While consumers partaking of the traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner will spend a little less for the average meal this year, they will reach deeper into their wallets for travel and shopping, according to recent surveys.
LendEDU reports the average American will spend $175.65 this Thanksgiving, up from $165.14 a year ago. When factoring in Black Friday shopping the total spend rises to $554, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. The bulk of that shopping spend will be on gifts ($207.30).
One of the biggest non-shopping expenditures this year will be travel. AAA estimates 50.9 million Americans will journey at least 50 miles away from home, another 4 million will fly to the holiday destination and 1.5 million will travel by train. The LendEDU survey estimates the average American will spend $36.88 per person on holiday travel.
Shopping is the biggest part of the Thanksgiving holiday spend with 71% of consumers or 164 million people headed out to shopping center or mall during the Thanksgiving weekend. The National Retail Federation estimates roughly 30% of consumers’ holiday shopping spend will occur during the Thanksgiving weekend and pre-Black Friday, Cyber Monday sales. NRF estimates consumers will spend a whopping $720 billion for the entire holiday shopping season.
FOOD, GROCERY SPEND
Another major expenditure will be on food. The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal is less than $5 per person this year, down about 22-cents from a year ago. The featured bird on most tables will cost about $1.36 per pound, down 3% from a year ago. Across most of Arkansas, turkeys could be purchased last week ranging from 57-cents to 85-cents a pound at Walmart stores, with a limit of two birds per customer.
Even before the sales promotions, the Farm Bureau said turkey prices are the lowest since 2014 amid ample supplies. The Farm Bureau meal includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls, butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee and milk. For families who opt to add ham, the costs per person rose to $6.
Since 2015, the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined steadily and is now at the lowest level since 2010, said AFBF Chief Economist Dr. John Newton. The Farm Bureau estimates are traditionally lower than many families spend on the holiday feast, particularly those serving organic options, according to Chris Tuck, a certified financial planner and wealth adviser at SJK Wealth Management
“Thanksgiving costs can get out of hand if you host, especially with the popularity of cooking shows and organic options. Depending on the size of your family and friends, budgets for hosting can average $500. But that can go much higher quickly. It is important to first set a budget and then get creative on how to stick to it. Asking people to bring sides is always a big help. When building your budget, put a cost to each dish you plan to make and each accessory or feature (like tablecloths, flowers, etc.) and then start eliminating them to hit your budget,” Tuck said.
Fayetteville-based Field Agent surveyed prices in 48 stores from coast to coast run by the largest grocery retailers including Walmart, Kroger and Aldi. The results were analyzed by Field Agent to calculate the per-ounce cost of the entire basket of goods used to prepare the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The items in the basket were a whole turkey, sweet potatoes, canned green beans, canned corn, cornbread mix, canned cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie filling. This survey did not include the cost of pie crust, beverages, butter or other ingredients used in the traditional cornbread dressing like celery, eggs, onion, chicken stock and sage.
The analysis of the price checks of the seven items in the Field Agent basket found Aldi to be lowest cost at 35 cents per ounce of food in the basket. Following is the per ounce price by retailer.
• Aldi – 35 cents
• Lidl – 36 cents
• Walmart – 38 cents
• Target – 40 cents
• Kroger- 41 cents
• Whole Foods – 70 cents
NUTRITION VERSUS VALUE
Field Agent took the data a step further to look which retailer offered the most nutritious dinner by evaluating sodium, sugar and calories per serving of those seven items in the basket. Field Agent excluded sweet potatoes from the results and analyzed the least expensive brand of items found at each of the six retailers in this report.
Whole Foods was the big winner in terms of lower salt, sugar and calories compared to the competitors. While it cost more than double to purchase the items at Whole Foods the sodium per serving was less than half that of the items bought at Walmart. Whole Foods basket had a sodium content of 440 milligrams per serving, Walmart was the next lowest at 890 milligrams per serving. The other retailers had sodium content about 1,000 milligrams per serving. Kroger had the highest sodium at 1,200 milligrams per serving.
Grams of sugar per serving was also lower at Whole Foods (40) compared to 41 at Aldi and 43 at Walmart. Kroger, Lidl and Target all had sugar contents of 44 grams per serving. Calories per service also were lower in the Whole Food basket at 478 compared to 580 a Target and 598 at Walmart. Kroger and Lidl’s basket had 600 calories per serving and Aldi was the highest at 651 calories per serving.