Consumers pained by cost of traditional Thanksgiving meal

Nov. 20—Gathering for a traditional Thanksgiving meal is causing some consumers grief as they continue to grapple with inflated pandemic food prices.

According to a report by Farm Bureau released this month, last year, the average cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal for 10 is $61.17, or approximately $6.20 per person. Farm Bureau said this was a 4.5% decrease from last year's record-high average of $64.05, but a Thanksgiving meal is still 25% higher than it was in 2019, which shows the impact high supply costs and inflation have had on food prices since before the pandemic.

Farm Bureau has been conducting its Thanksgiving meal food survey since 1986. The company said the survey menu has remained unchanged to allow for consistent price comparisons. Farm Bureau said this year's national average cost was calculated using 245 surveys completed with pricing data from all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The company's volunteer shoppers checked prices in person and online, using grocery apps and websites, they looked for the best possible prices without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals.

The shopping list for Farm Bureau's informal survey included turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray and pumpkin pie with whipped cream to serve a family of 10 with plenty of leftovers. They reported the average price for a 16 pound turkey between Nov. 1 and Nov. 6 was $27.35, which is $1.71 per pound.

The report found that prices were lowest in the Midwest with an average of $58.66, Southern states were a step-higher at $59.10, the West average a cost of $63.89 and the Northeast is paying the highest prices at an average of $64.38.

Recognizing changes in U.S. Thanksgiving dinner traditions, Farm Bureau included boneless ham, Russet potatoes and frozen green beans in its survey. Adding these foods increased the overall cost by $23.58 to $84.75, Farm Bureau said.

The report stated that although 2023 estimates are not yet available, the Consumer Price Index shows food-at-home prices are up 2.4% this year and that consumers will have the second most expensive Thanksgiving meal in the survey's 38-year history.

Locally, there are consumers who are forgoing this year's because they simply can't afford it.

"I cancelled Thanksgiving, We just don't have it this year," said Krystle Perry-Cole. "Usually more stressed around Christmas. I've never been stressed around Thanksgiving until this year. I don't know how we are doing to survive."

One family has planned and shopped ahead in order to host a big family get-together this year.

"All my husband's siblings are coming," said Deborah Neal. "They live in FA and South Carolina. Plus all our children and grandchildren. There will be 16 of us here for one week. Meals are all planned. Most are already bought. Each family has a night to cook and all hands on deck for the Thanksgiving meal. No we are not cutting back, because we are blessed to have our family. Been buying as things go on sale."

Some have opted to go to a restaurant for Thanksgiving this year to cut the cost of traditional holiday meals.

"Don' have a big family, it's going to be just me and the parents this year," said Becky Cernoch. "We were thinking about going out to eat and wondering what places will be open on Thanksgiving Day."

Some families who host large get-togethers have cut costs by hosting a "potluck" feast.

"We have a pretty big family, we create a traditional menu and everyone signs up to bring something," said Jennifer Autery.

"We all pitch in to buy the food that is needed and then my mom cooks," said Anna Deleon.

Many have opted to do something different this year for Thanksgiving to help curb costs.

"We are doing tacos for 14 people," said Chad Cannon. "Not a traditional Thanksgiving meal, but very cost effective."

Many plan to keep their family traditions intact.

"Traditions are traditions and we plan to keep them," said Kristi Cervantes.

"No paring down here," said Kristy Hooker. "I've got five kiddos, two are grown now and out of the house, so figure with the cost saved of not feeding two teenagers anymore, I'm doing good. I've always been the house everyone comes to for the holiday and I love being able to spoil everyone. They can bring something if they really want to, but all they need to bring is their appetite. I started my own business a couple of years ago, so I'd have extra money for holidays and yearly family vacation with inflation and finances becoming what they've become, so I could still afford to take care of my family the way I always have. It brings this mama's heart such joy to have all her babies and mother-in-law and anyone else who needs a place to go under one roof for the holidays."