Holiday Central

Thanksgiving meal to gobble up less money this year

Dinner table with roasted Thanksgiving turkey is ready to feast. Turkey is garnished with fresh figs, blackberries, sage, and basil. Sided dishes, pumpkins, flowers, and red wine cocktails.
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Americans can thank a drop in the average price of turkey and general food deflation for bringing down the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Along with the turkey, other food items showing decreases this year are pumpkin pie mix, milk and a vegetable tray of celery and carrots, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual price survey of classic items found for the Thanksgiving feast. Among the biggest increases in holiday meal fixings this year were bread rolls, pie shells, cubed stuffing and fresh cranberries.

"The average cost of this year's feast for 10 is $49.87, a 24-cent decrease from last year's average of $50.11," the Farm Bureau said Thursday. The traditional holiday dinner's cost was down less than 1 percent this year from 2015 and it marks only the third time in a decade that the annual survey shows an overall price decline.

A 16-pound turkey — the biggest single ticket item in the meal — averaged $22.74 this year, or 1.3 percent below 2015. The survey was conducted in 40 states with price checks on roughly a dozen items.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reduced its turkey price forecast for the current fourth quarter, saying "supplies of product are large." Overall, the retail food category has experienced flat or lower prices much of this year, according to government data.

"Consumers will pay less than $5 per person for a classic Thanksgiving dinner this year," John Newton, the Farm Bureau's director of market intelligence, said in a statement. "We have seen farm prices for many foods — including turkeys — fall from the higher levels of recent years."

The item with the biggest price decline in percentage terms this year is a 1-pound tray of carrots and celery, which the survey showed coming in at 73 cents, or 7.6 percent below last year. The meal item with the biggest percentage price increase this year was a dozen rolls, which averaged $2.46, or up 9.3 percent from 2015.

Elsewhere, the average price of pumpkin pie mix in the survey was down 2.2 percent from last year but the price of pie shells was up 4.8 percent in the same period. The Farm Bureau report said pumpkin prices fell slightly this year despite some production declines.

Also, the price of a gallon of whole milk was $3.17, or 2.5 percent below 2015. Milk prices have been under pressure most of this year due to a global dairy surplus.

The price of a pound of green peas for the meal was up 4 percent this year from 2015 and 3 pounds of sweet potatoes rose nearly 1 percent from 2015. The price of 12 ounces of fresh cranberries was up 4.4 percent this year.

Finally, the price of a 14-ounce bag of cubed stuffing was up 2.3 percent from a year ago. And a half pint of whipping cream was up by about 3 percent.