Christmas Dinner by the Numbers: How Much Did the Price of the Feast Increase?

Christmas Dinner
Christmas Dinner

The holidays are a time for nostalgia. And stuffing your stomach to the brim. Why not combine the two by taking inventory of a typical Christmas dinner and comparing today's prices -- and, in some instances, serving portions -- to those of yesteryear?

Let's start with the wine -- specifically Chandon Sparkling Red from Domaine Chandon in California's Napa Valley. Those who have sipped Domaine Chandon's bubbly fare are in good company: Both President Obama and former President George W. Bush have served sparkling brut and rose versions to visiting dignitaries. When the Sparkling Red was introduced in 2003, it cost $19. Today, a bottle will set you back $30.

If you're serving eggnog, then you'll also need to put rum or bourbon on your shopping list. If you're trying to pinch pennies, you might want to follow Martha Stewart's eggnog recipe. It serves 26, and calls for 5½ cups of booze, while to scale Rachael Ray's rum eggnog recipe to that many servings would require 6½ cups of spirits. You'll also save on eggs with Martha's brew. Her recipe calls for one dozen eggs; Rachael Ray's calls for one egg a serving, meaning a whopping 26 eggs. (Of course, Ray's portion sizes are about a third larger.)

If you haven't hosted the family holiday dinner in the past decade, brace yourself for the higher cost of a well-rounded festive meal, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data from November 2001 and today:

  • Uncooked beef roast: up 45%

  • Non-canned ham: up 14%

  • Mashed potatoes: up 67%

  • Milk: up 23%

One menu item that's become a relative bargain in the past few years: fresh green beans. The cost per pound since 2008 has declined 23%.

Sponsored Links

If turkey is on the menu, make sure you have enough on hand for second and third helpings. In the fourth quarter of 1970, Americans' per capita turkey consumption was 4.1 pounds. By last holiday season, that figure had jumped to 5.1 pounds. It's no wonder Americans are roughly 20 pounds heavier than they were two decades ago.

Finally, it's not really the holidays until somebody gives you a fruitcake, is it? These days, a one-pound fruitcake will run you $19.95 -- the same as it was five years ago, in fact. Some things never change -- or spoil, in the case of the much-maligned dessert. It's one of those gifts that can hang around for months, years, and even, potentially, an entire century. So maybe this is the year to stock up -- you know, just in case prices rise between now and Christmas future.

Motley Fool contributor Dawn Kawamoto is heavily invested in the spirit of Christmas.