Thanksgiving dinner costs up 9 percent

Tobie Blanchard, Guidry, Kurt M., Tucker, Jeanette A.

News Release Distributed 11/18/13

BATON ROUGE, La – Louisiana cooks shopping for Thanksgiving will find the costs of traditional dinner items up for the second year in a row. The 2013 Thanksgiving market basket will average $48.50 for 10 people, according to an LSU AgCenter survey.

“That’s an increase of $4.15 from last year’s Baton Rouge average of $44.35 – or an increase of 9.35 percent,” said LSU AgCenter family economist Jeanette Tucker.

The Louisiana survey was based on an American Farm Bureau Federation shopping list that 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.

The cost of a 16-pound turkey at $22.19, or roughly $1.38 per pound, reflects an increase of 23 cents per pound or a total increase of $3.74 per whole turkey.

"This is the largest contributor to the overall increase in the cost of the 2013 Thanksgiving dinner," Tucker said.

According to data and forecasts released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, turkey production for 2013 is expected to be down by roughly 2 percent from the previous year.

LSU AgCenter agricultural economist Kurt Guidry said factors like processing, transportation and other transaction costs of getting the product from the farm gate to the final retail product also can affect the retail prices.

While fuel prices averaged roughly 1 percent lower through the first three quarters of 2013, they still remain at historically high levels, Guidry said. Natural gas and electricity prices have moved higher in 2013, potentially adding to the costs of processing and transporting products from the farm to retail.

“The rise in turkey costs could also be a function of the high prices of competing meat products. Beef, pork and broiler prices are all higher in 2013 versus 2012, and the high retail prices of those may be providing some spillover support to turkey prices” Guidry said.

While this year’s price increase is substantial, Tucker said, turkey is a consistent bargain for the frugal shopper – healthy, delicious lean meat for around $1 per pound.

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 Thanksgiving turkeys are sold on a holiday special, so consumers could lower the final cost of the Thanksgiving meal.

"This suggests that many consumers will probably purchase Thanksgiving turkeys for less than the survey reports," Tucker said. With projected holiday price decreases, wise shoppers may wish to purchase a second turkey to keep in the freezer for future low-cost meals.

Other items showing a price increase this year include 30-ounce pumpkin pie mix, $3.05 (up 21 cents);

12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, $2.55 (up 16 cents); 12-ounce brown and serve rolls, $2.85 (up 63 cents); 16-ounce frozen green peas, $1.69 (up 19 cents); 8 ounces of whipping cream, $1.90 (up 28 cents); and two 9-inch pie shells, $2.02 (up 10 cents).

Three items showed a price decrease this year. They include one gallon of whole milk, $4.46 (down eight cents); three pounds of sweet potatoes, $2.76 (down 10 cents); and 12 ounces cubed stuffing mix, $1.85 (down 30 cents).

The Farm Bureau study didn’t provide enough information to replicate the costs for a group of miscellaneous items such as coffee, celery, carrots, onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk, butter and other ingredients necessary to prepare the meal. "The AgCenter used last year’s national average of $3.18," Tucker said.

The marketplace has seen a general increase in all food prices in 2013 versus 2012.

The Farm Bureau survey was first conducted in 1986 when the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal for 10 was $28.74. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the 1986 Thanksgiving market basket would cost $61.40 in 2013 dollars, indicating the real cost of the holiday meal has actually decreased over time.

“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 under $5 per person – less than a typical fast food meal. “That’s a real bargain in these challenging economic times,” Tucker noted.

The survey was conducted in three Baton Rouge stores November 4-5, 2013.

The family economist offers several tips for saving money when shopping for the Thanksgiving meal:

– Establish your budget and know how much you can afford to spend. Design your menu around your budget and seasonal and on-sale items at the grocery store.

– Always use a list and minimize the 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 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.

– Determine the cost per serving when selecting meats.

– Check unit pricing to save money.

– Pay attention at the checkout. Don’t lose out on a great deal because an item scans incorrectly.

– Avoid expensive single servings and snack packs.

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

– Plan ahead for how to use leftovers.

Tobie Blanchard
11/19/2013 3:42:54 AM
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