Despite the Covid-19 pandemic spurring shortages on grocery shelves and disrupting retailers' supply chains, the average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner is down 4% this year.
The price of a Thanksgiving meal for 10 people costs an average of $46.90 this year, down about $2 from the 2019 price of $48.91, as calculated by the American Farm Bureau Federation. The Farm Bureau's survey, now in its 35th year, is based on more than 230 cost surveys completed by shoppers in all 50 states. After adjusting for inflation, the Bureau finds the price of a Thanksgiving dinner is about $18.
The Bureau's meal includes all the trimmings: turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberry sauce and a veggie tray, as well as pumpkin pie with whipped cream and coffee for dessert.
"The average cost of this year's Thanksgiving dinner is the lowest since 2010," John Newton, the Farm Bureau's chief economist, said in a statement. He credits the lower price, in part, to the fact that retailers are pricing turkeys as "loss leaders" to entice consumers to shop. A loss leader is a sales tactic whereby a store may sell a product at or below cost in order to encourage consumers to visit the store and once there, shop for more than just the one item.
The average cost of a turkey is down 7% from last year, ringing in at $1.21 per pound. That's roughly $19 for a 16-pound turkey. When CNBC Make It compared turkey prices across 17 major grocery chains, BJ's and Kroger were offering free turkeys with qualified purchases. If you can't get a turkey for free, CNBC Make It found that, of the stores analyzed, certain Food Lion locations offer the lowest price on turkeys at $0.29 per pound.
Beyond turkey, the average cost of whipped cream and sweet potatoes also saw declines this year. Dinner rolls, cubed bread for stuffing and pumpkin pie mix all saw slight price increases this year, the Farm Bureau found.
Although it's difficult to predict if shoppers will start to resort to panic purchasing again, Newton says turkeys and other Thanksgiving staples are in "ample supply at grocery stores in most areas of the country."