How Much Will Your Thanksgiving Meal Cost?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  30 comments   :  20,579 Views

My mother-in-law is a retired home economics teacher and a great cook! Thanksgiving in her home each year includes many traditional favorites. Of course the centerpiece is a beautifully roasted (on the grill) turkey surrounded by many delicious side dishes such as fluffy mashed potatoes, homemade stuffing, three bean salad, homemade yeast rolls, a relish tray, molded strawberry Jello salad, cranberries, broccoli and rice casserole and sweet potato casserole. After dinner has settled, there is the difficult decision between homemade apple and pumpkin pie for dessert. Even using helpful tips to survive Thanksgiving temptations, the meal still causes most of us to end the day with an excessive caloric intake.

A recent report by the American Farm Bureau suggests this year's meal cost will only be slightly higher than last year. Although inflation rates have remained fairly flat, statistics show there has been a steady rise in the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving for nearly two decades. There is the option of enjoying a Veg-friendly Thanksgiving this year to save some money. However, if you are planning to put a traditional meal on your table here is some information to help you maintain your meal costs.

The Farm Bureau's shopping list included turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, relish tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk to drink. They estimated their costs for a gathering of ten people with leftovers. Of course, the turkey was the largest expense costing almost eighteen dollars for a sixteen-pound bird. Even though turkey production is slightly down this year, prices are competitive and slightly less than last year so look for a bargain on your turkey.

Prices for a gallon of milk have slightly increased compared to last year including the price of evaporated milk. Coffee and onions have seen a slight price increase as well as commodities like sugar, flour, and butter which all add slightly to the increased meal costs this year so look for sales to help keep your costs down. The cost of peas and cubed dressing are also down and cranberry prices are unchanged so competitive prices should be easily found on these items.

Here are the average prices the Farm Bureau's 112 volunteer shoppers from 34 states found to help you use as you comparison shop to find great deals.

Turkey (16 pound) - $17.66

Whole milk (one gallon) - $3.24

Cream (half pint) - $1.70

Rolls (dozen) - $2.12

Relish tray (1 pound of carrots/celery) - $.77

Cranberries (12 oz fresh) - $2.41

Pumpkin pie mix (30 oz.) - $2.62

Pie shells (2) - $2.46

Stuffing (14 oz cubes) - $2.64

Sweet potatoes (3 lbs.) - $3.19

Green peas (1 lb.) - $1.44

If a traditional Thanksgiving meal is what you are interested in putting on your table this year, you may be able to do it for as little as $4.35/person, which is much less than a similar meal eating out. Using the average food costs shared from shoppers across the country and smart shopping strategies, you can offer a fresh, wholesome meal without breaking your budget.

What are you planning to serve for your holiday meal? Have you seen good sales at your grocery?

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  • 30
    We'll be at a buffet at my mom's retirement home. She can't travel any more, and it will be a big adventure to wheel her in her wheelchair to the main dining hall. And this way, everyone can eat what they want: Vegetarian brother? No problem. High protein diet sister? Lots of options. Traditional with all the trimmings? Also an excellent choice. Luckily the food there is very good -- but after all, the important thing is for the family to be together. Cost is about $18 per guest, but it's pretty much the only option that allows us to include mom. - 11/10/2011   7:00:41 PM
    This year I'm cookng dinner as I do every Thanksgiving. We are expecting 10-12 guests. Everyone loves leftovers and of course has requests, so I make sure to make plenty of everything. The menu is as follows: Free and fresh 20+lb turkey from work, stuffing- $6, sweet potatoes- $5, mashed potatoes & gravy- $3, green bean cass.- $7, corn cass.- $3, candied carrots- $3, mac &cheese- $4, apps...bruchetta- $8, BBQ meatballs- $6, bacon& cheddar pinwheels- $5, deviled eggs- $3, dessert... pear cake with ice cream- $6, pumpkin pie with cream- $5, chocolate pie- $5... and rolls of course- $3. I got all that for under $75. Yes I know I recieved a free turkey but... if I had to pay for it, it would have been somewhere around $20-$25, which makes it a even $100, give or take a few bucks. I made almost everything from scratch, with a few exceptions to save a little time. But there was enough for at least 25 people. That makes it about $4 per person for 25 people or $10 for 10 or so. Either way we have lots to choose from and I was able to make all of the requests. I did not consider leftover containers for my guests to make sure they have something to take home whatever they wanted in. less than $10. But well worth it esp when i dont have to find room in the frig. for leftovers. I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season. - 11/24/2010   4:51:44 PM
    $79.99 I ordered it pre-made at Wegman's this year....and taking it to my daughters. Also ordered one for my son to pick up too for him and his family. Woo Hoo and easy holiday at last. - 11/22/2010   12:11:40 PM
  • 27
    For the first time ever, my husband and I have decided to go out for Thanksgiving. It is too much of a hassle to try to keep all the family happy and now that my son is married, it puts too much pressure on him as well to try to please all families. And who needs to spend all that time in the kitchen for a meal that lasts less than an hour! Too much needless stress for everybody. We will go visit my parents on the weekend. I'm actually looking forward to it. - 11/21/2010   6:32:24 PM
  • 26
    We eat out for $6 per person and then I don't have left-overs to deal with. - 11/20/2010   1:08:58 AM
  • 25
    My hubby and I don't eat meat or poultry, so I am going to make a halibut stew from a SP recipe I saw. It is just us, so I'll probably also make a nice brunch, and we will have a quiet day ( except for family phone calls ). I'm looking into some individual cheesecakes. One of my great pleasures is pumpkin pie for breakfast to day after; but, oh, those calories! Looking at alternate options....
    I but my fish at the chinese market, so I'll get a good price there, and most of the other ingredients are either in the pantry or on sale. - 11/19/2010   9:33:19 PM
  • 24
    My hubby and I don't eat meat or poultry, so I am going to make a halibut stew from a SP recipe I saw. It is just us, so I'll probably also make a nice brunch, and we will have a quiet day ( except for family phone calls ). I'm looking into some individual cheesecakes. One of my great pleasures is pumpkin pie for breakfast to day after; but, oh, those calories! Looking at alternate options....
    I buy my fish at the chinese market, so I'll get a good price there, and most of the other ingredients are either in the pantry or on sale. - 11/19/2010   9:29:20 PM
  • 23
    It's just the two of us, but we'll do kind of traditional mixed with lower calorie options. Turkey (I make a great soup from the leftover bones and skin, freeze then skim the excess fat off before heating up again), roasted sweet potatoes and apples with cinnamon and red chile powder, mashed potatoes, gravy, home-made cranberry sauce with orange, green salad, and that's pretty much the menu for the meal. I didn't get any fresh pumpkins this year, and I don't like to use canned, so we may forego the pie and do something else for dessert, like just a fresh fruit salad. Depends on how much time I have the day before for prep. I have to keep costs low this year, as the money is a real issue right now, with HIM not working and me working part time in retail. - 11/19/2010   5:14:31 PM
  • 22
    We do a semi traditional I have learned in the past few years with the help from sparks. I make my own bread with Gold Medal Flour I got on sale for 89 cents 5lbs. I stock up when the prices are low. I did can & freeze during the summer; I was able to get a 19lb honeysuckle white turkey for 35 cents a lb with a coupon that was 6.65. I got several in the freezer now. I remove dip all excess fat off everything. I make my own stock so I control sodium & fat there to. I save chicken/turkey bones and boil them up with veggies strain, refrigerate then scrap the fat off the top and freeze in quart size bags. So not even the bones go to waste.. Something my grandma said she used to do.. - 11/19/2010   4:53:00 PM
  • 21
    This Thanksgiving I'll be celebrating with my son & daughter-in-law, who are vegan! I'll take some contributions to the feast, but I don't yet know what they will be.

    When I host Thanksgiving, I roast a free-range organically fed turkey. It's more expensive, but since I do turkey only once a year, & since treating animals well is important to me, I don't mind at all. - 11/19/2010   3:42:27 PM
  • 20
    We will have a Thanksgiving traditional meal but portion control goes right down to the budget. I never put a price tag on this meal. Thanksgiving is the number one pleasure families can enjoy without the gift giving of Christmas. No price tag, as the commercial goes, this tradition is priceless to us, and we were born English. Have a HAPPY THANSGIVING TO EVERYONE,
    Pat in Maine. USA. - 11/19/2010   12:59:23 PM
  • 19
    We do a traditional dinner (here) as that is what we like and the kids like, too. Bought the turkey at Kroger's for .29 a lb, just over $6.00. Hubby buys bread from the bread store (Mrs. Baird's) extra long loaves for $.50 apiece, and makes his dressing from that. Bought potatoes and cranberry sauce on special, and I make my own pies, have the kids bring side dishes, so not very expensive! We DO enjoy the day, this is the first time in years that I have not had to take call on Thanksgiving Day, so I get to spend the day with my family! - 11/19/2010   12:10:37 PM
  • 18
    I earned a "free" turkey at our local Shaw's by spending $500 over the last month. I easily spend $200-250 per week at Shaw's, so I earned $20 towards a turkey - TWICE! I bought a 14-pound turkey and a 16-pound turkey for like $3 each. We are having Thanksgiving at my sister-in-law's, so I'll save one of the turkeys for Christmas Eve, and the other for a Sunday dinner in January or February. Yay! - 11/19/2010   10:29:25 AM
  • 17
    It's just two of us (plus two cats) for Thanksgiving, but we usually buy a big turkey because there's so much we can do with the leftovers. This year, I'll skip the dessert & only make half as much dressing as usual. I think Kroger has turkey for 59 a pound, so that will be about $12 to get enough protein for a week - tacos, curry, soup, sandwiches, & just plain turkey for snacks - we get a lot of mileage out of a bird. - 11/18/2010   10:17:23 PM
  • 16
    I go to my family's houses for holidays. But I do usually bring one dish to share! - 11/18/2010   4:24:43 PM
  • 15
    Cheap turkey makes me so sad. So so sad.
    If you're eating a cheap turkey, that turkey had an even more miserable life than imaginable. Not to mention the subsidies, pollution and human right issues with animal farming and slaughter. The costs of cheap meat are largely invisible, sadly.

    If you MUST consume a turkey, find one from a place like Whole Foods or a local farmer that doesn't run a CAFO. No one in their right mind should be supporting the pollution and misery of factory farms/CAFOs if they care about their health, the planet or future generations.

    Our dinner will be vegan, like always. Even if I get a pre-made protein option it'll still come out cheaper than getting (a less in)humanely raised bird. I'll be doing as much as I can from scratch, though, with a focus on organic veggies. Roasted brussels are my BFFs and I make a mean cranberry walnut stuffing! I also am a gravy fiend and anticipate lovely pools of mushroom gravy. :D - 11/18/2010   3:38:38 PM
  • SUNSET09
    I travel home for the holidays so it only cost me time and gas, which is worth every cent! I savor this time with family and friends! No cost is too much for that! - 11/18/2010   12:58:16 PM
  • 13
    try finding an organic turkey- that will really up the price! - 11/18/2010   12:57:03 PM
  • 12
    I have to work the day shift, my sweetie has to work the evening shift...we will find a few hours together on another day to celebrate, but without the emphasis on food. We are thankful for what ever we have. - 11/18/2010   12:26:56 PM
  • 11
    feeding 6, but bought sweet potatoes for more :) $0.33/lb today! - 11/18/2010   12:16:03 PM
  • 10
    I am hosting our family Thanksgiving this year and everyone brings something they they like to contribute. I love having everyone together celebrating what we are Thankful for. - 11/18/2010   12:12:12 PM
  • 9
    We're having pork loin with one side of the family, and ham and duck with the other side. (No duck for me). Everybody brings a dish or two, so it's not too taxing on the hosts. - 11/18/2010   12:09:57 PM
  • 8
    I am hosting our family Thanksgiving this year. The biggest money saver for me was Vons stores $5 for a turkey if you spend $25 there. Not a problem! Check out the markets in your area for those type of deals. I also make most everything from scratch- just like to do it. - 11/18/2010   12:02:08 PM
    ewww, pie mix + frozen pie crust, just buy a pie at that point... - 11/18/2010   11:34:41 AM
  • 6
    The Hubby and I have a fried turkey business so we will be frying lots of turkeys on Thanksgiving so that they will hot for everyone's dinner. When we're done we will have family over for fried turkey, dressing, green beans, mac & cheese, rolls, and sweet potatoe pie. Turkeys are running on average $.40/lb. with an additional $20 purchase, sweet potatoes are $.25/lb., green beans frozen were $.89/bag or $.39 for a can. Rolls are $2.50, double pack of pie shells is 2/$4. I think roughly $40 will feed all 9 of us and any drop bys. - 11/18/2010   11:15:52 AM
  • 5
    I know exactly how much it will cost. $8.00 (each) plus on side dish to share. I am making deviled eggs so I am guessing about $3 more. I am eating with my church friends, since all our families will be out of town. Thanskgiving is not a big deal around my house. It is about geting together and playing cards and talking. When my kids were little I liked to cook and my husband and I invited unattached sailors or pilots from the local base to come, but I live in the sticks now. - 11/18/2010   10:46:05 AM
  • 4
    I usually host our family Thanksgiving and yes, it can get a little pricey, but I think it is worth it to have the family together and we usually share the cost by each family bringing a dish. - 11/18/2010   10:20:52 AM
    It was a lot of money. We're having 12 people over. Plus two female Pitbulls! - 11/18/2010   10:14:51 AM
    We don't do the "traditional meal". We will be having lasagna, garlic bread and salad with apple pie for dessert. The lasagna is in the freezer since it was made and frozen last time we made it. The bread will be fresh, the garlic is from the garden and the pie is homemade with apples we picked this summer. The meal is basically paid for already!
    - 11/18/2010   10:08:07 AM

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