Thanksgiving dinner costs down 9 percent for 2009

News Release Distributed 11/23/09

BATON ROUGE – As Louisiana cooks shop for their Thanksgiving meal, they’ll find costs for the basic dinner items down about nine percent from last year, according LSU AgCenter family economist Jeanette Tucker. The 2009 Thanksgiving market basket will average $37.52 for 10 people, compared to $41.30 last year.

“These numbers are based on an American Farm Bureau Federation survey and reflect Baton Rouge area prices,” Tucker said.

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

The cost of a 16-pound turkey at $13.47, or roughly $.84 per pound, reflects a decrease of 15 cents per pound, or a total decrease of $2.37 per turkey.

"This is the largest contributor to the overall decrease in the cost of the 2009 Thanksgiving dinner," Tucker said. “Frugal shoppers may wish to purchase a second turkey to keep in the freezer for future low-cost meals.”

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.

U.S. Department of Agriculture research in 2004 found that whole frozen turkeys sold in November 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 will probably purchase Thanksgiving turkeys for considerably less than either survey reports," Tucker says.

Other items showing a price decrease this year include: one gallon whole milk, $3.88 (down 60 cents); three pounds sweet potatoes, $2.21, (down 55 cents); 12-ounce cubed stuffing mix, $2.43 (down 33 cents); 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, $2.52 (down 23 cents); and two 9-inch pie shells, $2.44 (down 2 cents).

Items that showed a price increase include: 30-ounce pumpkin pie mix, $2.68 (up 47 cents); 8-ounce whipping cream, $1.78 (up 30 cents); 12-ounce package of brown-and-serve rolls, $2.13 (up 18 cents); and a 16-ounce package of frozen green peas, $1.29 (up 9 cents).

“The nine percent decrease in the cost of the Thanksgiving market basket suggests that items in this basket have experienced greater price decreases than the market as a whole,” Tucker said.

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 market basket would cost $56.69 in 2009 dollars, indicating that the real cost of the holiday meal has actually decreased over time, Tucker said.

“On average, American consumers have enjoyed stable food costs over the years, particularly when you adjust for inflation,” Tucker said.

Consumers can enjoy a wholesome, home-cooked turkey dinner for just over $3.75 per person – less than a typical fast food meal. “That’s a real bargain in these challenging economic times,” Tucker said.

Tucker said although the LSU AgCenter does not make any statistical claims about the data, the survey results reveal price trends in Louisiana.

She offers several tips for saving money when shopping for holiday meals:

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

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

– 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 eye level on shelves are often more expensive.

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

– Purchase fresh, unpeeled, unwashed, unpackaged vegetables.

– Buy in bulk 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 additional information on food shopping, contact an LSU AgCenter extension family and consumer science agent at local parish offices and visit the food and health section on the AgCenter’s Web site at

Tobie Blanchard
11/23/2009 9:40:21 PM
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