Thanksgiving Dinner Costs Slightly More This Year

Jeanette A. Tucker, Claesgens, Mark A.  |  11/15/2006 10:19:54 PM

News Release Distributed 11/15/06

When Louisiana cooks shop for their Thanksgiving meal, they’ll find the cost of the basic dinner items will average $38.11 for 10 people, according to an LSU AgCenter survey. That’s up by $1.31 from last year’s national average of $36.80 as reported by the American Farm Bureau Foundation.

The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, 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 group of 10.

"This year’s 3.4 percent increase can be attributed to inflation and higher energy prices, which affect processing, packaging, refrigeration and shipping costs," says LSU AgCenter family economist Dr. Jeanette Tucker.

The cost of a 16-pound turkey, at $17.28, or roughly $1.08 per pound, reflects an increase of 14 cents per pound, or a total increase of $2.17 per turkey. "This is the largest contributor to the overall rise in the cost of the 2006 Thanksgiving dinner," Tucker notes.

The LSU AgCenter and Farm Bureau surveys both looked for the best possible prices without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals. Research suggests that four out of five whole, frozen Thanksgiving turkeys are sold on a holiday special.

Based on these advertised specials, the USDA found that whole, frozen turkeys sold in November 2004 were two-thirds the cost that consumers paid for the same turkeys during the other 11 months of the year.

"This suggests that many consumers probably purchase Thanksgiving turkeys for considerable less than either survey reports," Tucker says.

Other items showing a price increase this year include: a gallon of whole milk, $3.34; two 9-inch pie shells, $2.61; 3 pounds of sweet potatoes, $2.93; and a 12- oz. bag of fresh cranberries, $2.28.

Items that decreased in price this year include: a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $1.49; a 16-ounce package of frozen green peas, $1.14; a 12-ounce package of cubed stuffing, $1.05; a 12-ounce package of brown-n-serve rolls, $1.49; and one-half pint of whipping cream, $1.16.

Insufficient information was provided by the Farm Bureau study to replicate the cost survey for a combined group of miscellaneous items such as coffee, celery, carrots and other ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk and butter).

"Thus, the AgCenter used last year’s national average of $3.68," Tucker explains.

The Farm Bureau survey was first conducted in 1986 when the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal for 10 was $28.74. According to the Consumer Price Index data, the 1986 Thanksgiving marketbasket would cost $52.89 in 2006 dollars, indicating that the real cost of the holiday meal has actually decreased over time.

Tucker says that although the AgCenter does not make any statistical claims about the data, the survey results reveal price trends in Louisiana. The family economist offers several tips for saving money when shopping for Thanksgiving:

–Always use a list, and minimize number of trips to the store.

–Develop the list based on store layout to save time as well as money.

–Shop alone and avoid going to the store just before a meal.

–Check store ads and flyers for money-saving specials.

–Use coupons to reduce the cost of products that you usually buy and use.

–Purchase generic or store brands when practical and money-saving.

–Remember that items placed at eyelevel on shelves are often more expensive.

–Purchase fruits, vegetables and fresh seafood in season to avoid higher prices.

–Purchase fresh, unpeeled, unwashed, unpackaged vegetables.

–Bulk buy whenever practical to save on cost per ounce and pound.

–Determine cost per serving when selecting meats.

–Check unit pricing to save money.

–Avoid expensive single servings and snack packs.

–Be flexible to take advantage of in-store specials.

For related family economics and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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Contact: Jeanette Tucker (225) 578-1425, or Jtucker@agcenter.lsu.edu
Editor: Mark Claesgens (225) 578-2939 or mclaesgens@agcenter.lsu.edu

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