Families hoping for an adequate supply of classic food for their traditional Thanksgiving meal shouldn't be disappointed this year and, perhaps more importantly, the cost of those foods are expected to be about the same or only slightly higher than they were last year.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation the average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving meal for 10 will cost $49.41, a modest 37-cent increase over last year’s average of $49.04. While a few of the classic food items will cost a little more, a slight drop in the cost of the Thanksgiving turkey is helping to keep overall food prices about the same as last year.
"Turkey production has been somewhat lower this year and wholesale prices are a little higher, but consumers should find an adequate supply of birds at their local grocery store," AFBF Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson said, adding retail prices for turkey should be slightly lower than last year as a result of retailer incentives.
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Economists estimate the average consumer will pay about 13 cents less for the turkey this year compared to last year in spite of the slight rise in wholesale prices. In addition, they speculate those who shop wisely may discover greater savings at many food retailers who will be offering reduced retail prices to entice shoppers to purchase all their Thanksgiving food supplies at one store.
Anderson says regardless of where you buy your food this year, it is important consumers remember it is the result of dedicated farmers who work to keep the supply of agricultural products moving to market year round.
"America’s farmers and ranchers remain committed to continuously improving the way they grow food for our tables, both for everyday meals and special occasions like Thanksgiving dinner that many of us look forward to all year," Anderson said. "We are blessed to be able to provide a special holiday meal for 10 people for about $5 per serving – less than the cost of most fast food meals."
Consumers will note the price of many Thanksgiving food classics have risen slightly, chief among them are prices for sweet potatoes, dairy products and other ingredients needed to bake those traditional pies. The price of dairy, especially milk and whipping cream, collectively jumped 25 cents over last year. Other traditional ingredients such as coffee, sugar and eggs, account for about another 30-cent increase over last year's prices, while three pounds of sweet potatoes jumped about 20 cents.
Lower travel costs
While only a slight increase in the cost of Thanksgiving dinner is a plus, another positive development for many consumers planning on traveling to visit and share the meal with family or friends this year is the falling price of gasoline. According to AAA (formerly the American Automobile Association), over 46 million Americans will travel for the holiday this year, most of them driving 50 miles or more to their Thanksgiving destinations. That's 4.2 percent increase from last year and the highest number since 2007.
"Americans are more optimistic about the future as improvements in several key economic factors, including employment, GDP and disposable income, are boosting consumer confidence and the desire to travel," says AAA president and chief operating officer Marshall Doney.
At the beginning of this holiday week, gas prices nationally averaged $2.83 a gallon. That's about 45 cents a gallon lower than last year's Thanksgiving week. That could represent a major cost savings for many consumers as out of those 46 million travelers this year 89 percent will be driving to their destinations, over 4 percent more than last year.
About 3 percent of travelers will be flying to their destinations this Thanksgiving weekend, which represents slightly more air travelers than last year. Triple A says air travelers will be paying slightly more for flight tickets this year, but only about 1 percent more than in 2013.
For those planning on driving the highways this holiday season, AAA officials remind motorists to drive with safety foremost in their minds. The quickest way to ruin a good holiday is with an automobile accident.