Basic Thanksgiving meal costs remain high, but down from 2022

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 233 views 

Food inflation has been persistent for the past two years but hefty retailer promotions from Aldi, Walmart and other discounters may help consumers stretch their Thanksgiving meal budgets further this year.

Data from Statista shows 81% of Americans plan to have a home-cooked dinner on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23). The annual survey from the American Farm Bureau (AFB) includes a basic menu shows the average cost at $6.20 per person. That does not include ham, green beans, pecan or apple pie and mashed potatoes. When adding those items to the menu, the cost rises to $8.50 per person, up 4.2% from a year ago.

The basic AFB menu includes a turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, frozen green peas, pumpkin pie, cranberries, milk, spices, whipping cream, carrots and celery and dinner rolls. AFB estimates serving those items to 10 people will cost $61.17, lower than the $64.05 spent last year but higher than the $53.31 in 2021.

Whole bird Turkey costs reported by AFB were $1.71 per pound. In Arkansas, that price ranged between $1.28 and 98 cents per pound from grocery stores surveyed by Talk Business & Politics. AFB’s 16-pound bird cost $27.45 or nearly half the total budget. Walmart’s turkey prices peg the same size bird at $15.68. Aldi offered a similar price.

Ham prices are 5% higher this year at $4.56 per pound according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). retailer promotions around the state ahead of the holiday have dropped prices as low as $2.48 per pound for a spiral-cut ham sold at Walmart, Sam’s Club or Aldi.

AFB reports stuffing mix prices are 2.8% less expensive this year at $3.77 for the 14-ounce size. Frozen pie crusts prices are down 4.9% from a year ago. Pumpkin pie mix costs 3.7% more at $3.95 for one 30-ounce can. The dinner rolls will cost $3.84, up 2.9% from a year ago. Milk prices are lower at $3.74 per gallon, down 2.6%, according to the AFB survey. Other miscellaneous ingredients used to prepare the AFB sample meal are expected to cost $3.95, down 4.4% from a year ago.

The fruit and vegetable staples in the AFB basic meal are a mixed bag with frozen pea costs down 1.1% and sweet potato prices rising 3%. A vegetable tray with carrots and celery will cost 2.3% more this year, but consumers can save 18.3% on frozen cranberries.

Egg prices are also down 29% from record-high prices last year. One dozen large eggs cost about $2.06 according to federal data.

Russet potato prices have risen about 3% this year, but promotional prices range from 53 cents a pound to $1.04 depending on the retailer. One pound of green beans costs an average of $1.63, down about 4% from a year ago, according to AFB. Roast beef prices are up more than 5% ahead of the holiday to nearly $8 per pound, according to the BLS.

“While some shoppers will see a slight improvement in the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner, high inflation continues to hammer families across the country,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.

At-home food inflation rose 2.1% in October, compared to a year ago, according to the BLS. Restaurant food prices rose 5.4% year over year. The stacked impact of two years of food inflation means some categories have seen prices rise 20% to 30% since 2021.