American families can afford bigger helping of Thanksgiving dinner this year.
A classic Thanksgiving dinner will cost $49.87 for a gathering of 10, just under $5 per person, according to figures out this week from the American Farm Bureau Federation. The total is a step back from 2015’s all-time high of $50.11.
“If you adjust for inflation, the price is lower this year than when we first started tracking the cost 31 years ago,” said Dr. John Newton, AFBF’s director of marketing intelligence. “The dollar goes a long way.”
The Farm Bureau tracks the price of 16 Thanksgiving staples, including turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, vegetables, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk.
The falling cost of a 16-pound turkey drove down the overall price, Newton said. The average dropped to $22.74, or about $1.42 per pound, a 1% decrease from 2015. The price drop may be a transition back to the norm, he said. That's because a significant bird flu outbreak last year hurt the nation’s supply of turkey and eggs.
Ramped-up production of milk in the United States and European Union brought down the cost of a gallon jug to $3.17, an 8-cent drop, Newton said. And while other staples ticked up in price — pie shells rose 12 cents to $2.59 and a dozen rolls rose 21 cents to $2.46 — the overall cost of the meal has gone down.
“When it costs less than $5 per person to put the fundamentals on the table, you have money to buy additional fixings,” Newton said.
The AFBF gathers its data from a team of 150 volunteer shoppers across the nation, who look for the lowest prices without taking advantage of special promotions. Bargain-conscious consumers should be able to find similar prices, Newton said. Some other bargain-hunting tips:
- Buy frozen turkey, rather than fresh, but make sure to allow enough time for thawing: A 16-pound bird takes about 3½ days in the refrigerator to fully defrost.
- Make your Thanksgiving feast a potluck so your guests can share in the culinary glory.
- Use smaller plates. You save on money and calories at the same time.
And if time is more valuable to you than money, you can buy comparable ready-to-eat meals from supermarkets and restaurants for about $50 to $75, according to the AFBF.
Phil Kafarakis, president of Specialty Food Association, recommends going off the beaten path to spice up a Thanksgiving dinner. “There are so many amazing specialty foods now available in mainstream stores that allow the cook to still achieve the homemade feel and freshness they want, while cutting down on effort.”