It’s exactly a week until Thanksgiving, the holiday where loved ones gather around a table to enjoy a turkey with all the trimmings. Unfortunately we’re living in an age of inflation, and those trimmings are due to cost us significantly more than in years past. But, with a little planning, you can make sure that dent in your wallet remains a small one.
On Nov. 16, the American Farm Bureau, a federation of farmers and ranchers, released its 37th annual survey which estimates the average cost of a classic Thanksgiving feast for 10. The Bureau found that this year, that cost is $64.05 or about $6.40 per person, a 20% increase from last year’s average of $53.31.
That makes this year the most expensive Thanksgiving dinner in 37 years of the Bureau’s holiday surveys. A $10.47 difference is stark for one special meal to be sure, but when you break it down, the financial impact stretches far past the holiday.
So, what’s to blame for these price increases, exactly? Basically, it’s all due to world conflict.
“The war in Ukraine is affecting quite a few commodity prices, over and above our general inflation rates,” said Dr. Roger Cryan, chief economist of the American Farm Bureau to Vicki Nguyen on TODAY Nov. 17. “Farmers are feeling this pain, they have seen a doubling of their fuel prices, a tripling of their fertilizer prices.”
The biggest jump in holiday food costs belongs to a 14 ounce bag of cubed stuffing mix which is up 69% in price. The smallest inflated cost of a holiday staple belongs to a 30 ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, although that’s still up 18%.
The centerpiece of most Thanksgiving tables is the turkey and prices for the main event have gone up. It’s now 21% more for a 16 pound turkey, leaping from $23.99 to $28.96. For turkeys, the conflict in Ukraine is not the only reason prices have skyrocketed. There’s also been an avian flu outbreak impacting the population — and the size — of the holiday bird.
“Our understanding is turkey production is only down 2% from a year ago so there may be smaller turkeys, it may be harder to find a big bird,” said Cryan.
The news isn’t all bad, however. Fresh cranberries are actually down in price this year. A 12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries has dropped 14% in price so making a fresh batch of cranberry sauce rather than buying a can will actually potentially save you some coin.
Grocery deals to grab before Thanksgiving
“The reality is, around Thanksgiving, the grocery stores are taking promotional dollars they’ve been accruing throughout the year for manufacturers and they’re putting those into promotions for consumers so they can get those great deals at the shelf,” said Greg Ferrara, president and CEO of the National Grocers Association to TODAY.
Yes, there are indeed deals to be had at grocery stores — and in fact, grocery stores are aggressively pushing deals this year, in the hopes of battling the turkey bulge, so to speak. Here are a few.
On Nov. 2, 2022,, Aldi announced in a press release that its matching its 2019 prices on certain Thanksgiving-related items. This is translated to a whole frozen turkey at $1.07 per pound as compared to $1.59.
Amazon-owned Whole Foods is also having a deal on frozen turkeys right now at $1.49 per pound.
At Safeway, a supermarket chain that can be found in 17 states and the District of Columbia, there are deals this week for sweet potatoes, as well as ham, which has been facing significant price hikes right before the holiday.
Other ways to save on Thanksgiving dinner
There are other ways to save on Thanksgiving dinner by utilizing a few simple steps to keep yourself and your pocketbook full by the end of Thanksgiving dinner.
Make a list and stick to it
We all know about the “Target Effect” — the way that you unintentionally spend more than you were planning to at stores like Target and others. This phenomenon can also happen at the supermarket if you don’t have a list, so make sure to clearly plan what you need before you go to the store.
Join store loyalty programs that offer easily redeemable perks like Target Circle Rewards, which nets you 1% of your total with each purchase to redeem at Target later on.
Apps are the way to go
Take advantage of various apps like Basket, which allows users to search local stores to compare prices of everyday products or Flipp, which quickly scans all available weekly ads to tell you where you can get the items you need on sale. Ibotta gives users cash back every time they shop, giving rebates on food purchases.
Pay attention to weight
Look to the price per ounce so you don’t fall into a marketing trap and pay more than you were expecting to. Also, make sure to look at the label on your turkeys and make sure it says no added water or juices so that the extra weight isn’t factored into the price of your bird.
Plan for the guests you have
If you have a smaller guest list, opting for just legs or breasts instead of a whole turkey, will save you significantly on food that you potentially won’t be eating. Also portion about a third a pound per person for the food you’re making, so you don’t over prepare.
Save money on dairy products and eggs by freezing them
We all have to pour out an expired gallon of milk before we’ve had a chance to use all of it, but chef and TV personality Monti Carlo has advice to alleviate that waste.
“You can freeze milk and also you can cook with sour milk,” Monti Carlo said to TODAY, adding that you can use that turned milk the same as you would with sour cream or buttermilk. But just don’t drink it.
Carlo also said that when you spot a deal on eggs, buy in bulk, crack the eggs you aren’t going to use immediately, pre-mix with a whisk and freeze in ice cube trays for a later time. You could also save extra bread for that homemade stuffing that you don’t end up using by popping it in the deep freeze as well.
It’s not too late to shop
If you haven’t done any of your Thanksgiving day shopping yet, don’t worry, it’s not too late.
“This is a great weekend to get that shopping done,” said Ferrara. “Particularly turkeys — if they’re going to be buying frozen turkeys, depending on the size.”
Go generic — no one but you will know
Boxed, canned or frozen foods with generic labels are always going to be cheaper than name brand items. Opting for the store brand item will reduce the total of your Thanksgiving spend, especially when it comes to single ingredient baking supplies like flour or sugar.
We promise, no one will be able to tell, except maybe your bank balance.