The Rising and Falling Costs of a Thanksgiving Meal

According to the American Farm Bureau, the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal for a family of 10 remained essentially unchanged this year from 2018. In their cost survey, they saw an increase of $0.01 to a total average cost of $48.91.
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Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday. It comes with all the warmth and family togetherness of Christmas, but with the punch of political and social banter that you can’t seem to escape. Even if you are on the same side of the table, figuratively speaking, it seems that you can’t agree on anything when you’re eating pumpkin pie. But somehow, this brings untold joy to me, as well as many laughs for years to come. However, this year I plan on going armed to my Thanksgiving meal with new fun facts! With everything else in flux in the world, at least the cost of your traditional Thanksgiving meal has gone unchanged!

If you are like my family, you have a few traditional staples. Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without sweet potatoes, assorted veggies, cranberry sauce, stuffing, a juicy turkey, and a cold glass of whole milk to wash it all down. According to the American Farm Bureau, the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal for a family of 10 remained essentially unchanged this year from 2018. In their cost survey, they saw an increase of $0.01 to a total average cost of $48.91. In general, this stat surprised me. I don’t know about you, but there is no way I could feed a family of 10 for $48.91. Maybe it is inexperience or that I need to start shopping in the bulk section, but I’m impressed nonetheless.

Since this year is actually the first year I am hosting Thanksgiving on my own, I was happy to see that the cost of a turkey has fallen by $0.91 to $20.80. That’s a 4% decrease. The average bird is about 16lb, which means I likely undershot my turkey purchase. Either way, that comes in at $1.30 per pound! This low price is due mainly to an ample supply of turkeys. Ultimately, this helps keep the price of the overall meal pretty reasonable. If you pair your turkey with stuffing (which why wouldn’t you?), you’ll see an additional decrease in price of $0.19.

The bad news is that this drop in turkey and stuffing prices was offset by a modest increase in other staples like milk, sweet potatoes, and dinner rolls. Milk increased by $0.18 from $2.92 last year. Much to my chagrin, sweet potatoes had the largest increase, jumping by $0.36. Considering that this is the main food group for my toddler, it’s no wonder my grocery bill has steadily been creeping up. I’d recommend skipping the carbs this year and passing on the dinner rolls, which increased by $0.25.

Rest assured for all things delicious, including cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, you should see nominal changes to your grocery bill. Pumpkin pie mix dropped by $0.01, while pie shells and fresh cranberries rose by only $0.05 and $0.01, respectively.

Overall, the cost of your Thanksgiving meal has only increased by approximately .02% from 2018 to 2019. Comparatively, the total year-over-year change in purchased meals has averaged a little higher at 2%. So take comfort – the rising cost of your Thanksgiving center piece (the turkey) is one less thing you will need to argue about this holiday season!

Turkey Trivia

A wattle is the bright red appendage on the turkey’s neck. A waddle, on the other hand, is the gait by which a turkey walks.

Ashley Gragtmans, CFP®, BFATM
Financial Advisor


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