Gobble, Gobble: Thanksgiving Dinner Costs Drop Slightly

thanksgiving dinnerHere’s another reason to be thankful this holiday season – the cost of putting Thanksgiving dinner on the table is down slightly from last year. But don’t bank on those savings for any big Black Friday splurges. The average Turkey Day dinner will cost $49.04, or just 44 cents less this year than it did in 2012.

After some steep price hikes during the economic downturn about five years ago, food prices have remained mostly stable this year. It’s a welcome change from 2011, when the cost of Thanksgiving dinner skyrocketed to $49.20 – up from $43.47 in 2010, according to an American Farm Bureau Federation survey. The group estimates the cost by averaging non-sale food prices around the country based on feeding 10 people a meal of turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk.

The credit for this year’s slight drop in price goes to stable commodity and fuel prices, both strong drivers of consumer pricing, says Ricky Volpe of the USDA.  He says overall grocery prices are down about one-tenth of a percent since last January. You’ll also save a bit of cash on gas when you head to the grocer to get your turkey. At the moment, drivers are paying about 25 cents less per gallon than they were a year ago, with a national average of $3.19, according to travel tracker AAA. While the group hasn’t issued a prediction for gas prices the week of Thanksgiving, they say that in recent years prices generally have dropped in the weeks leading up to the holiday.

The Farm Bureau estimate budgets $2.18 for a dozen brown-and-serve dinner rolls. But if you’re willing break out a recipe and bake your own, home-made rolls could cut almost a dollar off that price. On the flip side, if you’d prefer to leave the cooking to others and purchase a ready-to-eat meal from a grocer, expect to pay a premium for the convenience, maybe $75 or more. Likewise, if your tastes lean to the organic or heirloom end of the food spectrum, you won’t find turkey for $1.36 a pound as the Farm Bureau did – you should budget two or three times that amount.

Since it’s impossible to escape holiday creep, we might as well break the bad news about your Christmas roast. Beef prices are at or near record highs this year, so you can expect to pay as much as 2.5% more than last year for that succulent rib roast you’ve been waiting all year for.