Good Gravy! Cost of Thanksgiving Dinner Barely Rises

Cost of Thanksgiving
David Duprey/AP
Shopping for Thanksgiving dinner shouldn't involve sticker shock this year. The annual American Farm Bureau Federation's survey of costs to serve a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people remained stable compared to last year.

The average cost, based on a survey by 179 volunteers in 35 states, found the average price of the feast this year is $49.41 -- less than $5 a person. Last year, the average for the entire meal was just 37 cents less.

Shoppers who participated in the survey didn't use coupons or take advantage of any special deals that were being offered, such as getting free turkeys for certain amount of other spending. That suggests that savvy shoppers can do even better, although those who upgrade their meal choices and are less price conscious can certainly run up the bill.

%VIRTUAL-pullquote-Turkey production has been somewhat lower this year ... but consumers should find an adequate supply of birds at their local grocery store.%Thanksgiving dinner costs have been stable since 2011. Prices have risen more than 38 percent in the past decade, though, and 100 percent over the past 25 years. This is the 29th year the survey has been conducted.

One of the reasons for the stability is the costliest item at the meal, a 16-pound turkey, has remained about the same price as last year -- within a penny a pound.

"Turkey production has been somewhat lower this year and wholesale prices are a little higher, but consumers should find an adequate supply of birds at their local grocery store," said the Farm Bureau Federation's Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson.

In addition, the Farm Bureau noted that turkeys are sometimes used as "loss leaders." That means the prices on that item will be pushed very low in order to get shoppers into the store to make other purchases.

Here's what the Farm Bureau included in its survey: turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, along with coffee and milk. The shopping list accounted for feeding 10 people and leaving enough for leftovers.

The biggest prices jumps the survey found were: sweet potatoes, dairy products and pumpkin pie mix. Items that drooped in price: a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, fresh cranberries, pie shells, brown-and-serve rolls.

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Good Gravy! Cost of Thanksgiving Dinner Barely Rises
"November is the month where everybody buys a turkey, but that doesn't mean there are not turkey deals to be had," notes Charles Tran, founder of, which focuses on saving consumers money. Tran says that consumers can expect low prices on turkeys as retailers try to get you to walk in their doors instead of their competitors'. "Many supermarkets will offer promotions to reward customers with a free or discounted turkey if they spend a minimum amount."
Yep, we've officially reached the month of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This may send you into a nervous frenzy, or it could have you eager to hit the stores at 5 a.m. come Nov. 29. Either way, start preparing to get the best deals this season. Step 1: Sign up for your favorite online retailers' newsletters and subscribe to their social media feeds to gain access to insider deals. Step 2: For brick and mortar stores, pick up Sunday newspapers each weekend and explore stores in advance to make note of current prices and store layouts.
November isn't a popular month for brides to shop gowns and other wedding necessities. As such, retailers are eager to host promotions that stir up sales. "We've seen discounts on wedding dresses and supplies ranging from 10 percent to 25 percent off," notes Tran. 
November and December are two months that families traditionally spend a lot of time in the kitchen. For this reason, retailers often feature cookware, silverware and serving supplies in printed and online advertisements, TV commercials and store displays. To draw you into the store, they put these items on steep discount. If you need to replace anything in your kitchen -- or if you need to stock up before the holidays -- November is the best month to do so.
Speaking of the kitchen, if you need a new dishwasher, refrigerator, washer or dryer, November is an excellent month to buy one. "Many large-appliance manufacturers release new models in September and October," explains Tran. "Shop last year's models to get some of the best deals on large appliances in early November." He says that the selection may be limited, but impressive deals can be found.
November is an excellent time to stock up on Blu-Ray movies for your own collection or as gifts. "We've seen deals on online retailers for as low as $3," says Tran. Now that's a bargain.
Holiday gift sets make for excellent presents, but they're also an ingenious way to get more for your money. Cosmetic brands and perfumers often release limited edition collections that pack impressive value into one low cost. In addition to buying as gifts, consider picking up one or two gift sets that include items you use for you.
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