is meteoric given how big and expensive the bird is — some other food items have exploded in cost, as well, including cubed stuffing. A box of cubed stuffing mix has increased in cost by 69%, for nearly $4 a box.
Here’s a breakdown of the costs of a typical Thanksgiving meal for 10 people, and how much the prices increased from last year:
- 16-pound turkey: $28.96 or $1.81 per pound (up 21%)
- 14-ounce bag of cubed stuffing mix: $3.88 (up 69%)
- 2 frozen pie crusts: $3.68 (up 26%)
- Half pint of whipping cream: $2.24 (up 26%)
- 1 pound of frozen peas: $1.90 (up 23%)
- 1 dozen dinner rolls: $3.73 (up 22%)
- Misc. ingredients to prepare the meal: $4.13 (up 20%)
- 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix: $4.28 (up 18%)
- 1 gallon of whole milk: $3.84 (up 16%)
- 3 pounds of sweet potatoes: $3.96 (up 11%)
- 1-pound veggie tray (carrots & celery): 88 cents (up 8%)
- 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries: $2.57 (down 14%)
What’s driving the prices up? Inflation, which we’ve been battling all year. According to a recent Consumer Price Index report, food consumed at home has gone up 12% over the past year.
“General inflation slashing the purchasing power of consumers is a significant factor contributing to the increase in average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner,” said AFBF Chief Economist Roger Cryan.
“Other contributing factors to the increased cost for the meal include supply chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine,” Cryan continued. “The higher retail turkey cost at the grocery store can also be attributed to a slightly smaller flock this year, increased feed costs and lighter processing weights.”
What are some simple ways to help save money on Thanksgiving dinner this year?
According to Emily Weinstein, food & cooking editor at The New York Times, who spoke with CBS News, there are a few ways to save money on Thanksgiving this year, but there aren’t any secrets to cutting costs.
She suggests opting for more vegetable side dishes and using them as the highlight over meat dishes, and she says using frozen vegetables over fresh will save money too.
When it comes to the highlight of the meal — the turkey — Weinstein suggests really knowing how big of a turkey you’re going to need. "Just buy exactly the size turkey you need," she said. "Don't buy a giant one hoping for leftovers."
Another quick way to reduce costs is to invite less people, serve less food, or host a potluck.
"If you've ever considered doing a Thanksgiving potluck, this is the year to do it," Weinstein said. "Ask your loved ones to bring dishes. Everyone will be happy to be involved."
The Farm Bureau also suggests waiting longer to buy your turkey, as prices will eventually go down for the big bird.