Thanksgiving Meal Remains Affordable

Yalobushians Sam and Mary McCachren get a jump on shopping for their Thanksgiving meal. during a shopping outing last week at Larson’s Piggly Wiggly. Mary will have 27 mouths to feed, and carefully makes her selections while Sam gets to push the cart. – Photo by Jack Gurner

Staff Report

WATER VALLEY – The classic Thanksgiving dinner is going to cost more this year, according to a national survey. However, local prices are not only lower, but are still at 2007 levels.

American Farm Bureau Federation’s 23rd annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $44.61, a $2.35 price increase from last year’s average of $42.26.

The Herald surveyed prices at Larson’s Piggly Wiggly on South Main Street and found that the same brand name items ran about seven percent less. The local total would be about $41.49 for basically the same meal. That’s $3.12 less than the national average and about 77 cents lower than last year.

Mary McCachren was shopping while husband, Sam, pushed the cart. She plans to serve both turkey and ham with “all the fixings” for about 26 people this year. She said that prices are lower in Water Valley and that’s why she shops at home.

AFBF Economist Jim Sartwelle said, “Food prices rode the energy price roller coaster up during the first half of 2008, and as the year winds down, energy prices have moderated somewhat but food prices have not come down. Despite that, the components of this classic Thanksgiving dinner cost less compared to 1988 when the effects of inflation are removed.”

Despite recent retail price increases, American consumers have enjoyed relatively stable food costs over the years, particularly when adjusted for inflation. This year’s average cost of $44.61 is equivalent to $20.65 in 20-year inflation-adjusted dollars. The real dollar cost of the Thanksgiving dinner has declined more than 8 percent since 1988, according to Sartwelle.

The six-percent increase in national average cost reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks closely with the organization’s quarterly marketbasket food surveys and the federal government’s Consumer Price, Sartwelle noted.

The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10.

Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey. Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages.

The AFBF survey was first conducted in 1986. While Farm Bureau does not make any statistical claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation.  

A total of 179 volunteer shoppers from 38 states participated in this year’s survey. Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.

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